Sjófiskur has very strict standards when it comes to the quality of its raw materials, and Marel’s Advanced Flowline and I-Cut 300 PortionCutter are designed to help processors maintain this high level of quality in their final products.
The speed of the Advanced Flowline greatly improves fish quality. There are no buffers, so fish no longer build up and there is no need to store partially processed product in trays.
The flowline also reduces handling and drip loss. “The processing time is much shorter and we finish everything at once; we don’t have hours of cutting and packing to do afterwards,” says Sigurður Örn Arnarson, Production Manager at Sjófiskur.
To provide the best quality product, it’s very important for Sjófiskur to be able to complete processing by the end of a day, with almost no delay between processing and packing. This is one of the key benefits of Marel’s Advanced Flowline.
“Yesterday, 23 tons went through our plant, and when the last fillet went through or the last loin was boxed, then everything was done – loins, tails, and portions,” Arnarson explains.
“We turn off the flowline and then, two minutes later, the portion cutter, and the processing is complete. This element is tremendously important. In the past, we would perhaps shutdown the flowline and still have a couple of hours of packing ahead of us, and another two hours in some kind of portioning.”
The valuable savings in time afforded by the Advanced Flowline also give processors flexibility when it comes to planning shifts and assigning employees to specific roles.
At Sjófiskur, the new set-up has allowed them to move production ahead.
“It used to be that we’d begin trimming at 5, when there was a lot to do, and we’d work until 4 or 5. Twelve hours to get through perhaps 20 tons,” says Arnarson.
He adds, “I can hardly believe that we now begin at 7 and are done by 1.45 with 23 tons – all processing completed. There was nothing left this morning; it was all packed, wrapped, and ready.”
The I-Cut 300 PortionCutter cuts whitefish into fixed weight, fixed shape portions. It operates at up to 500 cuts per minute, and is popular in particular for its accuracy, speed, and ease of operation.
Sjófiskur is one of the few medium sized Icelandic processing facilities that have the PortionCutter, which adds to their competitive advantage. As Arnarson explains: “Higher throughput and better quality. It gives a certain quality stamp; gives us an edge over the competition.”
The PortionCutter can provide new opportunities for processors because of the high-value products that it can produce. “We’ve noticed a rise in our popularity since getting the PortionCutter because it’s in so few facilities, of the medium sized companies, and it seems everyone wants to buy one of these machines,” says Arnarson.
“People are constantly asking, can you do this, and this, and that? And these are the best paying products.”
Before investing in the portion cutter, Sjófiskur was portioning by eye, and up to a third of the final product would end up in the least valuable grade.
“When we sent off the last such delivery, we raised our glasses, because that was a 300 krona [approx. €2] per kilo difference,” Arnarson explains. “20-30% of our products were being sold at 300 krona less per kilo than they are today.”
Sjófiskur has now seen a dramatic reduction in offcuts. “We portion into specific categories and after four hours had 700 grams in offcuts,” says Arnarson. “I’m not even going to say exactly what it was before, but it was tens of kilos. It’s hard to acknowledge because it seems so unbelievable.”
The new equipment has also expanded opportunities for the company. “We’re doing things today that we couldn’t do before, as well as doing much more of what we had been doing,” says Arnarson.
While Marel’s flowline gives processors the opportunity to improve yield, throughput, product handling, and quality, as well as reducing labor, Sjófiskur saw these benefits as an opportunity to increase production, rather than cut down on the number of employees.
If one person can now do what it used to take two or three people to do, then those extra hands become free to handle a higher capacity line or move into new roles.
Worker conditions have improved, especially in terms of a reduction in physical stress. “Before, people were often leaving their stations to collect trays, to change trays or what have you. Now people log into their stations and don’t go anywhere until it’s time for a break.”
Sjófiskur decided to invest in the Advanced Flowline and I-Cut 300 PortionCutter for several reasons, including: “To increase production, and to be able to pack products immediately and complete the processing,” says Arnarson.
“First we were cutting this into boxes and trays and carrying it over in packs and then packing it afterwards. This was not good for the fish and took much more time,” Arnarson explains.
He continues, “For portion cutting, we were cutting by eye and this was not fulfilling the demands of the market; those who buy the tails and portions demand a much more accurate cut.”
Processors relying on a time-consuming tray system risk not only losing on product quality, but also on labor costs. Arnarson quickly noticed the difference at Sjófiskur: “People are making full use of their time, they’re not collecting racks or walking to and fro. This has become a much more tightly run plant.”
“We readily admit that we considered other options, but the fact is that Marel does this best,” says Arnarson. “Nobody else has come as far as Marel.”