Swiss precision as a result of Bell's upgrade

Bell and Marel teamed up to implement Bell's plant extension


In response to favorable market conditions in Switzerland, poultry processor Bell has upgraded its plant in Zell to 10,500 bph (175 bpm). Already partners for many years, Bell and Marel teamed up to implement Bell's plant extension, with the new in-line chilling tunnel as the main feature. Bell can now produce poultry meat with proverbial Swiss precision.

The substantial project had to be completed with minimal disruption to production. This was done by reconstructing the building in stages. After each construction stage, another processing department could be upgraded.

New air chilled shock/maturation tunnel

Bell’s replacement of a traditional offline air chilling and maturation process with a completely new inline shock maturation chilling tunnel was not just a matter of hardware. It also meant a change in working methods. Instead of decisions being made “overnight” about the destination of product in the chill tunnel, these decisions are now made on the basis of incoming orders, some three hours before the product leaves the chiller.

Thomas Graf, Manager Poultry at Bell says, “The flow of goods has been shortened by one day, while top quality is now guaranteed. Our biggest challenge was to plan and control the accelerated product flow, as well as the entire organization around it.”

Thanks to several smart inline chilling maturation features, fillets are just as juicy and tender as fillets which have matured conventionally for 12 hours. At the same time, Bell can now track and trace product, which is only one of the many advantages of inline air chilling.

Primary processing

In order to cope with higher capacities, the scalder and the plucking line have been extended. In conjunction with shock maturation chilling, Bell has added inline electro-stimulation maturation upstream in the process directly after plucking.

Marel poultry equipment in the evisceration department has also been upgraded, once again to cope with the higher line speeds.

2 x 2 IRIS

After evisceration and at an early stage in the process, the front and back sides of each product are visually graded by two IRIS systems. When the new maturation tunnel started up, Bell felt three hours was a relatively short time to plan production. The speed with which IRIS provides information is, however, a great help in making the necessary decisions.

“We are already noticing increased accuracy in differentiating specific quality parameters; together with Marel, we will be able to take this even further. There is potential for the further overall integration of data flows between Innova food processing software, the PDS module and our ERP,” says Thomas Graf.

Having left the chilling tunnel, products pass a new weighing and grading line. Here they are inspected once again by two IRIS systems. As the skin is no longer wet and shiny, better evaluation of epidermis quality is possible, resulting in the product being distributed with “Swiss precision”.

Cut-up and filleting

Besides upgrading the existing ACM-NT cut-up line, Bell installed a second ACM-NT line. The same goes for the AMF filleting line: two existing AMF’s were upgraded with the latest modules and techniques, while a new, identical third one was installed.

Three single lane SmartLine Graders are grading fillets, while a fourth, dual lane, SmartLine Grader grades wings.

Bell Air Chilling Tunnel


Bell is one of the first poultry processors to use seamlessly integrated SystemFlex logistics in primary processing. Conveyors underneath the rehangers catch any products which accidentally fall out of the shackles and bring them back to a point where they are rehung manually. After giblet harvesting, SystemFlex belts transport gizzards, livers, hearts and leaf fat separately to and through the chilling tunnel.

SystemFlex logistics are also an integral part of the cut-up and filleting departments. Bell’s specific configurations at the trimming stations have become Marel’s standard.

Partnership and future

Thomas Graf talks about the relationship between Bell and Marel, “during our long-standing partnership, both companies have undergone considerable changes. In certain “re-tuning” phases, it was good to know that the Marel people and contacts remained the same.”

In its current shape, the Bell plant is well prepared for all future challenges; if an upgrade to a capacity of 12,000 bph (200 bpm) is needed, this will be easy to do. Thanks to the modular setup of Marel’s poultry solutions, Bell can face the future with plenty of confidence.

About Bell

The Bell Group is Switzerland’s number one meat processor. The company was established in 1869 when Samuel Bell opened his butcher’s shop in Basel. With over 9,500 employees in eleven countries, its product range now includes meat, poultry, charcuterie, seafood and convenience products.

Bell closely works with suppliers and distribution partners in the retail, wholesale trade and food service sectors. Some of its brands are Abraham, Zimbo, Hilcona and Môssier Polette.

Company website: Bell Food Group

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