Top service delivers high efficiency at Vega Salmon

Fish Innova Software Processing

Marel’s Service Level Agreement (SLA) with Vega Salmon provides the salmon producer with a system for equipment maintenance.

Marel’s Service Level Agreement (SLA) with Vega Salmon provides the salmon producer with a system for equipment maintenance, including a plan that outlines the service for every unit, the spare parts needed for stock supply, and the support Marel will provide. This proactive approach reduces the risk of breakdowns and the consequent loss of valuable production time.

Vega Salmon has been a Marel customer for many years, investing in secondary processing machinery for filleting and portioning, as well as slicing equipment for the value-added section. In order to meet the increasing demand for salmon products from their customers, they have continually enlarged the capacity at their factory in Handewitt, Germany.

Vega Salmon and Marel have always worked together to maintain the equipment but, until recently, without any formalized service support agreement. That changed in 2016, when Marel offered to make a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with Vega Salmon that would strengthen the relationship and include a fully planned service schedule of all Marel equipment.

Closer relationship

The Marel service team’s combination of knowledge and special competences is of great importance to the smooth running of Vega Salmon’s production and it’s essential for the two companies to have a good relationship.

By making it very clear what service will be provided and formalizing the common understanding of the factory’s daily operations, the agreement brings Vega Salmon and Marel closer together.

Entering the SLA was vital for Vega Salmon to achieve its targets for efficiency, flow, yield and volume. As Head of Operation, Rasmus Graversen, explains, “We are now working within a narrower margin, and we can’t afford for a machine to just be standing still.”

Having Marel technicians visit Vega Salmon isn’t just about maintenance. “When people from Marel are on site, they get familiar with the day-to-day of production, which helps them understand and helps ensure close cooperation between us,” production manager Hauke Schick says.

Vega Salmon (1)

A close relationship has been developed between Vega Salmon and Marel.

Learning and alignment

Vega Salmon is in the process of concentrating all production in Handewitt, Germany, with its main office in Kolding, Denmark. While restructuring its organization, Vega Salmon has implemented various steering tools to optimize the factory’s overall performance. These tools include daily LEAN meetings to ensure everyone is aligned and to share information on the daily operations.

The SLA is a fluid agreement that develops over time and is updated on a regular basis to include new machinery and to adjust to changes that occur or other needs that arise. “It’s not just one fixed piece of paper, it’s alive,” Rasmus explains.

The employees at Vega Salmon are also learning and making improvements over time, so service is not just scheduled at fixed times, but also adapted to suit the flow and production hours, as well as variations in the amount of fish being processed.

The company constantly strives to do things more efficiently and adapt to the changing conditions from day to day. Rasmus points out that one of the benefits of working together with Marel is that their employees take part in training provided by Marel to learn how to best utilize the machinery, for example by making adjustments according to the condition of the raw material to achieve the desired result.

Since the SLA was implemented, daily operations at Vega Salmon have improved with fewer breakdowns and a more consistent quality. With the use of quality guides based on pictures, rather then text, the multinational production team knows how the fish must be processed in order to deliver the right quality. The quality is monitored closely and supported with training individual operators if deviations in the quality occur.

High-yield service

Vega Salmon also closely monitors yield, and is well aware that yield would decrease if the machinery was not being properly serviced according to the plan, because the reliability of the machines is vital to achieving the highest possible yield.

Yield is the main focus for Vega Salmon, and Marel has implemented a yield test to evaluate and document the result of a service check on a machine by measuring yield before and after a machine is serviced for comparison.

Most service visits are scheduled at times that don’t affect daily production, mainly on weekends or after work hours. Sometimes service visits during the work day can’t be avoided, but as Hauke explains, “It’s worthwhile investing the time to take a machine out of the production for service, as the effect of the service will pay off afterwards.”

Vega Salmon Outside Factory

Vega Salmon in Germany

Training is key

The majority of Vega Salmon’s 500 employees work in production, logistics, maintenance and planning. Training is the key to ensuring that everyone knows how to play their part in making the production run smoothly.

With the SLA, the training of how to operate and adjust the machinery on a daily basis is included for the advanced machines from Marel such as the filleting machine.

Selected employees receive training at Marel in Denmark that includes how to carry out preventive maintenance, how to change parts, how to respond to error messages that might appear on the touchscreen and how to locate errors. But staff also learn a lot about the machines from the Marel service technicians during their regular service visits.

“Marel has a great deal of knowledge and special competences about the machines,” says Rasmus. “The more in-house knowledge we can gain, the better we can handle the machines.”

Vega Salmon has dedicated people to operate the filleting machines and make sure they are always performing at their best by adjusting the machine whenever they see it’s needed. Having skilled people in this position is yet another way Vega Salmon achieves high yield results.

Increased throughput

After the recent major service check on the filleting lines by Marel, Vega Salmon achieved a record high throughput on the lines for the following month.

A number of key spare parts are exchanged as a part of the SLA at the major service checks, while the stock of daily wearing parts are counted every time Marel service is at the facility. Based on stock numbers, a quotation is made for the missing parts to make it easy for Vega to order parts.

Downtime is also reduced through the proper planning of maintenance. For example, as Hauke explains, sometimes it makes sense to replace a couple of bearings during a scheduled service, even if they aren’t due for replacement, because waiting another six months and having to take the whole machine apart just for that would be much more costly in terms of downtime.

Salmon Close up

Vega Salmon achieves high yield results.

Open communication

The SLA has led to a closer partnership between Vega Salmon and Marel, with more open communication in tackling any challenges that arise. The Marel customer care manager is in regular close contact with the management at Vega Salmon to follow up on any issues or to discuss improvement points.

Rasmus foresees that the SLA can be developed even further by focusing on sharing of knowledge in salmon processing and, in particular, how to optimize maintenance. He expects this will lead to even better operation and so contribute to further reducing Vega Salmon’s operational costs in the future.

Now that Vega Salmon has the SLA with Marel, it’s already hard to imagine running production without it. “We need to have this contract between us – there is no other way!” says Rasmus.

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