Unparalleled automation at Vísir fish factory

Robo At Visir

Icelandic fish processor Vísir has once again proven its leadership in the industry with two major Marel installations in recent months. In November 2019, Vísir installed a RoboBatcher for packing loins into boxes and now, in May 2020, added more robotics for the automatic packing and batching of portions and whole fillets, as well as a new automatic box handling system. Both installations have helped Vísir achieve a more flexible product offering at a very high volume.

Close up of Robobatcher

Automatic pinboning and portioning

Vísir and Marel have worked together for many years, constantly redefining the limits of processing technology to transform the way fish is processed. One of the highlights of the partnership was the introduction of the FleXicut automatic pinboning and portioning machine in 2015.

Before investing in two FleXicut machines, Vísir had been running the new technology as part of a development agreement with Marel. At the time, this was a huge step forward in automation; reducing the need for skilled labor, increasing throughput and greatly improving overall yield and quality.

Vísir now uses the whole FleXicut system including automatic product distribution and, since 2017, a streamlined infeed of pre-trimmed fillets to the FleXicut, providing automatic quality feedback to individual workers on the trimming line.

Since the first FleXicut installation in 2015, Vísir has more than doubled their productivity, with new jobs created in other parts of the factory to support the higher volume.

As with any advance in automatic production, the installations have involved changes to roles within the company. “We have fewer jobs in packing now, but we’ve increased our quality control,” says Ómar Enoksson, Production Manager at Vísir.

Robotic packing

The addition of a RoboBatcher in November 2019 and again in May 2020 has made the production at Vísir even more efficient, integrating the FleXicut system to optimize the batching of whitefish products. The RoboBatcher is the only robotic packing system using intelligent batching technology in the fish industry.

Marel’s packing robot system significantly reduces giveaway. “This robot packs products into boxes [3, 5 and 10 kg] which are then weighed on the checkweigher. If the weight is correct the box continues down the line without further handling, but if it is incorrect it is sent to another checkweigher where it is corrected manually,” Enoksson explains.

By removing manual handling, Vísir significantly decreases giveaway and achieves greater flexibility in, for example, packing small loin pieces, larger loins, fillets and a greater variety of products at the highest volume. “This allows us to keep the plant running very smoothly and meet our customers’ orders,” Enoksson explains.

Less handling, better quality

“The system is now such that no human hand touches the product after it enters the robot, and as a consequence, each packed box is much closer to the desired weight,” Enoksson explains. “We’ve also seen this improvement in quality on the flow line, with all quality issues tracked and reported to the operator showing very good results in first time right way of working.”

This is a key advantage of robot packing that can intelligently compensate for any changes automatically. The robot simply packs the boxes without human interference or time-consuming recalculations.

The resulting combination of faster production speed and less handling has a significant impact on product quality.

“Our quality is much higher, especially once we get the x-ray going,” Enoksson says. “Our standard of quality for the product robots pack into the boxes is much higher.”

Installation during the global pandemic

The May installation began after hours on a Thursday and production at Vísir was up and running by the following Monday. This is impressive, especially given that the Marel installation team was relying on remote assistance due to Covid-19.

“We couldn’t send our specialist team from Denmark,” explains Thor Thorsson, the Marel project manager who supervised the installation. “So remote assistance was critical to ensuring everything went smoothly.”

Robobatcher Monitoring

After taking out any equipment that was being retired and shifting the two-cell robot that was already on site on the Thursday, all the equipment and conveyors were in place and leveled by the end of Friday, and some of the equipment connected.

Over the weekend, the Icelandic installation team connected and tested everything with the help of remote assistance from Marel in Denmark.

“When production in Vísir started up on the Monday, our Iceland-based service team had to be eyes for the team in Denmark in order to configure the RoboBatcher,” says Thorsson. “This was very successful and I believe we will increasingly make use of remote assistance during installations.”

“We are a global company with a very strong local presence in our key markets, which enables us to support our customers even for complex installations during a pandemic.”

Success worth celebrating

Vísir and Marel celebrated their latest leap forward in fish processing innovation, with a reception in Grindavík, Iceland, 26 June 2020.

“This has been an exciting past five years for Marel in partnership with you,” said Gudbjörg Gudmundsdottir, Managing Director Marel Fish, at the event. “We share a passion for being pioneers in the industry, and looking at the production today, it’s clear we’ve achieved great results so far. Now we look forward to our future ventures too!”



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