Haukur Hafsteinsson, embedded software engineer at Marel, explains how the road to making food proce..
OK Foods, USA
19 Feb 2009
More Than a Slicer
OK Foods, a long-time Marel customer, installed six TSM template slicing machines at their Fort Smith, Arkansas and Heavener, Oklahoma plants.
The company carried out extensive trials before implementing the solution to determine if the machine's claim of significantly reducing trim and improving utilization of breast meat was true. The test paid off: trim was reduced significantly alone, a substantial gain since the company processes about 2.5 million birds per week––all of which is deboned, and about over half is portioned for further processing.
The potential for savings
"We had been watching the development of the TSM closely, and had hopes that it would prove to be a machine we could use," says Plant Management. "As soon as the TSM entered the market we ordered a demo machine. We were tremendously interested in the unit's ability to take two fillets out of each butterfly; and then the opportunity of taking two more fillets––or a usable butterfly for a different application––out of that! That was the real potential for us.
"The company also saw the potential in savings due to reduced trim, and increased productivity," says Management. "With hand portioning, once the fillet is cut off the bone they have to trim it, and that requires a lot of scissor cutting to get it to the right thickness. With the TSM the fillet comes off with the right thickness––and we still have the other piece of meat to work with.
Trim percentage down
"Reducing our trim percentage was crucial," says Management. "We are now reducing the amount of meat that can only be used in nuggets. Less trim means more fillet meat, which improves our return."
The TSM uses a template to cut non-frozen poultry fillets or butterflies into value-added portions of a specified weight and shape. Processors have several options before downgrading meat into nugget quality. After the first set of fillets comes out of the machine, it either can go through it again for a second cut, or be transferred to a hand-cutting process.
"We did extensive testing throughout the whole operation, working with cutting and fillets and the cooking operation to see how the product responded. It's doing very well," says Management. "We wanted to see the impact on the trim since we do run a big bird: 6¼ or 6½ pounds alive. By taking two fillets out of the butterfly, the trim percentage runs about 60%. With the TSM we've been able to reduce that trim percentage down to about 40%, which makes a huge difference to us."
The machine delivers
"After 26 years in the industry, the TSM was a hard sell when it came to me," says Portioning Superintendent. "I've seen so many new machines that are supposed to solve any number of issues, so I was sceptical about the machine doing what was promised. I was open to the idea, but had to see it in operation for myself. Now I am glad to say that it not only delivers–but also does a very good job! After we started running the TSM's we've reduced out trim percentage substantially. It's a fine piece of equipment."
"It is important to assign a machine operator who is responsible for the overall operation, including quality," says Management. "We run graphs, histogram charts, and reports to show what the machine is actually doing. The TSM is monitored, and the product inspected; pieces that don't fit our specifications are set aside. Then QC does an additional check to determine the quality going into further processing. So we do a double check on machine quality and product quality."
The Marel TSM includes a template conveyor. Two operators feed the product into the templates. A vacuum system is used to fit the product properly into the template, and a band saw blade then slices the portions. The products are separated after cutting: the finished product is fed to a product belt, while cut-off pieces move to a separate belt. "The design and engineering behind the machine are ingenious," says Management, "and very simple...a real success story."
High performance at a good price
"Considering the demand for portion control in the fast-food business, I'm surprised that it has taken the industry this long to come up with such a great solution," says Management. "Marel has done it, and the cost is only one-tenth when compared to other machines on the market doing a similar thing. With this machine we greatly reduce our labour costs, and do it at a great price. Personally, I believe that when other companies realise the benefits of this machine, it's going to spread through the industry like wildfire."