Customer story

Marel trimming flowline at Espersen

16 Aug 2010

Espersen’s investment in a new Marel trimming flowline delivers not only increased throughput and efficiency but also a higher quality product.

“The future belongs to those who prepare for it today,” reads the Malcolm X quote that adorns the notice board by the desk of Reidar Inselseth, Managing Director of the Lithuania plant of whitefish processing giant Espersen.

You could say that these words have been the guiding light in Espersen’s total overhaul of the plant, which began more than two years ago, and which included investment in a large Marel trimming flowline. The investment dramatically increased throughput and efficiency, in addition to which the plant can now deliver a higher quality product. “The processing time is now much shorter, which means that we can now supply a fresher product,” says Inselseth.

The wisdom of Malcolm X’s words and Espersen’s foresight has certainly been borne out by recent developments. Having made an investment in the future, the company is now in an ideal position to capitalize on the increase in Baltic cod quotas for 2010 and is gearing up to increase its supply of products to European markets. Specifically, Espersen’s aim is to increase its sales of lightly salted IQF cod fillets from the Lithuania plant to the southern European food service industry.

With the plant’s increased production capacity, the plan is to process 7,600 metric tons of fish in 2010, half of which will be fresh, up from a total of 6,800 metric tons in 2009, of which 3,000 was fresh fish. In the future, Espersen Lithuania plans to make a bigger commitment to fresh products.

Faster production time
To go along with increased capacity, Espersen’s margins have improved as a result of the increased yield and faster production time of the Marel flowline. Before, with the plant’s old tray-based system, fish would be kept in trays for hours waiting to be processed, causing drip-loss and reduced yield.

No more. The production process is now a “seamless flow” with the Marel flowline automatically controlling the incoming traffic of untrimmed products, as well as the outgoing fillets, waste and by-products. Processing time has been significantly shortened, resulting in a higher quality end product that is less vulnerable to bacteria and has a longer shelf life.

Cod fillets are automatically delivered to each of the 40 trimming stations on the line. Sensors monitor the flow and recognize whether a station is full or not. A full station will not receive more fish, but when the sensor sees that the buffer is getting empty, it orders more fish. This helps to stabilize the flow of raw material to the trimming stations.

“It’s a much faster and more efficient system. It has also reduced the number of work hours behind each kilo of finished products since we have been able to do away with all the ‘service’ parts of the production process, such as manual weighing and the moving of trays back and forth,” says Inselseth.

Hands-on control
Innova, Marel’s state-of-the-art production management software, is at the heart of the new processing system. Innova gathers real-time information allowing mangers to monitor every stage of the production process and to make the necessary adjustment to optimize yield and throughput. The system also allows Inselseth to monitor the performance and efficiency of individual trimming operators in real time.

Innova also collects information on the product split and sends random samples to the quality control stations where defects are registered by the system.

With Innova, all the raw material that goes through the factory is digitally logged in, providing full traceability. “As a company, we are increasingly focusing on sustainability. That is a priority in everything we do. Improving our traceability is a big part of that.”

A man with a plan
When Inselseth joined Espersen Lithuania in August 2007, his aim was to streamline and automate the production. “I had seen a couple of the Marel flowlines in other factories and wanted to know more.”

Marel assigned a senior consultant to the job and the first plans were ready in December 2007. To ensure “seamless flow though the factory,” as Inselseth puts it, the plant was redesigned and the whole production process was streamlined in order to increase productivity, throughput and ergonomy.

The turmoil in global financial markets put the project on hold for a while but in early summer 2009 the company decided to proceed. Installation went smoothly and according to plan. The plant was closed on 18 November and all the old equipment was removed and processing functions were moved around. One week later, the plant was up and running again with the new lines. “On the second day after installation, we were already operating at the same throughput level as with the old line. And throughput steadily increased in the weeks that followed,” Inselseth concludes.

“The processing time is now much shorter, which means that we can now supply a fresher product”
Reidar Inselseth