Customer story

Traceability and speed sold Kerchin on Marel

15 Jun 2016

Article published in Asian Meat Magazine May/June 2016
Written by Rich Herzfelder

When Inner Mongolia Kerchin Beef Industry Co decided to modernize its plant at Tongliao, it had several goals in mind. Increased production, of course, but also enhanced quality, flexibility, safety and traceability.

“Consumers are more interested in safety, and there is more government regulation and pressure on safety issues,” said Li Yi, Deputy General Manager. “Complete traceability is helpful for our product in the market.”

The company picked Marel’s Streamline processing system because it met all of those criteria.

“An important aspect of the Marel system is that you don’t need to slow the line down to have traceability,” said Mr Li. “You don’t have to run one animal all the way through, then start on the next one, in order to have traceability.”

Innova software

The heart of Marel’s system is the Innova production management software that tracks each piece of meat through the line separately. Half-carcasses come from the chiller, get split into hind and forequarter, and are deboned. Then trimmers cut each piece of meat apart in a specific sequence as it moves down the line.

The system is able to give customized instructions for each piece of meat. At each post, the trimmer logs in and instructions pop up on the operator’s information screen for each piece of meat that arrives on the belt. That gives the system tremendous flexibility, said Thorbjorn ‘Tobbi’ Johannsson, a Marel project consultant who visits Kerchin regularly.

“Suppose you’re running topside cap off. Suddenly an order comes in from a customer who needs 10 topsides with the cap on as soon as possible. The sales department gives the order the highest priority and our software has the ability to implement the order in real time.

“The trimmer sees the order on the screen. It should leave the fat on. You run 10 cuts, then switch back. The system identifies those 10 cuts all through the line. They get sealed, labeled and packed together, and you’ve responded to an emergency order with no fuss,” Mr Johannsson said.

“Marel can integrate all the information we have, all the way back to the farmer,” said Mr Li, noting that Marel’s system uploads all production data to Kerchin’s ERP system.


Before Marel you had to put the meat on the table and cut it up. Marel cuts down the number of actions you need to learn. It used to take five or six months to become a qualified deboner, but now it only takes three months.

- Li Yi, Deputy General Manager, Kerchin

The software allows Kerchin to track individual performance. There is a target weight for each piece of meat post-cutting, based on its pre-cut meat. For each operator, the production manager can check productivity and results on every cut.

“Before, the production manager had to be on the floor, telling each operator what to do,” said Mr Johannsson. “This system moves the managers off the floor, into an office where they have an overview, and can plan and direct the workflow.”

For example, if an operator is good at trimming tenderloin but not topside, the production manager can set the system so they get tenderloin, but not topside. “You can fix problems in real time. If you see somebody is doing a bad job, you can correct them during the shift, or switch them to another job.” An operator trimming 10% overweight could cause a complaint from a customer who wants less fat. An operator trimming 10% underweight is costing the company money.

“A 1% change in yield can be a lot of money. If you’re slaughtering 400 animals a day, you can gain 16kg a day just on tenderloin. If you work 220 days a year… it adds up,” said Mr Johannsson.

“If you can’t monitor what you’re doing, you can’t control it. You might know at the end of the year, but then it’s too late.”

Read the full coverage in Asian Meat Magazine

More about Marel's Streamline System

More about Marel's deboning and trimming equipment

More about Innova