Icelandic Ingenuity

Marel’s deboning and trim lines offer improved yields and increased tracking capabilities.
On the trim line, yields determine success. Regardless of carcass quality or brand equity, if yields are not being maximized than neither are profits. Since 1983, Reykjavik, Iceland-based Marel hf has dedicated itself to manufacturing high-end processing equipment for the beef, pork, fish, and poultry industries. The company operates subsidiaries around the world and has a United States office strategically located in Kansas City, MO.
A result of Iceland’s isolated geography is a fiercely independent and proud mentality. Icelanders will tell you that because of their remoteness, they are self-sufficient and strive to create superior domestic products. Ranging from the country’s premier line of outdoor clothing products, 66° North, to Brennivín, the country’s famous brand of schnapps, Icelanders take great pride in their domestically produced products. Fortunately for the meat-processing industry, Marel distributes its line of premier processing equipment to all corners of the globe.
Continuous production flow
Marel’s meat-processing systems focus on three key production ideals: product flow, traceability, and production control. Meat is processed in a continuous flow that is monitored by the MPS production software, which provides full traceability and production control.
Processor productivity begins once carcasses come from the chiller to the initial scanner, and it doesn’t end until the products arrive at packaging. The MPS software is a key component in Marel’s quest to create deboning processes with optimized product flow. In designing trim and deboning stations, Marel uses the theory of “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” Trim lines are designed so carcasses arrive at the deboning line and go in a continuous flow through the deboning system to the packing line. After the carcass is initially scanned and recorded by the MPS software, the carcass is placed on a conveyor system and is run through circular saws that make initial cuts. After initial cuts, products are conveyed and then sorted to the individual trim operators.
Productivity slows when laborers on the processing line are either making unsatisfactory carcass cuts or have to leave their station to find out what type of cut they are performing. It is unreasonable to expect processors to continue manually monitoring the deboning and trimming stations while most (if not all) of these processors are trying to minimize the number of people on the production line. Marel’s MPS system ensures the production performance variables are accounted for by automatically informing and monitoring each cutter’s performance on individual terminals that send performance results to a centralized network station.  
MPS – the brains behindMarel’s brawn
Marel’s MPS software is the operating platform for the Marel deboning system. MPS is a control and data-capture system that provides full traceability from animal to packaged product. The MPS system keeps track of the identity of the animal throughout the entire deboning process and allows for real-time observation and performance monitoring detailing production totals, trimmer performance, animal statistics, as well as product costs and margins.
On the deboning line, MPS software is utilized by cutters and trimmers using an individualized MPS terminal that guides them through the deboning process. Prior to any cuts being made, the terminal informs the operator what primal they are receiving and what cuts must be made. When an operator has completed slicing and trimming a product piece, they push a button on the terminal to indicate to the system that the piece is ready. The system then transports the piece automatically to the designated packing area where a list of pieces sent to that packing area becomes available on the packing scale terminal.
While increased traceability is a key benefit for the MPS software, improved productivity is a core benefit of the system. The MPS system collects individual worker statistics, as well as production details such as total weight for each product and distribution between primals, secondary, and trim items. The number of downgraded pieces is also monitored and stored, adding to overall performance integrity. The MPS terminals feed into the processing plant’s network system allowing supervisors to monitor and compare the productivity and quality of all the trimmers on the line. By creating a competitive environment, line trimmers positively increase production numbers and production quality.
Grading and batching
Marel’s CheckBin Grader systems feature Intelligent Batching Software that selects the right piece for each batch and constantly confirms or corrects the accumulated batch weight. As pieces move along the grader, the systems’ arms pull each individual piece into the correct chute for its grade. Although the grader exceeds 120 pieces per minute, quality is not sacrificed for speed. Marel graders handle products in a most gentle manner ensuring maximum quality. Like the rest of the flowline, the grading system runs on Marel’s MPS technology. The MPS Grading software is used to simplify grading configurations and gather data from the process. Using the MPS software, operators can retrieve precise information on grading and control grader settings from a single location. The MPS software generates data that allow reports to show grading results based on more than one grading set-up. The software produces various reports of the grading process, and the reports can be broken down by time periods, cargoes, batches, products, and more. All adjustments of the grader can be controlled directly from the computer.
A shining example of the benefits to be reaped from the Marel processing system can be found at the Nordlenska beef and pork processing facility located in Akureyri, Iceland, barely a stone’s throw away from the 66° parallel — or the Arctic Circle.
Reynir Eiriksson, production manager at Nordlenska, contacted Marel in 2001 after the company decided it needed to upgrade its trim and deboning process. The company was looking to double its capacity.
“We saw what Marel had done for fish processors in improving their cut-up operations,” Eiriksson explains. “We had been doing our slaughtering at this facility and then shipping the carcasses down to Reykjavik. We wanted to figure out a way to do the cutting at the Akureyri facility. We knew what we were looking for, but we didn’t quite know how to get there.”
Working closely with Nordlenska, Kristinn Kristinsson, Marel’s senior managing consultant for meat solutions, designed a custom process line for the company. The line brought improved product traceability and management controls to the process, and the company was able to minimize the number of employees on the process line to less than half of what they needed before. After installing the line the company has doubled its productivity, and yields have increased 2 to 3 percent depending on the cut patterns used. At the same time, they can compare primary yield between farmers and suppliers.
Nordlenska had been running a manual cut line where trimmers would all work around one cutting table and would have to walk to a central feed table to get products and sort them manually. As expected, Eiriksson says that the company had received complaints that the fillet cuts were unsatisfactory. A cornerstone of the Nordlenska remedy was the implementation of the Marel trimming line with the MPS software.
“When we would receive complaints about our cut quality, I would have to talk to all of the cutters,” Eiriksson says. “With the MPS software, I can track individual performance so I don’t have to waste everyone’s time when a complaint comes in. I can track that product from the package to the person who made the cut. It is tremendously efficient. And knowing that the product can be traced back to the individual, the quality of the work has improved.”
The individual workstations have also contributed to process efficiency. With the Marel sorter and conveying systems, cutters no longer have to concern themselves with selecting the pieces of meat they cut, they can focus solely on the cutting. And with the individual stations, line cutters are not “distracted” by their fellow cutters.
“I don’t hear any more town gossip,” Eiriksson adds. “Now that they don’t cut around one table — now much more and much better work gets done. The Marel system has given management a very valuable productivity tool and has drastically improved how we operate.”
Individual needs, individual solutions
Nordlenska is just one example of how Marel has improved quality and efficiency in a processing plant. Other examples can be found around the globe with the latest one in Australia where a state-of-the-art meat processing plant is currently being built for a large -scale global producer. Today’s business environment is as competitive as it has ever been. Successes and failures are often measured in minute yield differences. When the difference between profit and loss is so small, it is a priority to have deboning and trimming systems that ensure accuracy and promote productivity. Utilizing Marel’s breakthrough MPS software and backed by Marel’s commitment to individual processor solutions, Marel customers can be assured that they are the beneficiaries of every advantage in the market.