In late September, Marel Food Systems Inc. unveiled the latest development in its “Return on Innovation” strategy, with the grand opening of its brand new Innovation Center in Lenexa, Kan.
The center, the result of years of planning and months of construction, allows the company’s U.S. arm to offer better partnerships with its current customers and bring new ones the type of hands-on, controlled demonstrations they need to make the right equipment purchasing decisions for their process. It also shows Marel’s commitment to cooperating with its industry partners to grow together and improve the business.
The state-of-the-art center, explains Einar Einarsson, president of Marel Food Systems, is approximately 31,000 square feet, complete with a USDA-approved demo processing floor, where the company’s latest technology can be test-run for potential customers or the training of current partners in the industry.
“It’s going to completely change the way we do business,” Einarsson says. “It’s no doubt we can do the demos in a much more professional way. We have the possibility of preparing the demos in this controlled environment, which is very important for some of the machines. ... We’ll have the customer here for us without distractions, and it’s just more professional. A lot more hands-on, and obviously the training we can do here, too, will give us more opportunities to improve.”
Simply put, the new hub allows Marel to grow its relationships with its customer base and offer more to potential customers as well.
At the center, the company’s manufacturing and development specialties are on display for a multitude of visitors, showcasing its latest offerings in areas such as portioning, slicing, sorting and grinding to grading, loading, metal detection and weigh-price labeling — among other innovative Marel solutions. Lárus Ásgeirsson, corporate vice CEO & director of sales, says the center gives the company an advantage that it did not have before. “We can run almost any application in the building, and that makes life so much easier to be able to run those tests in a controlled environment rather than out on the factory floor or in a warehouse,” he says. “So from that perspective, it’s very impressive.”
The demonstration floor, which follows USDA processing standards, gives Marel the additional benefits of testing equipment before it goes to a processor’s plant, where timing and hygienic concerns arise. “Time to market is very critical, and with the new center, we can actually take products in very quickly, test them, and the industry people get the reaction,” he explains. “Then [we] continue to work on the product development until we take the machine into a factory. But then you’ve saved a lot of time instead of just going directly into the factory with those products and troubleshooting from there. ... Also, from the standpoint of hygiene, when you have a new product with a lot of people working on the machine in the middle of the production floor, that’s not the most sanitary situation.”
Ásgeirsson adds that it showcases Marel’s commitment to product innovation to the industry. “If you combine both a lot of investment in product development — and we are committed to invest six to eight percent of our revenues in product development — then the way to go is to have access to facilities like this,” he says. “We aim to have a similar one in Europe to allow us to work with processors there on their different needs and applications. So, this is part of, in many ways, the product development investment.”
Construction of the center was a meticulous process, but Einarsson says he is pleased with the outcome and looks forward to the cooperation from the industry in helping the center live up to Marel’s goals for it. “You see the blueprints, and they look good on paper, but I was pleasantly surprised,” he explains. “And I think, listening to the customers who have done demos during the past few weeks and [during the unveiling ceremonies], it’s truly amazing how things have turned out. They love it and are impressed.”