Sponsor content from Marel

This fish processor took automation to the next level

From x-rays and algorithms to robots and 3D lasers, Primex Norway’s smart factory features the latest ultramodern technologies that are streamlining every step of production.

Sponsor content from Marel
Written by
Marel in collaboration with NHST Global Publications
May 23, 2019

For decades, fish processors everywhere have embraced opportunities to raise productivity and lower costs through increased automation. Today, in the northern Norwegian municipality of Myre, Primex Norway (Primex) is raising the bar with a new smart factory that features some of the most advanced automation solutions available.

The 5,700-square-meter facility is strategically located to capitalize on the region’s abundant supply of cod. “We wanted to build the top, modern whitefish factory, and the best place in the world to have the factory is Myre,” says general manager Martin Rasmussen.

Icelandic manufacturer Marel developed the bulk of the cutting-edge processing equipment and software found inside the facility, which took two years to build from the ground up.

78dc59e307283959d6c274945dff73dd LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: The Primex processing facility is located in Myre, the harbor that lands the most fresh fish in Norway. Photo: Marel

The level of automation at Primex is unique in the fish processing industry. It uses equipment that improves speed and minimizes manual handling while ensuring that the company can deliver a wide range of high-quality products and keep production as close to end customers as possible. Hardware connects to software that supports traceability and food safety.

While building a smart factory isn’t cheap, for Primex and a growing number of its compatriots, both the near and long-term benefits of their investment in ultramodern, highly automated processing solutions appear to significantly outweigh the initial disruption and cost.

New technologies for new products

The factory hasn’t yet reached full capacity. But sophisticated equipment like the FleXicut fillet processing system and FleXisort product distribution system have already opened up new opportunities for Primex.

“During the past year, since we started production, we have developed many new products,” Rasmussen says. “The new technology gives us more tools to deliver better products to the end customer.”


Photo: Marel

The FleXicut water-jet cutter with high-precision x-ray bone detection automatically removes pinbones and portions it with high accuracy to customer specifications. It produces uniform, precision-cut products that are then distributed into different product streams specified by its software intelligence, using the FleXisort product distribution system.

On top of the benefits of increased automation, the intelligence of the FleXicut system means that processors can better control the flow to avoid any buffer problems by ensuring that production never exceeds the capacity of other processes.

Innova Food Processing Software brings all the vital data directly to managers in real time, so managers at Primex can manage and optimize the whole production process to control the distribution of raw material coming in, and control production based on product orders.

Rasmussen notes that seafood buyers and consumers demand uniform products with a fixed weight. FleXicut and FleXisort provide the flexibility needed to utilize the entire fillet in different products with different weights and different sizes.

At Primex, maximizing fillet utilization supports the bottom line.

“Instead of just taking it up the line and not knowing what to do with the rest, it's a totally new world compared to manually trimming lines,” Rasmussen explains.

New Kid on the Block: The RoboBatcher

Primex is the first seafood processor in the world to use Marel’s packing robot in production.

Fully automatic, high-speed robot packing makes it easier and more efficient to fill orders, with processing automatically adjusted based on which product weights and sizes best match order requirements.

2c4a5c84251d4c28006f4443f522e237 ROBOTS TO THE RESCUE: Robots can help combat the ergonomic challenges of heavy manual lifting and speed up processing by automating simple, repetitive tasks that are traditionally handled manually.

The robot, dubbed the RoboBatcher Thermoformer, is a particularly valuable tool for Primex because it does a lot of chain packing.

“We can control and monitor the giveaway much better,” Rasmussen notes. “We can also utilize the fish in a different way because it makes more uniform packing possible compared to doing it manually.”

Agility in Industry 4.0

The Primex factory is an exciting project for many reasons—not least because of its capacity to keep evolving. Its agility is inherent in its design and ensures the operator will continue to make the most of Industry 4.0 technologies as they emerge.

“The agility to evolve is key to being a so-called ‘smart factory,’” says Asmund Haga, regional sales manager at Marel Fish. “Primex and Marel are working together under a cooperation agreement that sees them shaping the future of whitefish processing at the Myre factory and across the whole industry.”

Software Spotlight: Innova

Marel's Innova software suite ensures reliable data collection, providing full traceability throughout the production process. It includes real-time monitoring of key performance indicators (KPIs) such as yield, throughput, quality, capacity and labor efficiency. These valuable insights enable processors to identify opportunities for improvements, while ensuring that production conforms to quality and food safety standards

Marel is committed to the development of technology that makes it possible to increase automation across the entire value chain. Automation in fish processing is poised to keep increasing well into the future—if not indefinitely.

Rasmussen agrees:“I think that we will continue to decrease the numbers of operators in production and increase the numbers of robots or other packaging solutions that create more value."

On the flip side, he notes that increased automation means more roles in technical areas of the business like management, software, maintenance and engineering.

The race for smart factories

“When Marel talks about ‘the race for the smart factory,’ we don’t mean there can only be one winner—even among competitors,” Haga continues. “But we do mean that if processors ignore the new technologies, they risk being left behind. So it’s more about signing up for the race and setting off on the first leg.”

Rasmussen hopes the success of Primex will inspire others to pursue increased automation and smarter processing, which would encourage more equipment manufacturers and software developers to invest in innovation.

“I think the biggest challenge now is probably to make the raw material more uniform in quality,” he adds. “If we do that, I think it will be much easier to make processing more automatic.”

The Whitefish ShowHow: A forum for shaping the future

The partnership between Primex and Marel is a testament to what is possible when technology and collaboration converge. The pursuit of innovation through collaboration is the driving force behind Marel’s annual Whitefish ShowHow, which convenes in Copenhagen on 25 September 2019.

23ebd6048b0f5c0321d1ab6c3b40c702 THE FUTURE IS NOW: ShowHow attendees will be able to tour smart factories using virtual reality glasses.

In addition to demonstrations and seminars about the company’s whitefish processing solutions, the event provides attendees with the opportunity to explore new concepts and forge fresh partnerships with other industry leaders.

Presentations from special guests, product demos and networking set the stage for a meeting of minds with the power to change the direction of the fish processing industry at large. With the advent of Industry 4.0, forums that facilitate collaboration across the entire value chain are more important than ever.

“The ShowHow strongly reflects what we aim to achieve every year—and every day really—working with our customers in the industry to find better and better ways to process fish,” concludes Sigurdur Olason, the executive vice president of Marel Fish.

Are you interested in attending the Whitefish ShowHow? Attendance is free, but registration is required.

For more information about the event, check this out.