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We are at the beginning of a technological revolution

In recent years, Skinney-pinganes, in collaboration with Marel, has invested considerably in the technological development of the company’s fish processing plant at Krossey in Hornafjordur, which involves both equipment and software. Most recently in April this year, an agreement was concluded with Marel for the purchase of robots that will take care of packaging, assembly and box removal, and a bone search engine. The installation of the devices will take place this autumn.

“We are at the beginning of a technological revolution and people are realizing, bearing in mind that we are on the threshold of the fourth industrial revolution and automation, that we need to rethink catfish processing and such investments are likely to start that journey,” he said. Gudmundur H. Gunnarsson, Director of Innovation at Skinney-pinganes.

He says that with investments in new processing equipment in collaboration with Marel in recent years, efforts are being made to increase productivity. “So that it is possible to process more quantities in a more efficient way and the other variable in this is that it is increasing specialization, that it is possible to process more diverse products efficiently. The ideology is not only to increase quantity but also to increase the value per kilogram, because as we know the resource is limited. ”

Extensive investment

Investment in high-tech equipment amounts to hundreds of millions of ISK, and Gudmundur says that these are long-term investments that cover the entire value chain. “In fact, it can be said that our first step was restructuring and then increasing automation onboard our fishing vessels. In order to make a strategic change like this, to start processing catfish into better products, you have to start at the front of the chain. ”

In July 2018, Skinney-pinganes purchased a Flexicut system; Flexitim beauty line, Flexicut water slicer, and Flexisort classifier, and another such system was purchased last year. This April, a robotic packaging solution was purchased, which includes a SensorX direct search, a three-head sampling robot with automatic box removal, and installation will take place in September. Innova software has also been introduced, which connects all systems centrally and gives managers an overall overview and control of the processing.

“This technology first came ashore and opened a window, but because we were not quite the first there, we had the opportunity to take a holistic view of the value chain. Our first investment was the modification and expansion of our tugs, and that’s where we start production. There are imaging equipment and automatic sorting of fish so that the processing equipment on land can make the most of the raw material. We are talking about large investments throughout the value chain. ”

He says that in catfish processing, Skinney-Þinganes is entering another century. “It can be said that the idea is to turn from being a primary producer of raw materials distributed around the world to becoming a producer of products that are ready for the consumer market.”

Opens up new opportunities

However, it is not a small matter to start the process of changing the entire methodology, according to Gudmundur, who says that it has been important to be able to have a good collaboration with Marel on the projects and continued development of equipment. “Starting this journey has in fact opened up endless new opportunities and for this to succeed, it is crucial that users of this equipment from Marel work closely with Marel on the development and how to do even better.”

Asked if it is a challenge for the company’s employees to meet a more technologically advanced work environment, Gudmundur answers: “Emphasis changes and the jobs, which is positive. People in the fishing industry are very ready to educate themselves and acquire knowledge. Jobs will not necessarily be reduced in the fisheries sector, but they will become more specialized. ”Changes in production lines will also entail considerable improvements in the work environment, according to Gudmundur. “There is a systematic focus on better lighting, better sound, and better working conditions. In short, it will be possible to hang paintings in the processing hall and walk-in on slippers. ”

Think outside the box

“Automatic robot solutions are relatively new to the market and it’s really cool to finally see the robot solutions in whitefish. This changes the type of job in fish processing, saves a considerable amount of working time, and delivers such high accuracy, “says Gudbjorg Heida Gudmundsdottir, managing director of the fishing industry at Marel. She points in particular to the importance of a strong sampling system, but it is robots that choose which pieces of processed fish on the conveyor belt go into which box by weight, size and circumference. This allows you to control both the weight of each box and the types and sizes of pieces selected. “This way, you have fewer deviations and increased opportunities to produce diverse products that are all packed at the same time and in a standard way through the robots,” explains Gudbjorg Heida.

She says the collaboration with Skinney-pinganes has been very successful. “Of course, there is no end in sight when it comes to innovation. With each solution that is created, new doors always open along the way and this collaboration will continue. I believe that when Skinney-pinganes comes in with the robot system and bone search engines as well as the water cutting machines [which are already up and running], this has become a leading factory, even though it was widely sought after. […] This is a really cool process that they have built up in recent years. ”

The domestic market remains important

Asked what the next step might be in the collaboration, Gudbjorg Heidi answers: “Then there is the question of how we continue to work together and I see that it would be fun to discuss further aspects concerning processing management and digital development there. Marel has made tremendous progress in digital solutions and solutions that meet the ever-increasing demand for sustainability in food processing. Then there are all kinds of tools in our product development guide. Based on how the collaboration has been so far, I see that it will continue to be strong because both parties have a strong vision for the future and dare to think outside the box. ”

Marel has become a large company in the food industry internationally, but Gudbjorg Heida says that this does not diminish the importance of the market in Iceland. “This is our home market. I think if you are not in a good relationship with the domestic market, how are you going to play a good game abroad? The Icelandic fisheries companies are extremely important and they are progressive. They want to invest, they want to offer superior quality abroad, as they sell the most out of the country. ”

It is especially important for Marel to have customers in the fishing industry in Iceland, as this creates a good basis for joint product development cooperation that benefits both parties.

Gudbjorg Heida says that Icelandic companies are receptive to a product development collaboration and very open to innovation. “It simply came to our notice then. As in whitefish, they are very open. They want to increase their product range, want to offer the right quality products, and be a leader in sustainability.

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