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Special Feature: Slicers

Cutting machines give producers an edge

By Melissa Wood
December 01, 2012

Darren Matson is pretty good with a knife. He works at H. Forman & Son on Fish Island in East London and has been slicing smoked salmon for more than 25 years. Slicing in a D-cut, he can slice and bone an entire side of smoked salmon in 1 minute, 24.18 seconds. That’s the Guinness World Record.

The news of Matson’s title drew the attention of cantankerous celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who boasts that his blade skills are also sharp. He decided to challenge Matson’s record with a slicing competition. The race was such a blowout that the victorious Matson stopped his own slicing halfway through to offer help to the lagging Ramsay.

“Ramsay’s done his best, but I suggest he comes and joins us in the slicing room for a year or two before he tries to take my title again,” he said in a news release after the contest. Even then, it would be difficult to match Matson’s skill. He’s like a machine.

But of course, he’s not a machine. Talent like Matson’s can be hard to find for companies looking to increase production of sliced smoked salmon, especially if they are in a hurry. Slicers help bridge that gap.

Many customers of Scott Processing Equipment and Controls are at that point — ready to grow, and needing a boost. 

“[It’s typically] a guy who has six, seven people working for him and he’s doing smoked salmon. They are slicing by hand and then suddenly he needs to bring up production because he’s got a supermarket order,” explains Dorin Ginsca, general manager. The Guelph, Ontario, company sells slicers for both frozen and fresh salmon in the roughly $40,000 to $100,000 range all over North and South America to mostly mid-size processing plants.

Marel, which is on the cutting edge, so to speak, of food processing equipment, has a dozen different slicers boasting the latest technology — but designed with enhancements and features to meet different needs in the marketplace.

“The high-end machinery is very high production. It’s got the most advanced technology, visioning systems, measuring devices, different types of programming, and then the next group of machinery below that is for the smaller-scale producer. It gives them a little bit more flexibility,” says Jim Denning, area sales manager for Marel Seattle. 

The SC Geba series is the most advanced machine on the market today, according to Denning, with speeds that average 300 kilograms an hour. Each machine in the series has a different super power: For high-speed operations, the SC 250 is a dual-lane machine that can slice up to 250 portions of smoked salmon per minute.

Originally designed for the French market, the unique SC 125 has gained popularity in the United States for its ability to meet the needs of high-end stores that want specific slicing thickness, angle and presentation on the board. 

“That machine does that. It also slices hot smoked very well,” says Denning. “It doesn’t produce as much as a dual-lane machine, but it’s got better quality of slice, and has the ability to do a variety of products on it.”

Also among Marel’s slicer offerings is the IPS 3000, which is similar to the SC 125 but can be programmed to place slices on boards to further reduce labor costs. The DPL line puts slicing and packing together with programming for spacing out the slices for easy handling and slice-length control to assist in the packing process. The company has also added its INNOVA software to slicing machines to better provide live information on raw material, slicing and finished packing, which can be viewed online.  

Salmon slicers aren’t the only ones getting a boost from new technology. The Icelandic firm Valka recently introduced a new X-ray guided cutting machine for whitefish fillets. 

The machine is high-speed, but also extremely sensitive for filleting small, bony fish. It uses a combination of X-ray and 3D image processing with robot-controlled water jets to find and cut out pin bones and portions with high accuracy. 

Put on a redfish processing line at the HB Grandi plant in Reykjavik, Iceland, Valka’s cutting machine was able to double the production of three to four workers ordinarily on that line.

Email Assistant Editor Melissa Wood at mwood@divcom.com


Find other SeaFood Business articles discussing slicers here.

December 2012 - SeaFood Business   

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