« December 2010 Table of Contents
Special Feature: The right cut
Processors depend on reliability, precision, when it comes to slicers and portioners
By Lauren Kramer
December 06, 2010
There are a variety of slicing and portioning machines on
the market, and most have a loyal following among the seafood
processors who use them. Slicers manufactured by Ross Industries of Midland, Va., have been a fixture at High Liner Foods in Danvers, Mass., for more than 20 years.
"We use them to slice cod, pollock and a little haddock,"
says Ron St. Pierre, manager of processor-optimization
solutions at High Liner. "They're made from stainless steel and
with minor maintenance, they just last and last."
Ross' slicers offer flexibility on the size of portions the
company requires, and the fillet cuts are straight and clean,
St. Pierre says. "Fish reacts differently than other proteins,
so when you cut a fish block, unless the cut is straight and
clean the piece will crack on the fillet line. Sure, there are
other, newer machines on the market using different technology,
but the outcome is the same."
St. Pierre recommends looking at belt width before
purchasing a machine. "A wider belt means more portions across
and more poundage that can be produced," he says. "Obviously,
all other belts on the production line would have to be able to
accommodate the wider belt as well."
Other factors to consider are the portability of the
machine, the availability of parts, the machine's power
requirements and the availability and overall life of blades.
"Look at the magazine size and flexibility too," he suggests.
"A larger magazine mouth opening allows for wider portions for
greater plate coverage. There would also have to be a way to
shrink the magazine mouth opening to accommodate smaller
portions as well."
Slicing and portioning machines are fairly expensive, so
processors typically do their homework before making an
acquisition. For example, Marel's machines start at just under
$50,000 and go up to $200,000.
"These days we're designing the machines better and making
them more user-friendly and far less maintenance-critical,"
says Denny Smith, Marel's general manager of sales. "For
example, our new models can all be maintained remotely through
the Internet. If customers need us to do work on their slicing
machines' programming and parameters, we don't even need to go
to their facilities."
Marel's 125 Vision Slicer
incorporates Vision technology.
That means a laser or camera works in conjunction with the
machine's software, allowing it to analyze the product it is
cutting in three-dimensional space.
"It is more accurate as a result," Smith says. "The software
we developed in-house is advancing all the time, which means we
cannot only see the products better, but cut them faster and
ensure that the
cuts we're making are more accurate in terms
of what the customer desires."
Marel's portioning machines, such as the I-Cut 10
PortionCutter, can be used for poultry, meat or fish. "The
design of the machines makes it easy to clean, and the small
footprint means it will fit into almost any plant layout,"
Smith says. Marel claims its GEBA SC 250 slicer is the fastest
slicer of fresh salmon on the market today, capable of making
250 slices per minute. That's 30 percent more output than other
slicers can deliver.
"We spend so much of our revenue on research and development
work," says Smith. "But our customers need new products that
make them more competitive in the market, particularly when it
comes to speed of slicing."
Acme Smoked Fish in Brooklyn,
N.Y. has up to seven
slicers operating at
any one time and rotates them annually.
"They're the most expensive piece of equipment we own but
they're terrific machines," says David Caslow, Acme's executive
VP. "Their useful life is about seven years, and new
generations of the machines can change angles and increase
speed as their technology has improved."
Another slicer manufacturer is Salmco, which provides a
series of German-made products sold and serviced by Scott Processing in Guelph, Ontario. "In the 15 years we've been
selling these machines we rarely get a service call," says
Edward Tautkus, sales manager. "Salmco makes about 10 slicing
machines and they're reliable, well designed and
well-engineered. They'll run for 20 years without any
Salmco's portioning machines range in price from $40,000 up
to $100,000 and are fully automated, allowing customers to
choose the slicing angle and speed. As for innovation or
updates in technology, Tautkus is not worried. "They're
state-of-the-art," he says of the portioning machines. "They're
so advanced as they are, there's not much more you can do to
Contributing Editor Lauren Kramer lives in British