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Pre-project: Improved productivity through innovation and proven methods

Clipfish, dried salted cod or similar species, is one of the oldest cod products traded in the market and still has a status as high quality, favoured for its mature taste and texture. Like all other consumer markets, the market for this product is moving towards more convenient products, where consumers like to be able to buy pieces of the fish, prepacked or in counters, rather than buying the whole split fish. In addition, the product is sold desalted into portions either chilled and ready-to-eat, or frozen. As the largest producer of clipfish, Norway has a potential to create a sustainable competitive advantage in the production of convenient products for the consumer market. In order to do so, highly integrated production lines, with large capacity, high level of automization, robotization and production flexibility is needed. To create such a concept is the main objective in this project.  

The following available cutting technologies are compared
Waterjet technology (Flexicut) 
The use of high pressure water jet to cut through fish flesh is well known, with Flexicut, and has become an industry standard for cod and related fihs species. This technology has the advantages of being flexible and cutting away pin bones from fish fillets. However, this technology may have several disadvantages , therefore this will not be the first choice, as long as other methods are available to do the same task in clipfish production:
• The width of split clipfish becomes a challenge when using the cutting machines for fillets, as they are not​ wide enough to take the products in. 
• Cutting through the back bones with a waterjet will be very difficult and therefore portioning with this method can be challenging. 
• The dryness of the product reduces stability on the cutting belt, decreasing the accuracy significantly.
• Waterjet cutting is a costly method and it might be supported when other methods do not achieve the main objective, or the volume is high enough to sustain a high cost of ownership.​

This method is traditionally used. It is very manual, dangerous and accurate weight portioning is not possible. This method is therefore rejected.

Mechanical knives and portion cutting with knives
Mechanical knives and portion cutters with computer vision systems (I-cuts) have been used in the salted fish industry for a long time and the method works well for cutting. When improving the efficiency of product lines it is always the best option to use proven methods as much as possible and then apply innovation to what is missing. 

The benefits are as following and therefore suggested as the base technology for the process:
• The capacity is very high- and if the lines are configured correctly, use of labour is minimal.
• The cuts are very straight.
• Cutting through the back bone is done.
• The basic technology is proven; only innovation is needed on the tasks of cutting clipfish.
• This is a low cost cutting technology in terms of inve​stment. 

New Innovation
By combining the use of proven technology with new equipment to be developed this offers a chance to make a new cutting concept:
• Size grading of raw material to make sure the cut settings give optimum cutting pattern. 
Vision quality control unit to look for defects and location of membranes and possibly grade product by color of raw material. 
Dual line portion cutter, making it possible to cut to exact weight or length.

​Main objective
To select the best method for dynamically cutting clipfish into portions​

Sub objectives
To use  both proven solutions and innovation methods.
• To make workshops​.
• To develop concept layouts and descriptions of the production line.
• ​To evaluate basic pricing of different alternatives.

1) Implication of reaching the goals: Short / long term
By reaching our common objectives we will create competitive advantage for the actors, doing this by industry leading cost per kilogram. Short term it will make the actors able to compete in the convenient market. Long term, by constant innovation and further atomization, we can solidify market shares for Nowegian convenient products of clipfish in key markets. 

2) Reduced cost and increased profitability
The profitability of the project will be dependent on the chosen solutions, product mix, market related factors etc. Marel will seek to collaborate closely with the involved parties to create the optimal solution.
3) Expected impact on product qualities
By automating and creating streamlined production facilities we will see:
• Decreased manual cutting and handling
• Decreased time in production
• Decreased drops/handling/stops in production
All of which will contribute in increasing product quality, and uniformity of finished product. 

4) Expected impact on production capacity
By atomizing the production, we will increase capacity compared to traditional and manual methods. The solution we have outlined is completely scalable, and can be adjusted according to the need of the customer. However, we can and should aim to handle at least 5000 tonns pr year.

5) How results contribute to HSE in the company
All Marel solutions are executed at the highest level of safety. That being said, by removing manual knives, bandsaws etc, some of the main hazards of such production is eliminated. 

Project design and implementation

Pre-project working plan
Problem assessment, workshops and basic concept design
In order to solve the challenges it is needed a deep analysis of the desired process, as well as desired outcomes with regards to products. Marel will supply concept layouts and description of two alternative processing lines, as well as budget pricing.

Concept development and layout engineering
At this stage, Marel will make concept layouts showing several approaches to mechanical cutting, as well as waterjet cutting. The layout will have a detailed description showing the steps in the production. Together with the basic pricing for different alternatives, this will form the background for the first workshop.

First alternative: Innovative mechanical cutting concept using proven technology 
• It presents the lowest cost of ownership and operational cost of possible automated solutions.
It minimizes the use of labor extensively.
It is made to focus on the quality products the market is asking for. 
It helps optimizing the raw material and reduces waste in the system.

Secondary alternative: Water jet cutting
As an alternative, and not mutually exclusive to mechanical cutting, it might be possible to cut through waterjet some patterns of clipfish, assuming that the raw material should not exceed 300mm width. By analyzing each piece coming into the machine, the FlexiCut can dynamically decide what patterns to cut. An evaluation of the process and pricing will be done and presented to the reference group.

Workshop 1
Marel will present different possible approaches to cutting of clipfish, using both new and proven solutions. The discussions will revolve around the suitability of the approaches, and elimination of irrelevant or not suitable options. Marel will continue working, taking into consideration the feedback from the workshop.

Workshop 2
Marel will discuss the different alternatives on progress and will take input on the solutions so far. The report on progress with a modified layout and a description of the working plan for phase two will be presented to the reference group. 

Final presentation and all documents for phase two
In this phase of the project, Marel will prepare a final layout and detailed description of the desired cutting solution based on the feedback of the reference group. In addition, Marel will supply a clear working plan and budget for phase two of the project.

Results will be communicated through the final report and presented at FHF's seminar with Norwegian clipfish producers.