Primex Norway: The future of fish processing

Primex Norway 2.jpg

The level of automation at Primex Norway is unique in the fish processing industry, with very fast production, minimum manual handling, and equipment and software in place to safeguard traceability and food safety.

The Primex fish processing facility in Myre, northern Norway, is a groundbreaking 5,700-m2 facility featuring a range of Marel’s highly automated equipment and software.

The factory is located close to the region’s abundant supply of quality cod and is equipped with advanced fish processing solutions that ensure the company can deliver a range of high-quality products and keep production as close to the end customer as possible.

“We wanted to build the top, modern whitefish factory, and the best place in the world to have the factory is Myre,” says Martin Rasmussen, a general manager at Primex.

New product opportunities 

Built from the ground up, the facility was designed, built, equipped and running within two years. “It was a very tight schedule!” says Rasmussen.

The factory is yet to reach full capacity but has already opened new opportunities for Primex. “During the past year, since we started production, we have developed many new products,” says Rasmussen. “The new technology gives us more tools to deliver better products to the end customer.”

“In my opinion, this is the most advanced fish processing plant in the world,” he says.

Other factories around the same size have varying levels of automation. But even among factories with similar equipment and comparable numbers of operators, Primex Norway stands out. “We are taking the packaging and distribution after the FleXisort to a different level compared to many others because we have very sophisticated programs,” Rasmussen explains. “This is the perfect tool to really utilize the whole fillet.”

Fillet utilization 

“End customers want uniform products with a fixed weight,” says Rasmussen. “So the FleXicut and FleXisort are extremely good tools, giving us the flexibility to really utilize the fillets in different products with different weights and different sizes.”

Maximizing fillet utilization has a big impact on profits. “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,” he says.

The fleXicut system 

The FleXicut water-jet cutter with high-precision 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.

Automated packing 

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

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

The robot is a valuable tool, especially because they do a lot of chain packing at Primex. “We can control and monitor the giveaway much better,” Rasmussen explains. “We can also utilize the fish in a different way because it makes more uniform packing possible, compared to manually.”

The FleXicut and RoboBatcher have set new industry standards, but their real value comes from how they combine into integrated solutions. As Rasmussen explains, “We chose Marel because they could support us with the best total solution.”

Primex Norway machine close up

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

Agility in industry 4.0

The Primex Norway fish 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 Primex will continue to make the most of emerging Industry 4.0 technologies.

“The agility to evolve is key to being a so-called ‘smart factory’,” says Asmund Haga, Regional Sales Manager Marel Fish. “So 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.”

Marel is helping to develop the technology that makes it possible to increase automation across the whole value chain. Automation in fish processing is likely 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 flipside of that, there will be more roles in technical areas. “You're moving the resources from line operators to more technical departments like management, software, maintenance and engineering.”

Training for quality 

Automation has an impact on employees in other ways too, such as different types of training to make sure operators can get the most value out of increasingly complex equipment.

“We need to spend a lot of time on proper training before we start production,” Rasmussen explains. “There are a lot of details and it takes more to build this competence.”

Training on Innova Food Processing Software to make the best use of the production data is one area that Primex Norway sees as having a lot of potential.

“We see that there's a lot of potential in Innova and we’re looking forward to when we can take the next level to really utilize the technology on our mobile devices, so we can control the production wherever we are,” Rasmussen says.

“If you are at a hotel or wherever, you don't need to sit down at a computer. This gives us much more control and much faster decisions if you want to change something in the production,” Rasmussen explains. “It's a very good system to really monitor all details in production.”

About Innova

Innova 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.

The race ahead 

“When Marel talks about ‘the race for the smart factory’ we don’t mean there can only be one winner, even among competitors,” says Haga. “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.”

“And making sure you’ve got the latest Marel gear to keep you moving!” he adds, smiling.

Primex Norway has raised the bar in smarter processing, setting a new benchmark in terms of automation, and Rasmussen hopes to see others replicating their success. “I hope we get platforms where it's possible to discuss issues with other producers,” he says. “And if the industry grows, it will also give suppliers the opportunity to increase their technology level in turn.”

Having different parts of the fish processing value chain in sync would have many advantages. “I think the biggest challenge now is probably to make the raw material more uniform in quality,” Rasmussen says. “If we do that, I think it will be much easier to make processing more automatic.”

Rasmussen also sees traceability as becoming more and more important: “The customer wants to know the origin of the product down to which boat it’s from. With our system, we are prepared for the future, because we can trace the product back to the boat even when we’re producing many boats’ catches on the same day. This gives us total control in production to take the traceability fallout.”

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