A complete solution for the weighing and packing of salmon lardons has been supplied by Ishida Europe to smoked fish specialist Meralliance, enabling the company to reduce product giveaway while at the same time enhancing pack presentation in retail outlets.
Meralliance produces 4,500t of smoked fish each year and is the inventor of the smoked salmon lardon, an ingredient that is growing in popularity as an extra touch of quality and flavour in pasta, salads, quiches, soups, kedgerees and many other dishes.
Before the installation of the new line the salmon lardons were weighed out and manually placed on the infeed conveyor of a thermoformer. This laborious approach was fast becoming a limitation and the company sought to automate the process in order to meet three key objectives: avoid overfill (a phenomenon that is inevitable with manual packing), improve working conditions and offer retailers the best possible pack presentation.
Ishida Europe was selected by Meralliance for the installation from five potential suppliers, due to its ability to offer a complete line solution from a single source, incorporating both weighing and packing.
The chilled smoked salmon is diced, sorted on a vibratory conveyor and conveyed by vacuum direct to the dispersion table of a multihead weigher. The weigher is a 10-head model of the Ishida RS-Series, equipped with a powerful product feed /vibratory system. However, despite its high (14% to 18%) oil content, the salmon is not as sticky as might be expected, owing to the fact that it has little time to warm up in the fast vacuum transfer from the cutting to the weighing station.
The accuracy of the RS-Series multihead weigher, which stems from Ishida’s latest combination calculation hardware and software, is such that giveaway has been sharply reduced, with overfill now less than 1%.
Trays are denested and conveyed to an Ishida distribution system, where each receives its portion from the weigher. Next, the trays pass through an Ishida QX-775 tray sealer, where they are nitrogen flushed and sealed. Tray format (147mm x 113 mm x 18mm) and portion size (90g) are such that each pack is quite full, a challenge which the distribution system and the QX-775’s sealing system are able to meet very effectively in order to satisfy Meralliance’s pack presentation requirements.
The packs, which have a six day shelf-life, are displayed standing on edge on the supermarket shelf. If they were not so generously filled and securely sealed, settlement would soon leave them looking under-filled. Pack presentation is further enhanced by the neat inside-cut seal delivered by the QX-775, which also equips the packs with an easy-peel facility.
Operation of the system is simple with clear intuitive graphics. As well as eliminating the manual filling operation, the system offers easy cleaning with the waterproof weigher featuring lift-off, drop-on contact parts, while all product feed areas of the tray sealer are accessible for washdown.
Meralliance is delighted with the installation. “Three and a half months after the order was placed, the line was producing 1,800 trays per hour, and is capable of up to 3,600,” comments Vincent Gelamur, industrial director at Meralliance.