The perfect fit for cutting, slicing and dicing
Published:  24 January, 2018

Processors are looking to do more with the same space. How can cutting, slicing and dicing equipment help? 

Labour issues and consolidation are driving development of cutting, slicing and dicing equipment, as meat and poultry processors seek automated solutions but face space constraints.

With the National Living Wage pushing up labour costs, and many non-national workers already leaving after sterling weakened following the Brexit vote, demand has risen for equipment that can be easily integrated into semi- or fully-automated processing lines.

At the same time, a trend of industry consolidation has resulted in many businesses condensing separate operations into one site, boosting demand for more compact machinery.

“The new factor facing us today is the dwindling labour pool on which factories have relied historically,” says Martin Wareham, TVI product manager at Multivac UK. “They are simply not available as they used to be, and the other factor in all this is that the major supermarkets want as little human intervention or contact with their products as possible. This means as much automation as possible, but at a realistic and affordable ‘market value’.”

Multivac will be showcasing its portioning systems, fully integrated into its automated packaging lines, for the first time at Anuga FoodTec 2018 in Cologne, Germany over 20-23 March.

Among kit to be featured is its flexible R 245 thermoforming packaging machine, equipped with a Horizontal Loader system, which serves as a connecting link in automated slicing lines.

Efficiently transferring a wide range of sliced portions from the slicer to the cavities of the thermoformed packs, the Horizontal Loader bridges height differences, resulting in a significantly-reduced line footprint.

Another line on the stand will feature the T800 traysealer incorporating an integrated TVI portioner for the packaging of sliced fresh meat. Said to be multi-functional and highly flexible, the GMS 520 single-cut portioning system is capable of maintaining product quality at high throughput, and can shingle, stack, and individually deposit single slices.

A pre-selected portion format enables product to go straight to packing with no human intervention involved. Suitable for processing all types of red meat and some poultry primals, the GMS 520 optimises weight while reducing wastage – a major priority for the sector right now.

As of 1 January this year, Multivac is also the sole distributor of the TVI range of Crust freezers and slicers, which handle a high proportion of all fresh retail slices and steaks supplied to UK supermarkets.

Multivac acquired a 49.9% share in TVI, a market leader in meat-portioning machines and complete portioning lines, last year, with the aim of being able to offer complete production lines from one source.

The TVI range includes solutions for tempering, pressing and portioning meat products, winding grill sticks and manufacturing kebab skewers, which will be integrated and linked with Multivac’s packaging machines into complete lines offering optimal automation and efficiency to processors.

“We now have several trained service technicians as well as in-house help and a spares desk looking after the equipment out in the marketplace, and we will be ready to answer any queries or handle spare parts orders in 2018,” says Martin Wareham, TVI product manager at Multivac UK.

“We supply various TVI Crust freezers, carousel and linear belt style, as they are one of the key steps in getting the end-product just right. From here, we feed into either the smaller GMS 520, capable of slicing individually, stacking or shingling, depending on the desired pack format, at up to about 500kg per hour.

“Alternatively, the next machine in the range is the bigger GMS 1200, which will give approximately one tonne per hour, and can handle all types of crust frozen primal.”

Later this year, Multivac will launch the GMS 1600, which uses twin lane capability to offer up to 80% higher throughput than the GMS 1200, in the UK market.

Offering “a virtually operator-free, turnkey line solution,” Wareham says the GMS 1600 produces “second-to-none yield and appearance” and “the capability and flexibility of stacking, shingling or individually-producing slices”.

The GMS 1600 twin-cut high-output portioning system will also be on display at Anuga FoodTec in March. Using three-dimensional forming to maximise portioning quality and yield, it offers a high degree of flexibility in portioning fresh and frozen meat by dicing or slicing in a wide range of thicknesses.

Processing capability ranges from pork fillets to beef topside, and from 1mm thick carpaccio slices to 300mm thick-sliced roast joints. A twin-track cutting channel ensures that high throughput is achieved, as does the capability for simultaneous reloading during the portioning process.

Maximising factory space

Interfood Technology reports strong demand from customers seeking to fully utilise all available factory space, as many companies consolidate operations to reduce production costs.

Weber, a global leader in slicing technology, is supplied by Interfood in the UK and Ireland through its slicing division.
Specifically designed to address space limitations, the Weber S6 is described by Interfood as a next-generation,
high-performance slicer in an extremely compact design.

While the S6 measures only 1,300mm in width, its extra-wide slicing throat can accommodate products up to 520mm wide and it includes many integrated features previously only available with larger-scale machines.

Weber’s renowned involute blade, a durable and precise blade technology created in house by the manufacturer, is included in the S6, which is compatible with all Weber blade sizes from the R365 to the R515.

Flexibility and efficiency are key attributes of the S6, with its open design using principles from the successful 906 series, ensuring optimum visibility, and fast, easy cleaning and product changeover.

A quick-change system, requiring minimal tools for the blade, the shear bar and the gripper heads, reduces downtime, while a fast in-line loading system optimises loading times and reduces gripper waste. Hygienic and secure vacuum gripping systems are exclusively available for the S6, further increasing yield recovery by reducing gripper end piece size.

The S6 can be combined with Weber’s complete automatic line solutions, loading into any type of packaging machinery, including its new range of thermoforming equipment. “In essence, the S6 will be the solution to many of the challenges facing our customers and will form the heart of the most advanced and efficient slicing lines going forward,” says Andre Clareboets, group divisional manager for high risk at Interfood.

“One of the biggest advantages of the S6 is its future-proof and modular design. Now, the fear of a changing market and evolving needs can be addressed as the S6 slicer can be easily adapted in the future and optimally re-tasked as production needs change – importantly, without compromising performance.”

Bacon slicing technology

A compact footprint is also one of the assets of another piece of kit supplied by Interfood, which offers a new slicing solution for the high-capacity, retail bacon market. Part of the Weber manufacturing portfolio, Textor has launched a new TS700 bacon slicer, which slices two products simultaneously, matching the performance of Weber’s successful 904 series twin log bacon slicers.

Providing the capacity of twin-log slicing in the space of a traditional single log slicer, Interfood says the Textor also offers significant advantages in terms of cost and simplicity.

“Textor utilises the proven Weber line modules such as scanners and weighing systems in conjunction with its easy-to-use yet powerful slicers that are equipped with independent Vario gripping systems, providing very high performance in the most cost-effective and compact package available,” says Clareboets.

“The totally new design of the Textor TS700, geared towards fast hygiene and changeover, ensures the maximum up-time and operational efficiency in a machine built to withstand the demands of high-capacity bacon processing – one of the hardest tasks you can ask of a slicer.

“Bulk bacon versions of the TS700 are also available in an even simpler form with capacities of up to four tonnes per hour in a very compact footprint.”

Beyond the demands of labour and space issues, and flexibility, key drivers for processors investing in new equipment include yield and presentation.

“Not only is the current meat factory expectation at least 99% prime yield from any primal, but the major emphasis is on looking like it is hand-cut by a master butcher, with optimum hygiene and highly accurate portion weight control,” says Wareham.

“Giveaways on the TVI range of machinery generally do not exceed more than 0.5%, as this is the one main area that suppliers can make their margin count in the current climate.”

Wareham highlights the increasing importance of presentation.

“The demand for high-quality steaks and general red meat portions is as high as ever,” he says. “The current drive in the industry is for high-quality, aesthetically pleasing cuts of meat – the emphasis being on premium-looking, unprocessed, natural beef, pork, lamb and turkey steaks or chops, as promoted by all the TV shows and household magazines.”