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Slicing equipment gets creative

05 December 2016

Suzanne Gill reports on some of the features that should be considered when specifiying a slicing machine, in addition to its ability to slice. 

Mechanical slicers were first used in butcher shops over 100 years ago. It remains unclear whether the original inventor of the first meat slicer with moveable table on which to rest the meat before slicing should be attributed to the Italian Luigi Giusti or the Dutchman Wilhelm van Berkel – It was a close run thing!

With the fast grow of supermarkets in the 1960s, the need for pre-packed products increased and industrial slicers became more commonplace in food processing plants. Today the slicing equipment market has evolved to meet producer need for ever varying packaging techniques to meet consumer demands.

Food manufacturers are, increasingly, looking for higher yields and there is a growing awareness of the need for more sustainable solutions which can save energy and help reduce food waste. Slicing equipment has an important role to play here. Better yields mean less waste, while the ability to slice products without needing to cool or freeze them can offer energy savings.  
Ron Henneman, product manager for slicing at Treif, believes that there is still the potential for further growth in the sliced meat sector. Although on one hand, he acknowledges that, because of the influence of healthier eating and price, the growth of meat consumption in Canada, USA, Europe, Japan and Australia has stagnated, in other countries including Russia, Brazil, South Africa and China, consumption is still rising. “In China, for example, we are seeing an increase in the middle class with a different lifestyle, different spending and an increasing call for convenience food,” he said.
To win consumers, the slicing industry and supermarkets have sought to differentiate themselves by being creative in their presentation styles. “Traditionally, the standard is shingle and stack, and this is still true for 80% of the market, said Henneman. “However, Treif is seeing increasing demand for overlapped, round, shaved, oval, zick-zack, folded and other presentation styles. Product wise not much has changed in the last few decades, with ham (cooked and cured), chicken, salami, and cheese still being the most commonly sliced products. Today, however there is more diversity of flavour with the addition of herbs and flavours and smoking or grilling techniques being employed to create new flavour options.  
Treif has a long history in slicing. Models like the DIVIDER orbital 400+ and DIVIDER 660+ offer ease of operation, flexibility, high yields and a small footprint. These models are mostly used by SME food producers who require flexible solutions for shorter runs of different products and with quick changeovers.
Treif has also stepped up to a higher segment of industrial slicing with the use of patented systems such as SAS (Slicing and lay-down simultaneous) and SAT (Slice and transport), which offer the ability to fine-tune product presentation eliminate dwell slices. For future developments Treif is focusing on the changing needs of its slicing customers. One recent development, for example, is new blade technology which has resulted in ECO slicing – which gives the ability to slice product at warmer temperatures and reduces or eliminates the need to cool or crust freeze product before slicing . This can offer energy, time and space savings and can also offer improved product quality - no ice crystals -in the product, for example.  
Yield control and minimal giveaway 
Earlier this year Marel launched its second generation I-Cut 130 machine for portioning meat, fish and poultry products. The cutter is designed to offer full yield control and minimal giveaway. It features laser vision technology with two cameras and mirrors and flexible software to help ensure portioning accuracy, while ensuring maximum optimisation of each individual item of raw material, with minimal giveaway.  

The I-Cut 130 PortionCutter offers numerous new cutting patterns and its new software features help ensure maximum return on investment, while routine touchscreen operations are made easy with flexible, intuitive and multilingual instructions.

Improved design features of the new cutter include active product holder arms and back hold fork to provide efficient product stability during the portioning process of both round and odd-shaped products. 

The slicing machine integrates with Innova Portioning, a separate module which allows for remote programming, control, real-time monitoring and reporting about the machines performance. Adding this module makes it possible to report on portion sizes and weights, product yields, throughput and product value based on actual cuts.

As these recent developments show, slicing equipment can offer more than a simple cutting tool. As industry moves towards smarter factories, evertyhing need ot be connected to the enterprise to ensure optimal visibility and productivity is beign achieved. Your slicing mahine could have an active role to play in helping achieve greater production flexibility and plant productivity, so do consider features other than its ability to slice!

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