21 Apr 2017

Investing in a Slicer

Andre Clareboets, Sales Manager for the Slicing Division of Interfood Technology, highlights some of the issues that need to be considered when investing in a slicer.

Slicing is a central part of many meat processing businesses and getting the slicer right can have a significant impact on the bottom line.  By focusing on certain key areas, you can help ensure not only that the correct slicer is selected to fit a given application but also that it meets the hygiene requirements of an industry where there can be no compromise on food safety.

“The right tools for the job”

Being able to offer “the right tools for the job” should be a fundamental requirement for any equipment supplier. Interfood Technology’s Slicing Division is the sole sales and service agent for Weber GMBH and fulfils this requirement to the UK and Ireland meat and food industry where optimum equipment performance is key.

In partnership with Weber, virtually all markets are served, from small niche businesses with only a few employees producing locally sourced speciality products, to multi-national companies with thousands of employees serving the mainstream retail markets. This is accomplished by having a broad equipment range, from small self-contained slicers right through to complete fully automated high speed slicing line systems. However businesses grow and flexibility is key when considering major capital investment for equipment. Weber focus on this and the ability of their equipment to be upgraded on a modular basis as production requirements change. This could be through the addition of reactive weighing or proactive scanning systems to automatically control the slicer or the addition of line automation.

In terms of automation Weber offer various systems to automatically load sliced products into packaging machines. These include “Speedloading” systems that format and buffer sliced portions before loading directly into Thermoforming packaging machines. Robotic Pick & Place systems also form a major part of many Weber line solutions; these are fully manufactured by Weber utilising the same stringent hygiene design principles employed within the slicers. A new addition is the Weber “Smart Loader” that can provide a lower cost and flexible loading solution and that can also be combined with the “Speedloaders” to create further solutions for products that historically have been difficult to automatically load at high speeds.

Whatever the need, Weber is likely to have a machine to suit.  The smallest machine in the range is the 305, ideally suited for lower volume production needs or specialised products and where flexibility is key.  At the other end of the scale are the 904/906 and the 905, the largest slicers in their class and capable of producing in excess of 250 packages a minute of retail sliced products. 

“Hygiene by Design”

Weber has always focussed heavily on hygienic design within its slicing equipment range. This extends both to the mechanical design of the machine and its components but also importantly addressing the ease, efficiency and effectiveness of cleaning operations within customers’ facilities.

In terms of design and manufacturing of the equipment Weber retains complete control by producing in excess of 85% of the components used in the construction of the slicing lines in-house. Basically, the only things that are not manufactured are items such as electrical components and conveyor belt materials. This ensures quality control and consistency is maintained throughout the production process. It also allows them to manufacture, for example, bespoke components that are specially designed to ensure optimum performance in terms of hygiene.

The attention to detail that this involves is illustrated by the fasteners (bolts/screws) that are used throughout the machines. These are specifically designed to ensure there are no corners or surfaces where contamination could remain. These are a unique Weber design and are produced in-house.

Simple design protocols such as ensuring no flat surfaces where water or product debris could collect have always been a focus but recently the design of the machines has been taken to the next stage. Driven mainly by requirements from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) a new machine – the 906 - has been launched, designed very much with hygiene and visibility as the prime focus.

The concept for these machines was “open design” and tool-less removal of components for cleaning. For example, all conveyors and machine assemblies - including the knife and shear edge - can be quickly and easily removed without the need for tools. The open design of the machine extends to the product bed area where the product holding modules, spindles and drive assemblies are now fully open in design. Further to this, the machines’ sealing systems have been improved with new innovative door and seal designs. This also extends to the line components, such as the machines CCU (portioning and transfer unit), that is now fully open and can be easily removed from the machine for cleaning. Checkweighers and product diversion systems are also now available with the same design principles.

Going forward, these latest design principles now being employed in the larger 906 machine will be introduced to the smaller machines in the range, further enhancing the equipment offering from Weber and Interfood UK.