A truly family run business, Prime Seafoods, based in Fraserburgh, is run by George Forman and his family; the fourth generation to be involved in the local fishing industry.
Prime Seafoods buys fresh fish from Peterhead Fish Market, the largest of its kind in Europe, and processes it at their purpose-designed facility, before dispatching to its customers within 48 hours.
In addition to supplying retail customers, Prime Seafoods supplies supermarket chain Aldi with haddock and smoked haddock fillets for its, The Fishmonger, range.
The key to providing fresh fish, to the standard required by today’s consumers, is consistency – in both appearance and weight – which is difficult to achieve by hand.
So, when the company was looking to improve its fresh fish packaging process, it turned to Yamato Scale Dataweigh.
Packing pairs of fillets by hand meant pairing them for size and shape by eye, then weighing them on a set of hand scales before packing. Unfortunately, this process could lead to random and overweight packs.
Owner, George Forman, explained: "When processing by hand, we were treble handling the fish and weighing it using small sets of scales. This process led to overweight product and too much variation in both the weight and size of fish per pack.
"We needed a better way to meet targets and get more consistency in our paired packs – we needed to make the process less random. So, to improve accuracy and speed, and reduce the amount of product handling, we looked at automating our weighing process."
As an important process change, Prime Seafoods looked at several options before settling on the 14-head Table Semi-Automatic Dataweigh (TSDW) from Yamato.
"We heard about Yamato from a new member of staff who had worked with older versions of Yamato machines," said George. "A loan machine is currently installed at our Fraserburgh plant, pending installation of permanent equipment."
Prime Seafoods selected the Yamato TSDW for one particular reason. Other machines use drops to move the fish along the line. This is fine for solid, frozen fish, but can damage fresh products.
"The Yamato machine uses a single belt" said George. "Our fish is fresh, softer and more supple than frozen fish and is therefore prone to damage from dropping. The Yamato TSDW provides gentle handling, which prevents this damage from happening.
"It helps us grade our fish and ensure that each pack is target weight and that the fillets are equal in size. We have had the loan machine installed for 3 months and it’s been excellent, saving us both time and money. It delivers accuracy of weight and allows us to process more products more quickly.
"Now, just one person feeds the line. Previously, we had four people doing that job. It is cost saving because we can take two people out of the line, but can still bring them back in during times of increased demand and when we have harder hourly targets to meet."
The TSDW produces fixed-weight packages at speeds of up to 30 weighings per minute, reduces weighing loss and minimises product damage by retaining an element of manual checking.
"The machine was easy to implement" continues George. "A Yamato engineer showed us how to set it up, which took no longer than hour to complete. Both the set up and software implementation were very straightforward.
"Training on how to get the best out of the machine also took less than an hour. Of course, as with any change, there were a few complaints at first. But now we can’t keep our staff away from the machine!"
Thanks to the conveyor belt, in addition to fish, the Tabletop Semi-Automatic Dataweigh is also an ideal solution for other fragile products such as meat and vegetables.