March 2016

This article is for the fish and seafood processing plant managers who aim at improving the productivity of their processing activity, and who want to make sure that their new processing equipment project will be a success.

These are the rules that should be followed for a successful seafood processing equipment project. These rules can apply to a process automation project, to a custom equipment design project, or to an equipment selection and implementation project.

1. Get out of the office

For the project manager of the firm or the vendor that you hire, a seafood processing equipment project shouldn't be completed from an office desk. The project manager should get out in the plant were the equipment will be used. He should see the facility, see how things gets done, how things moves around, from all aspect of the processing line, from start to finish. Ideally he should also be able to see how the processing stages are completed before and after the new processing equipment stages.

2. Get your hands dirty

When the project manager is in the plant, he shouldn’t look around from a distance. He should take the opportunity to dig his hands in the product. Literally. Get his hands dirty. He needs to have a good feeling of the product. Feel its texture, before and after it is processed. He needs to experiment the product if it is the first time he is working on that particular species. He should also be interested in everything that get thrown away in the process. Every member of his team, which will work closely on the project, should also have the opportunity to play with the product in their hands too.

3. Get it right

Every project starts with an idea from the management of the seafood processing operation. These guys know their business like no one by managing it on a daily basis. And they end up with a microscopic view of their seafood or fish processing activities. Take the opportunity of the seafood processing equipment project to take a telescopic view of the processing activities. Take a step back and look at a broader picture of all the performed activities. A good firm or vendor project manager has that distance. Often the solution identified in the first place is not exactly the one needed to solve the problem. And often, other more important issues will pop-up after a thorough analysis of the entire process.

4. Costs, costs and costs

Never keep your eyes off the costs. All the costs. Because costs are the main reason why a project fails. Not only the equipment cost, but also the costs required to complete the project and the costs that are involved in the equipment's life on the processing line (TCO - Total Cost of Ownership). The equipment project costs include the fees of the personnel responsible to complete the project, but also all the subcontractors fees. You should not forgot the equipment installation costs, transportation costs, customs and taxes costs. The costs related to the equipment usage include, among others, the energy costs, the maintenance costs, cleaning costs, waste water produced, and also the costs to manage the rejects produced by the equipment. The new equipment project shouldn’t be only a trilling mechanical design or automation project. The only goal of that project is to make your company more productive.

5. Prototype. Test. Repeat.

When the project involves experimental development or automation, quickly move on to testing. The project manager shouldn’t waist too much money on trying to design the perfect food processing engineering achievement right away. He should quickly build and test prototypes to validate the hypothesis and to solve the technical uncertainties with fresh seafood, crustacean or fish product. To save time in solving technological uncertainties, cheaper materials and manual actions should be used to simulate automated operation. By proceeding that way, uncertainties will be cleared faster and time and money will be saved on the project.