Project management, human resources and LEAN processes are essential to the global growth of protein processor Marel.

As one of the world’s largest manufacturers of all aspects of food processing equipment, Marel established a presence in North America in 2008 with the acquisition of Stork Food Systems in Gainesville, Georgia. After more than a decade of pushing the boundaries of its North American manufacturing facility, Marel recently purchased an additional building in Buford, Georgia to relocate its spare parts program and open additional space in Gainesville for the expanding manufacturing.

OEM magazine spoke with Marel’s Allison Attaway, Marketing Manager, Poultry, to introduce the ever-growing poultry, meat and fish processor to fellow PMMI members.

Can you provide a brief history of Marel?

With origins dating back to an engineering project at the University of Iceland in 1977, Marel began in 1983 as a renowned fish processor developing motion-compensated on-board scales. Following this breakthrough in weighing technology, Marel extended its expertise to the poultry and meat processing industries through strategic acquisitions, with innovations that now span the entire food processing chain, including processing primary, secondary and tertiary food. Marel works with its customers to transform [the industry] through innovation in food processing equipment, software and services. Gainesville is Marel’s core manufacturing facility operating in North America and is part of Marel’s global supply chain, which spans 13 manufacturing sites in total.

Why did Marel join PMMI?

As an international company, Marel joined PMMI in 2021 as it saw the PACK EXPO portfolio of trade shows as the target audience for our expanding weighing, labeling and end-of-line products.

Has Marel participated in any other programs since becoming a member?

We are targeting PACK EXPO International in Chicago to increase the visibility of our product line and will be exhibiting in October.

What sets Marel apart from other processing companies, especially in the food sector?

Marel provides all aspects of fish, poultry and meat processing, from handling live product to prepared foods. We maintain high expectations that our processing equipment will always remain state of the art. Yet our people set us apart and help us grow as a company. We have a global network that we can rely on and learn from to help us succeed in even the most difficult projects. We have the same project management process for every project we execute, regardless of the client. This process is a tool that helps us deliver a consistent customer-focused approach. At the same time, a project manager focused on one of the three sectors (meat, poultry, fish) that we serve manages each task. This allows us to build relationships between project management, sales teams and the client since most of our projects are recurring business with the same clientele. The project manager is the customer’s main point of contact for all questions.

As a company with so many different facilities, how do you provide such a variety of processing equipment and software?

Marel has invested in technical support and has various capabilities to produce parts and equipment. Our highly skilled workforce allows us to make changes early in the production process to perform work as “standard” in our downstream operations, turning customization of parts or equipment into standard work. Quick change is key to our success, and our machine shop is a prime example. We have applied Lean manufacturing to our planning, ensuring that our sequencing limits changes where possible, and have implemented automation to further reduce time and labor. Applying these principles limits any overproduction, making better use of labor and materials in the process.

How do you manage field service and training with so many sites producing equipment?

Using North America as an example, Marel has a team of over 250 Field Service Engineers (FSE) located across North America. Each new FSE trains in our Kansas City office, then goes into the field to work alongside an experienced FSE. It takes up to 12 months to fully train our FSEs with additional assistance from Europe if needed.

Are your ESFs multilingual?

Yes, many of them are multilingual, with Spanish being the most important. However, we have some FSEs fluent in Dutch, Icelandic and Danish.

Once a customer has issued a purchase order, what happens next?

We are launching an internal project kick-off meeting to align all Marel stakeholders on the actions needed to deliver a solution to our customer. Shortly after, the project manager will contact the customer to align the installation, commissioning and training steps that we will take. Project scope is the biggest contributor to delivery. Individual pieces of equipment have a relatively short lead time, while a complete system or greenfield project includes the customer’s site preparation and installation team in the project schedule. A project team will coordinate with the client and contractors at each phase to ensure all parties are kept up to date.

What is the Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) process?

We’ve had to get creative in recent years to perform FATs, and now we can do them virtually as well as on-site. Marel may accept a customer acceptance and perform its own audits, including compliance, standard work and control systems.