July 27, 2020


Marel: Supporting poultry processing plants during COVID-19


More than ever, poultry processors around the world have to guarantee their production or even increase it to keep the entire food supply system operating, Marel said.

According to the company, in many cases, processors had already planned an expansion or start-up long before COVID-19 struck. However, such projects usually need the involvement of Marel engineers on-site, which was impossible in times of closed borders and travel restrictions. Via remote support, Marel succeeded in connecting on-site technicians and experts on either side of the world to ensure the high service level Marel customers are used to.

While 30 local Marel offices around the globe keep serving customers in the best way possible, on-site field support has become a challenge during the pandemic. Teamwork is the strong asset that Marel brings in, the company said.

Now that Marel's field service engineers can't always be physically present on-site, local technicians might not have all the necessary high-tech know-how on board. However, they can call in the high-value remote assistance of their Marel colleagues on the other side of the world to execute installation, repair, service or training jobs. This way of collaboration may be even more efficient, more sustainable and cost-saving with much faster response times, Marel added.

A baptism of fire in China

Installation and commissioning of equipment on-site in parts of the world such as China, Australia and Vietnam, usually requires European engineers to guide the project and support local engineers. In China, a record number of new projects was won by Marel China recently, and they all had to be commissioned. Marel's Chinese engineering workforce just completed a thorough training, in time to support recent developments. As such, they immediately had their baptism of fire. With the help of remote support by Marel's experts in Europe, the Chinese engineering team overcame all difficulties and succeeded to complete multiple projects, while upholding service quality and time schedules. This allowed the processing plants of Jinan Yufei, Hebei Juxing, Shenyang Huamei and Changchun to expand and run without production delays, Marel said.

Perfectly in time in Australia

In Australia, poultry processor Hazeldene's was close to commissioning a greenfield secondary poultry processing plant in Bendigo. As the COVID-19 pandemic had resulted in an enormous increase in retail sales, Hazeldene's wanted to proceed with as little delay as possible. Originally, this was to involve up to thirty European engineers, some of whom were on-site when the COVID-19 lock-downs struck. They all had to return home at short notice. This left no other option than to call in the competence of Hazeldene's own engineering team, together with locally-based Marel engineers and remote support by Marel's specialists in Europe. This remote cooperation resulted in a successful outcome of the project. The desired short-term realisation allowed Hazeldene's to expand its production and respond to the growth in demand in time.

Cooperation spirit in Vietnam

In Vietnam, Green Chicken/De Heus wanted to install and commission its Hanoi greenfield in spite of the lockdown. Travel restrictions prevented Marel engineers from completing their job on-site.

A remotely assisted installation would mean a huge challenge, as the local team of technicians had never worked with Marel equipment, in addition to dealing with timezone and language barriers. Marel's engineers in the Philippines, however, were enthusiastic to accept this challenge. Pictures, videos and illustrations were shared over Teams and Whatsapp. Even webcams were placed in the departments to monitor the situation remotely.

According to Marel, supervising the Vietnamese project fully remotely from the Philippines and Boxmeer was an incredible effort, but with a successful result. Helen Hanh, project manager of Green Chicken/De Heus, said: "Respecting the win-win cooperation spirit, like we all kept doing during this project, has certainly brought all parties more closely together, despite the distance. It contributed to the best possible result."

High-tech and augmented

In almost all of the cases above, the experts on either side of the world were able to achieve their projects by connecting via a Teams video call. This means of communication allowed for live streaming and sharing of high-resolution images, illustrations, descriptions and instructions.

When needed, remote assistance could be upgraded by using a high-tech helmet with a little screen, integrated camera, headphones and microphone. At the other end of the world, the helpdesk expert can hear and see exactly in real-time what the engineer on-site experiences. This dramatically reduces errors, overcomes language barriers, increases collaboration and proves to be very efficient for problem-solving and installation support, Marel explained.

Additionally, augmented reality can enable real-time transmission of technical directions right to the on-site engineer's screen, further enhancing remote assistance.

All the above-mentioned examples show that Marel is committed to guaranteeing first-class support under all circumstances, the company said.

By combining teamwork and well thought-out remote assistance solutions, Marel succeeds in maintaining its renowned high standard of customer service.

- Marel