Automating Sea Cucumber Grading with Industry 4.0
Ocean Pride Fisheries
Ocean Pride Fisheries in Lower Wedgeport, NS has the largest vertically integrated sea cucumber operation in North America. With the help of Enginuity’s Industry 4.0 team, they were able to streamline their dried sea cucumber grading process, allowing them to standardize the quality of their output while optimizing their labor resources and throughput.
Challenge: Increased market demand and on-going labour shortage
Solution: Enginuity’s Automated Sea Cucumber Grading System
Funding Support: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA)
Ocean Pride Fisheries, located in Lower Wedgeport, NS, has the largest vertically integrated sea cucumber operation in North America. Originally established in 1986, the company is a Canadian pioneer when it comes to developing and exporting dried, market-ready product lines of Nova Scotia sea cucumber.
Because of the company’s growth and expansion over the past few years, their supply and production has increased, making it difficult to keep up with the current market demand using traditional labor-intensive processes. Hence, they started looking into streamlining and automating some of their processes.
Eventually, they were able to identify that grading the dried sea cucumbers was their main process bottleneck. The existing process was subjective, with the accuracy varying based on the person doing the grading, the time-of-day, and other non-controllable effects. Furthermore, it was difficult and time-consuming to teach this process to new employees. Automating this process would not only optimize their current labor resources, but would also allow them to introduce a more sustainable training process. Instead of teaching new hires how to manually grade sea cucumbers, they could be taught how to operate a machine system instead.
The Enginuity Solution
After obtaining funding to implement an automatic grading system that would distinguish an input stream of dried sea cucumbers between A grade (high quality stream) and AAA grade (highest quality stream), Ocean Pride Fisheries sought out Enginuity’s team to perform a proof of concept and validation.
Using vision systems the Enginuity team keeps in stock for concept development, we were able to prove that it was possible to run dried sea cucumbers along a conveyor belt and have a vision system assess the respective grade of each piece.
After validating the technological approach, our team then built and fine-tuned a fully working: dumping, singulating and vision grading system at Enginuity’s Halifax facility, before installation and commissioning on site at Ocean Pride, minimizing production impact, leading to almost no production downtime.
This custom automated vision grading system is the first step in automating their entire process. Coming from their drying process, a tote dumper feeds dried sea cucumbers through a custom singulator and metal detector. Then, a camera vision system inspects single sea-cucumbers at a rate of 2 per second, analyzing the specimen for surface roughness, outline smoothness, cracks, and for color. Afterwards, single specimens are air-blast into A and AAA streams depending upon the results of the machine vision algorithm.
Always considering the future, the Enginuity team ensured that the new system was SCADA ready for monitoring throughput and performance. The potential implementation of a site-wide SCADA system will allow Ocean Pride to check on the state and performance of many elements of their production process, including key performance indicators (KPI’s).
As an example, Enginuity is customizing auto generated production reports that can be stored or sent via email. They highlight things such as machine uptime, product throughput, grading results, and other vital production data.
The system is scalable to make it easy to add in future data from machines such as freezers and Ocean Pride’s ovens. This allows for a greater overall picture of the process. Additionally, this can allow for reporting that is otherwise completed by hand. This reduces error and allows for a larger breadth of data to be captured, providing key insight into production performance.
Other SCADA solutions created for testing and future implementation include inventory management and tracking, barcode generation and scanning, maintenance requests, and further alarm notifications via text messages and or email.
Because of this system, one operator can now match the throughput of 3-4 manual graders, while standardizing the quality for the two product streams. Enginuity has been able to eliminate a significant manual part of their process, by having a system that allows higher output to match consumer demand. In addition, there is reduced lifting and handling in their process. This then allows them to refocus their labor resources towards other processes that are necessary for them to meet market demand and changing market dynamics.
As the company prepares to branch into retail, this is a good opportunity for them to utilize their labor resources for retail packaging, while the automated system handles the grading process.
“Our experience of working with Enginuity was very good – they were very knowledgeable and easy to work with, and well-organized. [What differentiates the team] would be the scope or breadth or width of the knowledge of the team, because they are pulling a lot of different people from different experiences, in terms of different aspects of the programs and projects,”
Ocean Pride Fisheries is currently working with Enginuity to expand the current automatic grading system to also cover their other product variants. This will help them to fully automate all the grading processes in the facility which will increase accuracy and optimize resources and throughput.
Furthermore, aside from the grading process, they are also looking to automate the process of monitoring parameters of other equipment in the facility.
Enginuity is pleased to be working with Ocean Pride Fisheries to further improve their current processes in the facility using industrial automation systems, incorporating many aspects of the Industry 4.0 revolution.
About Enginuity’s Industry 4.0 and Automation Services
Enginuity offers flexible, unbiased, and tailored industrial automation solutions. Industry 4.0 represents a revolution in how we all do business, integrating traditional manufacturing and industrial platforms and practices with the latest smart technology.
Enginuity is highly skilled in machine to machine communication (M2M) and Industrial IoT (IIoT). We can provide innovative and customized solution to meet your needs.
We’ll help you innovate your way to smart automation, better communication and monitoring, and production lines that can self-analyze and diagnose issues before they become problems.
Some of our Industry 4.0 capabilities include: Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Industrial IoT (IIoT), Condition monitoring packages, and SCADA solutions. You can find out more here.
In addition, our automation services include Industrial Controls like PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers), HMIs (Human Machine Interfaces), and Machine vision for Quality Control, Artificial Intelligence, Classification, Determining volume and weight, Production Identification, Thermal Sensing, and Grading. You can find out more here.
Along with our Industrial Automation Services, you can find out about our Robotics capabilities here.
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