Supermarkets and restaurants all over the world order whole pieces of meat and fish from their suppliers or buy them by the kilo. Astech realized that in recent years they have been asking for more control over the product, its weight, the cutting process and associated data. And this trend is growing. Astech decided to respond to this need with the technological partner B&R, providing a complete control and automation solution to all the needs of the market.
Restaurants and supermarket will change their mind and, instead of buying 5 kg of product (meat, fish,…), they will buy 20 pieces (or 30 or 200) that will have the exact weight they have ordered and will be able to offer a totally personalized service to their customers. The adaptive manufacturing in food sector enables the highest quality in each dish.
His advance is avant-garde because it allows to restaurants, supermarkets and kitchens to order portions or items depending on their needs. All with the same attributes thanks to the saw with weight control.
Thanks to the data collection and further analysis of this data, customers can get information in a simple way and know where they can improve in their cuts and how to work depending of the needs.
B&R full integration
Astech is dedicated to the design and manufacture of automatic saws for cutting food, mainly frozen meat and fish, with a pre-set weight. It currently has machines cutting in more than 30 countries and has become a benchmark in the sector.
In 2019, the company launched its latest technological development, the PW-SAW, a machine that scans the product and cuts it according to the patterns entered. To date, there was no similar machine on the market. «We have worked on scanning systems that allow us to know the product before it were cut, so that we can optimize the cuts to the maximum, achieving a fixed weight and minimizing wastage», says Mach.
B&R technology makes the cut
The design of the machine was a technological challenge for Astech. Control systems, visualization, motion control, inputs and outputs and a safety environment are requirements for automation environments in the food industry. As is a hygienic machine that allows full washdown, both between production shifts and during product changeovers.
Automation and precise cutting control are the technological basis of Astech’s solutions. Mach: “An operator feeds the machine with a frozen piece of meat. Then the machine takes that and it is read by a laser light to scan all the piece. The machine is able to obtain cuts at a controlled weight according to preestablished
parameters of thickness and weight. B&R technology permits us a continuous working as well as a perfectly adjustable cutting speed, ensuring high quality cuts. All this with a completely safe working process.
Thanks to versatile programming and an intuitive interface, the cutting of each workpiece is carried out to perfection. From the very beginning, Astech was already oriented towards leadership in its sector and B&R understood its potential and helped them take the first steps – from that day on, all automation processes have been developed with B&R control systems. Albert Mach, Astech’s head of automation, «Apart from the initial commitment, B&R has enabled us to be leaders in our sector and to install cutting-edge and efficient equipment on our machines. This was very important for the success of our launch as a company». At the beginning, Astech started with a single machine project. Today its presence is global.
Astech initially had the necessary know-how for the development of cutting machinery. Due to the high grade of automation of these machines, Astech carried out an evaluation of suppliers and realized that more than a supplier, they needed a technology partner with whom they could grow together. B&R turned out to be the clear winner. Other suppliers required the purchase of a minimum number of parts per year. However, B&R understood the situation from the start. «When Astech was born, any kind of help were welcome: ease of payment, technical support hours, specific offers to start working, etc. We went with B&R because they trusted us, just as we trusted their technology,» Mach explains.
The future lies in robotics integration
Astech’s clear vision for the future is facing new technological challenges such as integrating robotics into its process. With the Machine-Centric Robotics concept, B&R provides one of the most innovative solutions on the market, which is to integrate the robot directly into the existing PLC of the cutting machine. Once again, the combination of Astech and B&R will undoubtedly provide an innovative solution in the industry.
Trust from the start
When technical knowledge, experience and the ability to develop state-of-the-art machinery exist to create a company… What does it matter if the first meeting is in… a caravan? The history of companies can be born anywhere from a garage, a basement, and… why not… a caravan!
Albert Mach confesses, «There has been the same trust with B&R for 8 years. In the early days, the technical service helped us a lot to establish the development environment for the machines – we knew each other on the first call! Best of all, we felt like B&R salespeople because our customers were asking us to switch to other technologies. But this, as it appeared, disappeared» and today there are Astech machines installed in countries on every continent.
Astech’s extensive portfolio includes automatic cutting machines for fresh bone-in and boneless products such as the SRA and its COMPACT version; the automatic grade cutting saw has all the advantages of the SRA model, but with the new function that allows to tilt the saw blade and obtain larger cross-section cuts from the same initial product. As well as the CC-2 continuous cutter for longitudinal cutting of products.
Albert Mach’s: «B&R helps us promote our company philosophy with adaptive manufacturing. We understand that our end users have to start working on a per-unit basis because they know that all parts will be as they have ordered them whether in bulk batches or in batche-size-one”.