Icewater Seafoods operates a state-of-the-art groundfish production facility in Arnold’s Cove, NL, the only plant in North America focused on the production of North Atlantic cod. The 70,000 square foot food production facility in Arnold’s Cove employs 225 people and processes millions of pounds of cod per year, destined for premium world markets.
The family-owned business has been one of the area’s largest employers for decades. Icewater operates up to 12 months of the year. Multiple shifts per day provide much-needed economic value to rural Newfoundland, a core value instilled by its founder, the late Bruce Wareham.
In June 2020, Icewater completed a three-year $14 million upgrade to the facility, and now has the capacity to double its current production. One of the major purchases in the upgrade included a Marel FleXicut, a state-of-the-art pin bone removal machine costing $2.5 million.
The FleXicut uses x-rays to scan each cod fillet, then water jets cut around the pin bone (or the v-bone) before portioning the fillet. Each fillet is divided into loins, portions, and tails. The FleXicut is a game-changer because it provides more flexibility and accuracy on processing fillets, which is crucial to meet customer specifications and minimize the amount of cod block (a low-value product) produced.
Icewater chose FleXicut because of the competitive advantage to the business and the occupational health and safety (OH&S) benefits it provides its workers, both in the short and long term.
Icewater Seafoods’ focus includes minimizing risks of repetitive strain injuries. Before the FleXicut, each trimmer cut 1,500 fillets per shift to remove the pin bone manually, requiring an angled cut and degree of force. Now that the FleXicut removes the pin bones, workers are handling the fish considerably less and making fewer cuts.
This change in the workflow process will reduce repetitive strain injuries and improve the employees’ overall comfort while working. It is a monumental shift for workers and an innovative step forward for the company in its quest to be an OH&S industry leader.
“Icewater’s purchase of the FleXicut has improved my work process and reduced stress on repetitive motion. From an OH&S standing, it made my job duties much easier,” says Brenda King, Pre-trimmer.
Innovative technology, such as the FleXicut, improves financial and operational processes and reduces the volume and intensity of manual labour, especially in the fish processing and food manufacturing business. An early example would be forklifts and trucks, which reduce manual labour significantly in a 70,000 square foot facility, allowing workers to be safer and more efficient in their job duties.
When the FleXicut arrived on-site, Marel’s technicians flew in from Iceland to provide necessary instruction to staff on safely operating the machine. Staff learned how to properly work the equipment from the experts and were given ample opportunities to ask questions. This in-person expert training demonstrated how important it was to understand the new technology and operate it safely and effectively.
Employees are confident in their learning, which shows in their work every day.
Learning is ongoing through informal toolbox talks and more formal safety committee meetings. It aligns with Icewater’s focus on implementing safety initiatives, always with the health and wellness of their employees kept top-of-mind.
It truly is the little things that add up to make a big difference in OH&S and building a prominent safety culture within a company.
“Our workers are also our neighbours. That’s why their wellness is top-of-mind in everything we do at Icewater Seafoods,” says Alberto Wareham, President & CEO.
YouTube (2016) Video of the Marel FleXicut in action
CBC (2019) All In On Cod: Icewater Seafoods Bets its Future on the Iconic Fish
Facebook clip (2020) Premier Andrew Furey Visits Icewater Seafoods