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A success story built from Fish Blocks

April 28, 2020

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In June 2014 Jamie Woods of R & J Seafoods contacted MWS Ltd of Leicester for a solution to provide traceability and stock control for their fish block factory in Grimsby, England.

MWS Ltd contracted Peter Kettell to progress the opportunity on their behalf.

Following initial telephone discussions an outline specification and budget estimate was produced. Following receipt of this outline MWS were invited to visit site to carry out a site survey, with the intent to provide a more detailed specification and actual project quotation.

At that time, the R & J operation took place on the premises of Albert Darnell Ltd, a Seafood processor. R & J purchased many of the secondary products from Albert Darnell, as well as additional purchases from other suppliers. These secondary products are typically offcuts of various types of fish, frames, Loins, Tails etc.

R & J Seafoods process these products into fish mince blocks and fish blocks (both Frozen).

Some of the products are purchased fresh, some frozen. The frozen products need to be de-frosted prior to processing.

There are two processes, the first consists of mincing, until a fish mince is produced. This is then portioned into trays and frozen for dispatch as 7.5kg mince blocks. The second process is the same except the fish is not minced. It is simply portioned into 7.5kg blocks and frozen.

The blocks are then palletised and sold to further processors.

It is a simple operation, but R & J Seafoods were being pushed to improve the traceability of their products.

Having an agreed specification, MWS, via Peter Kettell contacted Daniel Simonavicius of Danius Labs for an estimate on the software element. Peter and Daniel had worked together successfully for many years at Emydex Technology, a software house in Ireland.

It was decided that although the R & J application appeared relatively straight forward, it did present an opportunity (being a complete factory solution) to create the foundation for a full factory production management system. As such a new software product “WeighLogic” was born.

By taking advantage of having a customer, where there was no requirement to link to existing hardware or software. Daniel decided to create a new system architecture, based on his previous experience but utilising state of the art programming techniques and not having to consider legacy applications.

Microsoft SQL server was chosen as the system database, and the .net framework together with Dev Express software development tools to implement the project.

There would be an office-based client program for datafile management and reporting, and a touch oriented terminal client for use on industrial shop floor PC terminals.

As transactions would be mostly at pallet level, it was calculated that the database size would stay relatively small, l with a low number of transactions. Due to this, the database was implemented on the free version SQL Server express.

Having been awarded the contract in February 2015, the partnership of Peter and Daniel set about developing the product. Peter writing the specification, Daniel developing the software. Testing was a joint effort. The initial implementation was carried out close to schedule and as is customary for such systems, new functionality requirements came thick and fast. Partly due to circumstances not covered by the specification, and partly based upon new ideas R & J developed, having seen what the system could do.

The initial implementation included the following functionality:

  • Intake Data capture (linked to a pallet scale and label printer)
  • Frozen stock (Raw Material)
  • Fresh Stock
  • De-Frosting stock
  • Mincing (Linked to a pallet scale, bar code scanner and label printer)
  • Work in Progress (WIP stock)
  • Packing
  • Palletising (Linked to a pallet scale and label printer)
  • Mincing Yield
  • Packing Yield
  • Overall Batch Yield
  • Frozen Stock (Finished Goods)
  • Despatch (linked to a bar code scanner, label printer and report printer)
Intake Data Capture Form

Very quickly quality attributes data collection was added at the intake and despatch stations, with a QC release function in case quality is not recorded at time of weighing. At the same time stock take functionality was added to correct any stock errors.

Quality Attributes at Intake
QC Release

In early 2016 additional functionality was added that enabled several new stock movements to take place, covering instances not originally considered. This enabled pallet splitting to take place, allowing part pallet defrosting.

Intake Transactions
Intake Summary Report

In 2018 R & J Seafoods moved to new premises in Grimsby, with an opportunity for increased on site cold store holding. At this time, the system had to be moved onto a new server and Daniel assisted with the database move and re-implementation of the system.

Following the move R & J asked if the system could be used to produce a daily Profit and Loss report. As costing was not part of the original system this was quite a major change and after being awarded the contract it took several months of testing and re-writing before the project was accepted and implemented into the live system in early 2019.

Product File Changes
Daily Profit & Loss report

Other R & J projects under discussion are integration with 3rd Party cold stores, filling control for 7.5kg trays and in line check weighing for finished products.

Since installing WeighLogic at R & J Seafoods, MWS have gone onto install another 33 implementations across the UK.

Author

Daniel S.

full stack developer [no other developer types required] :)

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