Sato Suisan Sushi has produced gourmet bento boxes of premium sushi for the past thirty years. A bento box is a box-shaped container that usually contains enough food for a single meal for one person. Popular throughout Japan, bento boxes traditionally include rice, fish or meat,and vegetables.
Sato Suisan Sushi produces bento boxes for sale in airports and department stores across Japan, as well as at the Sapporo Dome sports stadium. The company recently opened a factory in Chitose, Hokkaido, Japan, that operates 24 hours a day to produce approximately 15,000 bento boxes in over 70 different combinations.
Sato Suisan Sushi wanted the hygienic management and production efficiency at its new factory to be an improvement over its previous facility. At the previous factory, the company utilized traditional flat belting along its processing and packaging lines. Though company uses vinegar and seafood in all its products, it could not wash the flat belting with water while on the conveyor. Sanitation required that the belts be removed from the conveyors, a process that required four to five workers at a time, as well as professional engineers to remove the belt in some instances.
After cleaning, the belts had to stay off the conveyors for an extended period of time in order to dry. In addition,the belts were prone to stretching and mistracking, and the potential for belt fray—which could contaminate Sato Suisan Sushi’s product—was a concern for the company.
At its new factory, Sato Suisan Sushi installed hygienically designed conveyors equipped with Intralox ThermoDrive belting and a Clean in Place (CIP) system along its processing and packaging lines. ThermoDrive technology is designed for optimal hygiene and cleanability, which makes it ideal for food-processing applications. And, because of the ThermoDrive belting’s unique design, Sato Suisan Sushi was able to enhance its layout flexibility, since its conveyors can be expanded or shortened, and its production lines changed over quickly, to fit production needs. They could also install line conveyors that are twelve meters long.
Since installing the ThermoDrive belts in November 2011, Sato Suisan Sushi has eliminated the problems it experienced previously with flat belting. Cleaning the belts and conveyors requires less time and manual labor than with the previous solution, and the ThermoDrive belt dries almost instantaneously. And, with ThermoDrive belting, there is no risk of mistracking or belt fray.
Sato Suisan Sushi has also enhanced its production efficiency and flexibility via time savings, enhanced layout flexibility, the accuracy and predictability of production times, and the ability to handle unique production processes (for each type of bento box—all of which have been enabled by the ThermoDrive solution. These enhancements are especially important given the everchanging demands of Sato Suisan Sushi’s airport, department store, and stadium segments. The company has experienced no conveyor-related problems since installation, and is seeking to obtain HACCP and ISO certifications to reflect its hygienic processes.
Mr. Masaki Sato, the plant’s manager, praised the enhancements that ThermoDrive belting has brought to Sato Suisan Sushi’s operations: “Because there are no conveyor-related problems, jams, or other impediments to production flow, we can process perfectly according to our production schedule.”