HKScan – How to maximise keeping production equipment up and running

April 21, 2021

HKScan is a Scandinavian meat and food products manufacturer that employs around 7,200 people.

HKScan is a Scandinavian meat and food products manufacturer that employs around 7,200 people. HKScan produces and markets pork, beef, poultry, and lamb products under well-known trademarks, including HK®, Scan®, Rakvere®, Kariniemen®, Rose®, Pärsons® and Tallegg®. The company’s domestic markets are in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and the Baltics, and their products are exported to over 50 countries.

The challenge

As Estonia’s largest food product manufacturer, HKScan is constantly mapping ways to add speed and efficiency to its production. In order to be certain that any planned changes achieve their goals, the flow of production must be continually measured and analysed.

So, the development of an IT solution for the packaging line began. Its productivity was erratic, and the workers wasted a lot of their time maintaining the equipment. The goal was to understand precisely where the losses were occurring, how effectively the equipment was being used, and why there were delays in production.

In addition, there was a desire for a better overview of how work time was being used. Thus, it was decided that, in the process of performing the updates, the new solution would include terminals at each packaging machine that would record its data. The main goal was not to check up on the employees, but to create a dialogue: thanks to the IT solution, the workers have a say in solving problems and can offer new solutions.


Today, in cooperation with Evocon, a terminal has been placed at every packaging machine. These terminals visualise production activity and highlight issues that need to be addressed and bottlenecks in production.
The working principle of the solution is simple: the worker must, on the touchscreen, choose a reason why the line has stalled. Special attention was paid to making the solution easy to understand, so the traffic light principle was used. Green means the line is working at the designated speed, yellow means a decrease in speed, and red indicates that the device had stopped. When the worker marks the reason for the stop, all the information flows to management level where it can be analysed and different reports can be generated, both as a table or as a graphic. From there, concrete analysis can be done to reach a decision about how to increase the production and effectiveness of the line.


The most complicated part of implementing the upgrade was training the people and their fear of “something new”. To simplify the use of the new system, groups of reasons were added in both Russian and Estonian (Latvian and Russian at the Jelgava facility).

It was also important to explain to the workers why the upgrade was necessary and why the business needs new systems – namely, in order to understand how effectively the line is being used and where problems could be hiding. In the case of the new upgrades, they must continue dealing with the mapping of the problems and using the information that has been received while accounting for a certain cost in time – the incoming information must be analysed to find appropriate solutions, test them in real production conditions and get feedback.

Results and benefits

Thanks to the IT solution, HKScan’s packaging line has seen an improvement in OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) of between 10 and 15%, depending on the specific device. Weekly analysis is performed on how lulls (breakdowns, configurations, etc.) increased production time, the relation of that lag to the actual amount produced by the line, the theoretical difference in output and an assessment of the percentage of scrap and other factors. An overview of the usability of the equipment allows analysis to be done on how to decrease fluctuations. At management level, this means that decisions can be made quicker and more intelligently.

The impact of the IT solution reaches much farther than the specific line, helping to get an overview of the entire production cycle. For instance, a lag in the packaging line may actually relate to the arrival of material. Thus, no change in the work of the line itself is needed, but rather the preceding process in order to make the transitions on production as smooth as possible.

One upgrade leads to another and today ways of more accurately measuring scrap and the quality of packaging are being mapped. In the long term, the entire production process should be able to be monitored and its data analysed. HKScan is planning to expand this pilot solution to its other production lines, and the solution is currently being used in the company’s facilities in Tabasalu and Jelgava.

The goal is certain: to analyse, with the help of the IT solution, how to keep the machines running as much as possible, to minimise losses, and to increase productivity.

Text: Kadri Tamm, photo: HKScan

Industry 4.0 best practice examples articles are created within the framework of the DIGINNO BSR project (European Regional Development Fund).