Manufacturing Excellence

Sound Ocean Metal Fabricators
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

Industrial manufacturing for food processing is a serious business requiring in-depth design expertise, engineering knowledge and considerable fabrication, assembly and installation experience. For over fifteen years, Sound Ocean Metal Fabricators, Ltd. has been meeting the needs of countless food processors by providing manufacturing solutions to clients in the seafood sector, commercial, industrial, waste and food services.
The team at Sound Ocean Metal Fabricators takes on a range of projects and states: “If we can’t build it, you don’t need it!”

Sound Ocean Metal Fabricators works for well-known companies such as Trident Seafoods, Pacific Seafoods and Silver Bay Seafoods; as well as poultry processors Draper Valley Farms. The company is known for its turnkey food processing machinery lines and creates everything from multiple unique parts for clients to massive conveyor assemblies costing millions of dollars at its central location in Sedro-Woolley in Washington’s Skagit County.

The business was formed in 2001, when Sound Ocean Systems Seafood Division merged with Doolittle Fabricators, Inc. Its predecessors brought over ninety years of industry experience in the food, processing and industrial equipment arenas. The company is known for its outstanding fabrication abilities, professionalism and commitment to quality. As a result, it has experienced considerable word-of-mouth growth over the years.

Sound Ocean Metal Fabricators likes to stay involved in the community according to Equipment Designer Steven Muhlhauser. “We still have those roots.”

He says that the company’s dedication to its customers means it will provide anything from “a little leftover cutting board to building a whole facility.”

Sound Ocean uses a water jet – an industrial tool able to smoothly cut through materials with near-surgical precision, leaving few burrs while creating parts for conveyors, signs and art projects. In its maximum capacity Sound Ocean works with 65,000 square feet and houses state-of-the-art equipment in its full service shop.

Sound Ocean Metal Fabricators prides itself on its design, manufacturing and installation abilities. Along with these services, the company thoroughly tests all aspects of systems, provides ongoing maintenance and offers uninterrupted support services. At peak season, it has a staff of about fifty and employs salespeople from across the Pacific Northwest to handle the California and Oregon fish markets as well as the Eastern Washington and Canadian meat and produce markets.

“We have people who call us at all hours of the night, and we have someone there the next morning,” states Muhlhauser. “This includes Alaska, California and all up and down the Pacific Northwest.” Sound Ocean ensures all products are made to order and meet consistent quality assurance standards.

Sound Ocean manufactures, fabricates and installs food processing equipment specifically for the processing of cod, salmon, shrimp, halibut, crab, pollock, bottomfish and many other species but has been expanding in recent years in the produce and meat processing industries all across the United States. From conveyor systems to sorters, personnel platforms, surimi production lines, sanitary tables, blast freezer racks, chutes, tanks and hoppers, the company has created quality, competitively-priced equipment to meet the needs of customers worldwide.

“We basically do everything big and small,” says Muhlhauser who formerly worked at Trident Seafood as a mechanic helper and conveyor assembler before attending college for 3-D modeling/drafting.

Sound Ocean has taken on projects for clients from across the United States, Canada, Russia and other countries. While many are turnkey lines, the company’s capabilities enable it to design and manufacture highly-specialized equipment, including products for a carp facility in Mississippi, salmon catchers for salmon farming and unique parts for clients in aerospace and motorcycle manufacturing.

“Our bread and butter is conveyor lines,” comments Muhlhauser. He is anticipating a productive time starting in the summer. “We’re working with some customers on their expansion lines and have some oil plants and salmon plants coming up, so it will definitely be a very busy year.”

The company has the vast industry knowledge, technology, engineering and fabrication capabilities required to meet the needs of its many clients. Sound Ocean manufactures, tests and installs all necessary equipment and provides training for all production lines.

Specific industries demand specific machinery, and Sound Ocean’s design knowledge and hands-on engineering experience enables it to create solutions for the requirements of a particular product. Salmon, for example, can be processed fresh, canned or frozen, and each method requires the right technology in all plants and equipment. Crab often needs turnkey lines that are designed, engineered and crafted to be used twenty-four hours a day, on a catcher/processor, mothership or shore. Other seafood products, such as surimi – a ground paste made from fish and processed to mimic crab or lobster – require specific fabrication.

The company helped to Americanize the surimi industry. It designed and manufactured the first surimi lines in Alaska, as well as those for aboard factory trawlers or onshore plants. By working closely with the client, Sound Ocean was ‘able to increase recovery over traditional Japanese systems.’

Today, about twenty-five percent of the company’s business is comprised of conveyor lines and operating systems that go on to vessels. This includes repairs and research and development. “We definitely want to get more into that area, since we are right on the port,” says Muhlhauser. “We are hitting that sector hard.”

Not to be outdone by others in the industry, Sound Ocean also takes on other food processing products. The highly-experienced team at Sound Ocean specializes in the fabrication of stainless steel, mild steel and aluminum sheet metal to custom manufacture conveyors, hoppers, bins, tables, refrigerated sea water (RSW) tanks, tote dumpers, hand rails, stairs, safety ladders, catwalks, mezzanines and more.

Sound Ocean recently joined with AquaFew, a biotechnology-based company specializing in electrolyzed water systems for commercial applications. Its products clean, sanitize and disinfect water, eliminating illness-causing pathogens and microorganisms. The partnership, says Muhlhauser, is a positive one for both companies and customers.

“This will open up more of the fruit and vegetable produce lines for us,” he says. “We are working with AquaFew on building the frames, which requires engineering and being product-specific. AquaFew is the science behind it, and we are the structural. They have the technology of how that works and how it sanitizes, and we are building the frame.”

One project resulting from the collaboration is for Gebbers Farms – the world’s largest supplier of cherries and one of the top apple growers in the northwestern U.S. – on the company’s sanitation line for incoming cherries and apples.

Although the company has an emphasis on seafood processing equipment, it is also active in meat and poultry processing. It recently entered the brewery market and continues to grow.

The company earns a considerable amount of new business through word-of-mouth from existing clients, many of them in the seafood processing industry. “People know our brand, they come to us with ideas, and we incorporate them and work with the client on products,” says Muhlhauser.



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