DANIELA VERHAEG of Mettler-Toledo explains how combining the latest technologies has made it easy to deliver the quality and consistency that retailers and consumers expect…
Delivering consistently high-quality product in the correct packaging, according to specification, is expected as a given by supermarkets and other retail outlets, with financial penalties imposed on suppliers who fail to deliver. The consistency and presentation of food products are also a key driver of consumer satisfaction – packs must look and feel the same and the contents must be of the specified size and weight.
Inline inspection is a crucial means of identifying and removing non-conforming items from the production line: whether the non-conformance is due to physical contamination of product, or a pack that is over- or under-filled. A number of inline product inspection technologies – checkweighing, vision inspection, metal detection and x-ray inspection – have been developed to help to ensure conformance in the high speed, automated environment of the modern food packaging plant. These technologies can be used singly or in combination to deliver an optimum solution for each application.
One recent example has involved Mettler Toledo working with Calabas Industrie, a major packaging and logistics company dealing in dried fruits and vegetables, which are becoming increasingly popular as part of a healthy diet. With a total of 10,000,000 products packaged each year, spread over four production lines, Calabas Industrie cannot afford to make any trade-offs in quality or reliability when it comes to food safety or metrological requirements, because processes have to comply with strict standards and regulations; not least the IFS certification that the company achieved in November 2016.
CHECK IT OUT
With organic products like fruit and vegetables, the initial processing is commonly carried out in the country of origin. The raw material is then imported directly, without contamination levels having been checked. This task lies with the manufacturer – or most commonly with
a contract packer in the case of retail chains with their own brands. This was the case for Calabas Industrie, which wanted to ensure reliable, hygienic, and safe processes in order to deliver a high-quality packaged product, so that customers and consumers could be sure to receive their products free of contamination and true to their designated weight.
Following a search for reliable equipment, the company chose Mettler Toledo latest-generation combination systems to meet its packaging inspection requirements. Three of the four production lines combine advanced in-motion weighing technology and metal detection on one platform, while the fourth line is operated specifically to monitor dried vegetables using a combined checkweigher and x-ray inspection system. This combined technology approach enables products to be checked quickly and easily for both conformity and contamination issues in a single pass.
Wear and tear in harvesting or production equipment can result in fine metal pieces, such as swarf, finding its way into dry fruits and potentially reaching consumers through the supply chain. Calabas Industrie uses Mettler Toledo’s Safeline high-sensitivity metal detection technology to inspect product for contamination prior to the initial packaging process. For products coming straight from the field, there is a high risk that they may contain several kinds of contaminants, such as glass, metal or stone. In this instance, a Safeline x-ray inspection system provides the optimum solution.
X MARKS THE SPOT
Auditing of the packaged product is simple because the checkweigher and x-ray combination system captures and stores values from all
the important parameters of the weighing process and a product image results from the x-ray inspection. The operator or auditor can follow the output via the combination system’s easy-to-use software interface. Where contamination is detected, the products are automatically rejected into catch bins.
The dynamic Garvens checkweighers automatically ensure that all products are weighed according to the European regulations for pre-packaged products. Like the contaminated products, non-compliant products – such as those that are underfilled – are rejected immediately.
The production lines process a variety of dried fruit and vegetable products with a number of different packaging requirements. The Mettler Toledo inspection equipment has a particularly intuitive software interface and a large memory for storing product pre-sets. As a result, changeovers can be performed quickly and efficiently, saving the line operator valuable time and increasing the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) of the packaging lines.
In conclusion, product inspection technologies can be combined and configured to meet application-specific product conformity checks. In addition to high precision detection and weighing, the latest product inspection systems incorporate powerful software that can support packaging companies in being more responsive and flexible in responding to multiple packaging requirements. Intuitive interfaces also make it easy for information collected during the checking process to be accessed or downloaded to support due diligence, traceability and quality auditing requirements.