Dairy foods inspection 101
Advanced inspection systems that check processed dairy foods, detect any problems and then respond quickly to them, are the best way to do this, and these solutions can also improve your bottom line.
Ultimately, it comes down to protecting both the consumer and your brand. Dairy processors striving to meet the ever-more-rigorous requirements of consumers, retailers and industry, are investing in technologies that give this protection.
Here’s a broad outline on three essential inspection technologies, that are proven to optimise quality, efficiency and profitability for dairy manufacturers. To make it straightforward, I’ve listed the inspection technology and then what needs they address.
1. Vision inspection
Need: to check packaging and labelling
Vision inspection helps ensure only quality products leave your plant. So, as industry standards for packaging and labelling become more stringent, the demand for vision inspection technology is increasing. Depending on the processor’s needs, a vision inspection system can deliver quality assurance (QA) in several ways; for example, some have the capacity to:
• inspect the presence, position and formation of a code (date code, barcode, etc.)
• ensure the barcode is the right one for the product
• validate the presence and position of labels
• check closures of tamper seals, correct caps by colour, etc.
• detect fill levels in bottles or jars, and the packaging’s content (for non-opaque packaging)
• sort food and beverage products based on marking
• count products
These are all tasks that are practically impossible for humans to do reliably and consistently at high speeds. You can also tie a vision inspection system into automated processes to reduce production-line errors that might end up ruining an entire batch of yoghurt, cheese or other goods. And for those who think such a system is out of reach financially, the outlay on a vision inspection system is negligible considering the savings they can deliver.
Need: to reduce waste and overfill
Every dairy company wants to reduce costs on the processing line, and weighing precision can help. Logically, the more accurate your weighing machine is, the more money you can save. Consider a tub of ice-cream: saving a tiny amount of overfill in just one tub mightn’t add up to much; but in a big batch, it can amount to big cost savings. And that’s where checkweigh comes in.
Checkweigh technology sits at the end of the line; it can precision weigh at high speeds to identify overweight and underweight products and remove them from the line. By inspecting portion control of a packaged product, checkweighers ensure that every pack leaving your door is within the specified weight range, and because they eliminate unnecessary product waste, they ultimately reduce costs.
Checkweigh can also help dairy processors detect issues with product overfill on the production line, so you can correct the problem quickly and save costs.
Modern checkweigh systems have the accuracy with small-sized goods that the older ones did not. The more precise technology lets you weigh high-value, small target-weight goods at high speeds. (As an example, some checkweigh systems can weigh from just 10 grams.)
3. Metal detection and x-ray inspection
Need: to reduce contamination and protect against recalls
Recalls hit Australian headlines regularly, with contamination frequently the cause. Among the biggest culprits for food contamination are metal and non-magnetic stainless steel. Using X-ray inspection and metal-detection systems can eliminate the threat of food contamination and — essentially — protect their brand from product recalls and withdrawals.
Today’s metal-detection technology is extremely effective. But metal isn’t the only culprit: glass, stone, high-density plastics and rubber and other contaminants can also make their way into packaging. X-ray inspection equipment can identify foreign bodies by evaluating density throughout the product and packaging — including through thick foil pouches (and even cans). Advanced X-ray systems can inspect virtually any packaged product — even those with contaminants embedded right in the product.
About the author: Andrew Key has over 25 years’ experience with packaging machinery, inspection technologies and identification technologies. His career spans across organisations like Alfa Laval, TNA and others; helping manufacturers to effect process improvement using the latest technology from around the globe. In his current role as the Business Development Manager for Inspection technologies at Matthews Australasia, he is constantly looking at cutting edge technologies for our customers to improve quality control. Andrew grew up in the country and loves the outdoors. In his spare time he enjoys sailing, snow skiing, water skiing, bushwalking and camping.