Feb 14, 2020 by Mark Dingley
As Dr Shigeo Shingo, the Japanese master of lean manufacturing, once said, “Humans are animals that make mistakes.”
These days, the manufacturing industry values quality and compliance above all else – and human inspection simply won’t cut it. With more complex processes and faster production lines, humans simply can’t keep up with inspecting packaging for errors or contamination, and efficiency drops as a result.
In the worst-case scenario, human inspection won’t just slow down the manufacturing process, but can lead to mistakes taking hours or even days to be noticed. By this stage, hundreds or even thousands of contaminated products may have already been produced. This can lead to recalls, damaged reputations and high costs, not to mention the risks to the consumer.
The best solution for many businesses is automation. These inspection systems have a far higher inspection rate than humans, allowing them to streamline and improve the manufacturing process.
That being said, not all inspection systems are made equal. To choose the inspection machinery that will drive up quality and improve your processes, all whilst delivering an excellent ROI, you must first understand exactly what you’re looking at.
As a general rule, automation of inspection improves the quality of your products through repeatable and reliable inspection, with automatic data captured to measure the rates of rejection and alarm operators.
Confused? Here’s our guide to the inspection systems you have to know about.
Vision inspection is most commonly used to inspect the integrity of packaging and conformance of products, including:
An all-in-one vision system can be instrumental in identifying a range of issues – often spotting things that humans simply can’t do reliably and consistently.
Whilst vision systems have been available for some time, improvements in technology means they are becoming faster, more durable and can handle a greater range of inspection tasks at any one time. There cameras are also capturing better, clearer images that are necessary in identifying defects. The better the image, the less likely it is that the system will incorrectly reject an item.
To reduce waste and overfilling, a checkweigh system is a must. They are designed to support weight compliance for two standards: AQS and non-AQS (also known as UTML). Many leading retailers also have their own compliance requirements, such as the Woolworths WQA, where checkweighing becomes essential for Home Brand products and recommended for all other products.
These systems typically sit at the end of your production line, where it can weight at the required line speeds. If it finds a product that is over- or underweight, it can be removed instantly and alert you to the issue. You can then address the problem before you produce thousands of products that aren’t up to your standards.
In addition to remaining compliant with regulations, checkweigher systems can boost your bottom line by reducing waste and ensuring more consistent products. When you improve your weighing precision, these systems provide an immediate contribution to your productivity and profits. And, the more accurate the checkweigher, the more money you can save. Even with the smallest packaging, tiny savings can add up to a huge cost reduction over time.
With this technology, you can detect issues with product fill levels fast – and correct the issues even faster.
As the name suggests, metal detection systems inspect your products for metal. They are an excellent option for inspecting dry products, such as sugar, flour and salt, as well as frozen products, and can also achieve very good results for a range of other food and beverage items. These systems sit toward the end of your production line to check your final product.
The main contaminant in food and beverages is metal and non-magnetic stainless steel. This is what makes metal detection technology so effective – unlike their predecessors, they have advanced to the point that they can be configured to detect contaminants within even the highest moisture contents.
However, these systems still hold a number of issues. They can be affected by electrical interference and are unable to work around aluminium packaging. They also cannot inspect goods in tin cans, foil pouches or metallised film, which is an increasingly common type of packaging within the food industry.
If your supplier says they can provide a detector that can work for products in foil film, do not buy! In fact, we suggest avoiding this supplier in the future.
Thankfully, this is where x-ray technology provides an excellent solution.
Metal isn’t the only contaminant that can lead to food recalls. Glass, stone, rubber and a number of other foreign parts can make their way into our products. With x-ray technology, you can identify these contaminants before they leave your facility. An advanced x-ray inspection system can perform in-line quality checks to:
Unlike metal detection technology, using x-ray inspection is compatible with a wide range of packaging options, including bottles, cans, foils and pouches. Not only that, it can also detect contaminants embedded within the product and inform the production line operator exactly where within the product the issue lies.
In recent years, x-ray equipment has become faster, making it an ideal option for high-speed lines. This makes it an excellent choice for those who want to reduce contamination and avoid recalls.
That being said, these extra functions come at a cost – an x-ray inspection system is more expensive than its metal counterpart.
A barcode scanner is used to ensure barcodes are present on the product and correct for use throughout the supply chain and at the point-of-sale. They can inspect barcodes on cartons, pallets, and of course, individual items. These systems then link to databases to confirm that the right barcode is matched to the right product.
By scanning a barcode line, these scanners help manufacturers to achieve greater profitability and productivity. By doing this on the line, rather than at the end of a batch, ensures errors can be identified immediately. The same system can also be linked to a stock control system, ensuring warehouse tallies are always up to date.
To determine the best inspection equipment for your production line, speak with our experts today.