Technology meets industry demands

Published on Monday 25 June 2012 (2:44pm)

Speed and accuracy have been the cornerstone of the food manufacturing industry for a long time, however the balancing act between maximising one without compromising the other has become even more delicate in recent years. The situation for manufacturers becomes even more challenging when the current economic climate is taken into account, with consumers now expecting even more value from products without any reduction in quality or safety. Fortunately, the modern packaging line is now able to offer solutions that allow new levels of efficiency to be reached in all areas of the business.

The role of multihead weighers

For many manufacturers, packing delicate or fragile products quickly and accurately has been a perennial problem. Many companies produce products which are delicate in some way and these are amongst the most challenging to pack. Fruit, for example, can vary in size and weight significantly, making it more difficult to control pack weight accurately

To tackle these issues, packaging lines can now employ Ultra Low Profile (ULP) multihead weighers, machines designed specifically to handle delicate products. These machines have reduced drop heights and shallow shoot angles to ensure that items such as fruit do not sustain damage from falling and bashing.

Other complex products, such as blended teas or coffees, often contain complex additions of particulates and herbal mixes, which are precisely measured to provide a high quality. If the ratio of the blend is not maintained within strict limits the products quality and taste will be affected. 

The multihead weighers have fully customisable functions, meaning that granulated products such as coffee remain unaffected throughout the packaging process by the reduction of dust and chaffing.

The role of checkweighers

Another challenge manufacturers find themselves faced with is process yield measurement and legislation compliance. Checkweighing has evolved over the years from being a fairly basic process, which simply weighs packages, to become a key element in manufacturers’ quality control programmes.

The consequences of a package containing either too much, or not enough product, can be very serious indeed, and can lead to loss of revenue and serious reputational damage. Customers will not tolerate any inconsistencies in their purchases, each pack must contain the amount of product stipulated on the packaging or they will simply buy another brand that matches their requirements.

Checkweighers collect a vast amount of data which is easily accessible to users, helping them to pinpoint where and when problems may have occurred and in many cases highlighting them before issues become too serious. Modern checkweighers are also able to alert operators to inaccuracies in the filling process whilst isolating faulty packages, making it simple to correct any errors quickly and safely.

The role of metal detectors

Despite significantly improving the speed and accuracy of the production of goods, processing machinery has, because of its many moving parts, increased the chance that foreign objects can end up in a finished product.

Safety is naturally one of the most important aspects of the food industry and brand owners will appreciate that it is intrinsically linked to the quality of the end product.  If it is neglected, consumers will be left disappointed and with huge demands being placed on manufacturers to get products on shelf quicker than ever before, the challenge is how to get the balance right between speed and safety.

By installing the latest metal detection technology, food manufacturers have been able to identify any products that contain metal before they are dispatched. Today, the chance of products contaminated with ferrous, non-ferrous and stainless steel material slipping through the net and ending up on the shelf has significantly decreased.

But it doesn’t end there. Detection systems at the end of the packaging line can also help to protect machinery further up the chain. By identifying a piece of metal in a pack, it can be traced back to the machine and any issues can be dealt with before they become a major problem.

The flexibility that technology now provides manufacturers with is certainly changing the way in which businesses meet the demands of modern consumers. At Yamato we have a mantra, ‘Business Kikaku’ – a term meaning ‘going beyond what we have today’. This accurately surmises what we’re trying to achieve for our clients and in the coming years technology will not only continue to help companies meet new standards, it will be one of the catalysts driving these changes.