Two-Point X-Ray Inspection Improves Production Efficiency And Product Safety

Friday, November 30th, 2018 | 243 Views

Achim Chast, Quality Manager from Wolff, clients of Ishida, comments: “The upgrading achieved through the use of the X-ray technology goes beyond current requirements.”

Wolff, part of Germany’s Lambertz Group and a manufacturer of high-quality gingerbread, chose to install two Ishida X-Ray Inspection Systems: one to monitor key raw materials and the other to look at packed product. As a result, the company has seen improvements in production efficiency as well as a higher level of product safety.

Facts & Figures
The Ishida system can pick up metal fragments of 0.5mm diameter (almost invisible to the human eye).
With the conveyor travelling at 30 metres per minute, about two tonnes of material can be monitored and decontaminated every hour.
Every pack is traceable back to its X-ray image, protecting the company against claims without merit.

 

The ‘Belt And Braces’ Approach
It is generally accepted that the end of the line is the best place to locate an X-ray inspection system for food products, because it will detect any contaminants introduced in the processing and packing stages as well as those that entered the factory along with the raw materials. However, separately monitoring the raw materials and removing contaminants before processing begins can further increase safety, partly by allowing final inspections of the packed product to concentrate on a narrower range of potential problems. It can also bring production benefits, such as reduced wear and tear on valuable processing machinery.

The Nut, And Nothing But
At Wolff’s Nuremberg factory, raw ingredients such as shelled whole nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, cashews and walnuts among others) arrive from faraway countries, where the conditions under which they are harvested and shelled vary considerably. As a result, levels of contaminants such as pieces of shell and stones vary, too. Before the installation of the Ishida X-Ray Inspection System, quality control of these contaminants was by human visual inspection, and of limited effectiveness.

As Achim Chast, Quality Manager explains, “At Wolff, we begin with the whole nut. The nuts are not pre-ground: we grind them ourselves to meet the exact level of coarseness or fineness specified by our clients. Before, our nut grinders were regularly being damaged by stones.”

Now, the boxes, big bags or other raw ingredient containers are emptied onto a conveyor that takes the material directly into the Ishida X-Ray Inspection System. “The system identifies contaminants and eliminates them automatically”, reports Mr Chast.

With the conveyor travelling at 30 metres per minute, about two tonnes of material can be monitored and decontaminated every hour.

 

The End Of The Line For Contaminants?

Inspecting the final packs represents its own challenges. The ingredients of classic gingerbread include oily seeds, candied orange peel and spices, as well as sugar, flour, syrup and powdered whole eggs. Density thus varies quite widely across a single piece. A typical 200 g pack contains seven pieces standing on their edges in a tray, enclosed in clear plastic, so that the X-ray inspection beam has to pass through the entire width of each piece.

“At first, we had our doubts whether this would work,” comments Mr Chast, “but the Ishida inspection system could be calibrated to cope perfectly with this complex product”.

 

The Proof Of The Gingerbread Is In The Eating

Wolff is happy both with the real extra degree of safety provided by a system that can detect stone, glass, metal, plastic and hard rubber with great reliability and with the reassurance this provides to both retailers and end-users. The Ishida system can, for example, pick up metal fragments of 0.5 mm diameter (almost invisible to the human eye)—Wolff was able to demonstrate this to its own satisfaction when comparing various competitor machines prior to purchase. Metal pieces three times this size would have been able to escape the metal detector previously used in this inspection role, while non-metallic contaminants would not have been machine-detected at any size.

“We are pleased both with the improved safety levels and the reduced wear on processing equipment. The upgrading achieved through the use of the X-ray technology goes beyond current requirements and reflects our own sense of responsibility,” says Mr Chast. Before the installation of the new system, the number of consumer complaints (mostly related to pieces of shell) was already very low. It has now been reduced by 80 percent. Furthermore, every pack is traceable back to its X-ray image, protecting the company against customer claims without merit.

 

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