Clever Combo Creation Supports Cheesemakers’ Authenticity Traditions
5 December 2023
Family cheesemaker and dairy giant is benefitting from a game-changing food safety inspection solution custom-engineered by Fortress Technology. Combining metal detection and checkweighing into a streamlined twin-lane configuration, this new inspection technology is assisting the household favorite to stay true to its authenticity and consumer food safety promise, while optimizing resources and reducing dairy waste.
With quality and taste as its defining values, the large-scale cheese specialist continues to uphold its legacy. Yet, its deployment of the latest automation and inspection technology means that as a supplier to over 60 countries and a supermarket-basket favorite, the firm is able to maintain its premium global brand integrity.
Processing an estimated 11-billion liters of dairy liquids annually, size hasn’t deterred this cheesemaker from staying true to their underlying values. Tasting, approving and signing every cheese batch to accompany these internal quality controls, several of their flagship processing plants now deploy the latest inspection and checkweighing technology from Fortress. In doing so, they ensure products are delivered to consumers and food service enterprises free of contaminants, as well as adhering to the latest Weights and Measures regulations.
PUTTING FOOD SAFETY FIRST
A tagline adopted by both Fortress and the dairy firm, the processing plants’ commitment to food safety cannot be underplayed. In fact, it was through sharing best practice across the value chain that this longstanding advocate of Fortress Metal Detection machines discovered the dual-lane performance attributes so integral to this modular machine. Being premium products, the ability to isolate each contamination event and reduce good product wastage was an equally attractive feature. One look and they were sold, recalls the Fortress engineering team.
Located between the upstream packaging area and the secondary case loading section, five customized twin lane ‘Combination’ systems located in two plants solved the immediate challenge of inspecting cheese products tightly spaced together.
Receiving sliced, blocked, shredded and soft cheeses directly from the upstream dual-head bagger and flow wrapping packaging machines, the integrated Fortress system starts with a cleverly-engineered and compact curving conveyor. Designed to ensure optimal spacing between lanes, the conveyor also helps to avoid congestion by spacing product lanes out evenly as they are fed into the individual, lane-specific metal detector aperture and checkweighing belt.
“One of the greatest challenges when checkweighing in fast-paced packing lines is making sure there is sufficient pitch from one pack to the next so that only one pack is present on the weigh conveyor at a time. This will ensure that packages are not rejected as unstable weight readings,” explains Fortress spokesperson Eric Garr.
Constructed to the highest food grade standards, the metal detector and checkweigher conveyor decks and belts are all designed to be easily removed from the machine for rapid deep sanitation and maintenance. In seconds and without tools, the plant operators can unclip and disconnect the conveyor motor, sanitize it, and instantly restore tracking once the conveyor is clipped back into place.
DOUBLE INSPECTION CAPACITY … HALF THE WASTE
The inspection machine consolidates a single Stealth metal detector uniquely divided into two compact apertures, plus two independent weight verification Raptor checkweighers. Each technology and lane has its own air blast reject mechanism to isolate metal contaminants and weight rejects. This helps to reduce and minimize quality cheese products being wasted by over 50 percent.
As each lane, metal detector aperture, checkweigher and reject is programmed to run independently, interruptions are minimized during product switchovers or maintenance. Additionally, it is possible to run two different product lines, pack sizes or SKUs simultaneously on the adjacent conveyors.
Putting into context the significance of aperture size when inspecting cheese for metal contaminations, Garr expands: “Reducing aperture size is one of the most effective ways to increase metal detector sensitivity. The reason for this is sensitivity is measured at the geometric center of the aperture. Making the ratio of the aperture to the size of the product an essential consideration.”
After inspecting the cheese packs for metal inclusions, good cheese packs – at 140 ppm per line - then pass over the Raptor digital checkweighing system. To comply with global Weights and Measures Regulations, in just milliseconds the in-motion, three-belt checkweigher weighs, analyzes, captures and reports data simultaneously.
Replicating the reject motion of the metal detectors, air nozzles blast out-of-tolerance products off the line into lockable bins, requiring minimal intervention from operators. Sophisticated software adds full transparency, with an average weight mode making instant reject decisions and combining the batch statistical data from across both lanes.
Products that pass both inspection tests then move onto a merging conveyor, aligning and presenting the packs to an automated downstream case packing system.
HOLDING FOOD SAFETY TO THE HIGHEST STANDARD
For a GFSI-certified business with a continuous-improvement mindset, best practice robustness is of utmost importance to this dairy firm. The processing plant is equally dependent on automated and intelligent machinery to extract data for traceability and to support immediate quality control decision-making and production improvements.
Both the Stealth metal detector and Raptor checkweigher assist on all levels by capturing easy-to-read live OEE data. “By gathering live production information from each lane independently, a fast-paced dairy producer can establish the operational parameters and extract statistics that are most valuable to them,” notes Garr. Analyzed data includes volume, weight, inspection rates, rejects or downtime.
To assist with production transparency and reporting, the metal detectors are equipped data logging and come with Contact Reporter software to review the event log. Enabling the plant’s quality control team to export and convert time-stamped production data from their dual-aperture metal detectors and integrate it into readable formats aligned with their existing quality control reporting system.
For optimal reporting efficiency, the Raptor Checkweigher can also be connected to Fortress Technology’s Contact 4.0 software. Auditor-friendly, data reports can be exported as either PDF or Excel files covering a specific production line and/or time period. “Rather than monitoring machine performance manually, this level of cohesive reporting on a dual-lane system provides valuable OEE data to help boost operational efficiencies,” ends Garr.
Image 1: This inspection machine consolidates a single Fortress Stealth metal detector uniquely divided into two compact apertures, plus two independent weight verification Raptor checkweighers.
Image 2: To optimize production efficiency, Fortress designed a customized curved product feed conveyor and outfeed merging case loading conveyor