How food manufacturers can enhance quality checks

Product inspection forms an integral part of food safety standards

In an ever-changing world, food manufacturers must ensure high levels of compliance and machine maintenance to serve the best for their customers. Mettler-Toledo Product Inspection provides solutions that delivers flexibility, traceability and accountability.

Ensuring food safety and hygiene standards have always been key in the production process. In addition to enforcing social distancing of staff on the factory floors, limitations have also been imposed on conducting on-site evaluations and audits, making third-party surveys next to impossible. Food manufacturers must remain vigilant, even more so during the pandemic, to ensure that their operations remain up to par with hygiene regulations.

“One result of that has been an increased emphasis on data and the digitalisation of food safety systems such as those manufactured by Mettler-Toledo,” said Nigel Wong, head of Market Support Center, Asia Pacific, at Mettler-Toledo Product Inspection. “Fortunately, our equipment leads the way on digitalisation. Food manufacturers using our systems are able to provide complete and accurate data that proves they are maintaining high food safety standards, even in these challenging times.”

Factory machines are also to be upheld to strict hygiene measures: “Mettler-Toledo’s product inspection equipment supports food manufacturers in implementing these standards in two ways: firstly, our machines are automated, and therefore only limited manual product handling is required; secondly, the machines are designed to be easy to clean, with sloping surfaces, convenient access, and high levels of Ingress Protection.”

Maintenance across the board

Yet, food safety is just a small piece of a larger puzzle on product inspection; producers must also keep a keen eye on the machine and equipment that keep their businesses running. Inspection and compliance are thus key for food manufacturers too.

Digitalisation, according to Wong, is still the simplest and most straightforward way of ensuring accountability in food safety and supply chain compliance. Critical inspection data is a key component in making certain that manufacturers are following proper procedures in their product inspection activities. The data collected in turn has a variety of applications – within supply chains, it guarantees traceability of individual products by showing that critical food safety checks have been carried out at key points. More than that, the digital audit trails simplify the auditing process for compliance, and the data can be further used to identify and prioritise under-performing facilities.

Ultimately, the responsibility of enforcement for maintenance and testing standards falls on the manufacturer. It is through maintenance of product inspection equipment that the machines can run optimally and perform well. Much of the machine maintenance falls under preventive maintenance.

“We recommend that a Preventive Maintenance Plan is put in place, defining the activities that need to be carried out, either by internal or external staff, and specifying the required intervals between checks,” said Wong. “They should undertake to carry out monthly, in-depth, visual checks, to identify damage or wear before it becomes critical. The Preventive Maintenance Plan itself should be reviewed at least every six months.”

With each maintenance intervention, proper documentation of maintenance activities and corrective actions should be taken alongside regular maintenance tasks like replacing worn parts.

“As the equipment manufacturer, we are committed to supporting our customers to ensure they can get the most out of their investment in our product inspection machines. This includes a range of technical support, maintenance, upgrade and training services, deployed periodically or on demand.”

While the pandemic might have put certain operations on hold, and even food producers due to lower profit, Wong nevertheless recommends automation as the step forward for product maintenance, which can reduce manpower and time needed. With automation, quality checks can take place at production speed – faster than the human eye can achieve. Furthermore, a wide range of checks can be implemented into a single process; vision inspection systems can check the integrity of packaging and labelling, as well as reading and logging product data at high speeds, for example.

“What this means in terms of cost is that fewer staff are needed to carry out visual checks, and the food manufacturer will have the ability to continue manufacturing goods at high production speeds while still maintaining high levels of quality control. The return on that investment through improved productivity and reduced overheads – as well as the assurance of product quality and brand protection – will be swift,” explained Wong.

Innovation through relation

Through constant communication with food manufacturers – be it customers or propects – and working with retailers and industry associates, Mettler-Toledo maintains a close distance with the market. This has given them an intimate understanding of the market and individual food manufacturer’s needs. In leveraging this vast reserve of knowledge, the company is able to innovate and expanding their portfolio of product inspection solutions, providing food manufacturers with flexibility, robustness, inspection sensitivity and reliability that they need, helping them to operate efficiently, profitably and within regulatory compliance.

“It’s worth noting that Mettler-Toledo is the only product inspection equipment manufacturer that designs and produces the complete product inspection technology portfolio of x-ray, metal detection, checkweighing and vision inspection systems. We continue to innovate in all of these areas, as well as areas such as digitalization and track and trace. Our customers will continue to benefit from these innovations, which are driven by their needs,” Wong concluded.

This article was first published in the December 2021/January 2022 issue of Food & Beverage Asia.