5 Tips to Ensure Optimal X-ray Inspection

Food & Beverage, Red Meat
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An x-ray system on your production line as a critical control point is a valuable asset. Read on to learn how to prolong the life of your x-ray system and maximize the return on your investment.

Consistency is Key When it Comes to Material Handling

In an ideal world, your production line would be perfect. Your packages would be centered on the conveyor belt, with the exact same distance between products. There is no wobble or tilt when they pass through the x-ray system. The x-ray system, conveyor and each individual food product are immaculately clean. In this world, any x-ray system will take the perfect picture and detect contaminants in your packages each and every time. And, when a package is rejected, you commence with re-inspection by presenting the product precisely the way it was presented the first time; with exactly the same belt positioning previously used – after waiting for product to settle.

In the not-so-perfect world, you face challenges with accumulation at staging zones, rejects, redirects, diverting and rework stations. You may have in-feed and product spacing concerns due to increasing the load on your production line to meet manufacturing goals.

Operating a system that has the ability to adapt to variations in speed and packaging type without compromising quality standards for product inspection will assure that you receive reliable, accurate results. Modern x-ray machines are engineered with a high degree of compatibility and are therefore capable of simultaneously handling products of different sizes, shapes and packaging, as well as adapting to multiple lanes. Furthermore, some x-ray systems allow for upgrades, enhancements or the implementation of additional features to meet your unique production needs.

Believe It or Not, it’s Not All in the Equipment

You should start by knowing your contaminant and where to find it. It’s essential to know the highest probability location of the contaminant in the package. Your supplier’s application knowledge, experience and training will help you select the right inspection beam angle to maximize detection and choose the optimal energy to find the contaminant. If you know what you are looking for, process tracking tools can even help you identify anomalies in production.

In addition, working with a reputable partner can ensure that you and your staff are trained properly and get the most out of your system. From basic knowledge on how to use and maintain the machine to radiation safety training, technical service agents should be able to provide you with support and guidance relating to your needs.

Understanding the full capabilities of your x-ray system turns your machine into a complete product inspection system. X-ray is more than just foreign body detection! For example, the ability to perform a wide range of in-line quality checks such as counting components, identifying missing or broken products, inspecting seal integrity and checking for damaged packaging. By assessing fill levels, the system also helps you to avoid over- or under filling of your products, leading to the reduction of costs on overfilled products and thus wastage due to inaccuracy, as well as avoiding noncompliance with contents labelling requirements.

Clean, Clean, Clean!

In the food processing and manufacturing industry, maintaining high hygiene standards is essential. As mentioned earlier, a clean x-ray unit, conveyor and product greatly improves the accuracy and efficiency of your product inspection equipment. Don’t worry! Cleaning x-ray machinery doesn’t have to be a pain. Systems which make this process as easy as counting to three are available. Machines therefore need to be very robust to withstand chemical cleaning processes in harsh wash-down environments, as found in dairy or meat processing facilities. The wash-down cycle can be very time consuming due to the difficult removal of cumbersome louvers, however specifically designed machines can help you make the process of cleaning and maintaining much simpler and faster. Some systems, for example, are now constructed with thick, stainless steel plates, cut and welded together, to ensure easy cleaning and improved sanitization, eliminating food debris collection points. You should also look to adopt x-ray systems where the conveyor belt easily lifts up through the quick release of a lever. This significantly benefits operators as they can quickly access crucial areas inside the machine, an operation which can take up to 20-30 minutes with other systems, leading to the undesired downtime, reduced productivity and financial setbacks.

Regular Performance Checks can Significantly Increase Your Productivity

Being reactive just won’t cut it for long-term performance. You must consider proactive support. Many suppliers offer Preventative Maintenance Agreements to help ensure that your equipment is maintained in its best operating condition. Discounted term programs are available to suit varied service needs and are designed to eliminate unplanned maintenance and emergency repair services. Performance programs may also include software upgrades to guarantee reliable, accurate detection for years to come thus increasing your return on investment. You will get the benefits of the latest developments and enhancements to increase production and keep your x-ray system up-to-date, maintaining its performance over its lifetime. Additionally, regularly scheduled maintenance provides your company with the full traceability needed to help meet various auditing and food safety standards, including the British Retail Consortium and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point requirements. Advanced technology with documenting capabilities can serve as proof of quality and integrity for your product and provide due diligence in the event of a product recall, when it will then be necessary to prove that food safety precautions were taken during the manufacturing stages. So, preserve your investment, increase productivity and comply with food safety guidelines by keeping your x-ray system in tip-top shape while keeping unplanned costs down.

Don’t Forget About Spare Parts and Extended Warranties

Did you know that certain parts of an x-ray system are prone to routine wear and tear? Mechanical moving parts, protective parts and even keyboards can wear over time. What about critical parts to keep your investment running? In the event that something was wrong with your x-ray system, you should know what to do and where to go for spare parts to get your line up and running as soon as possible. Do you really have the time to wade through the red tape of ordering, scheduling a service technician and shipping? Just imagine how much it could cost for a simple replacement item when you factor in labor and travel costs. Not to worry! You can work with your technology provider and their service specialists in advance to determine the parts that are essential for stock. Many suppliers offer replacement items bundled at a substantial discount. With in-stock availability of the most commonly used parts your internal operator will be able to quickly and easily replace the part, reducing production line downtime. Be proactive! Have these spare parts kits on hand to increase uptime and overall production efficiencies while cutting costs.

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