Digitize Food Safety and Quality, from Bulk to Packaged Products

Christy Draus, Marketing Manager

2 September 2021

The march towards digitization in manufacturing has picked up speed in the wake of the pandemic that was marked by supply chain disruptions, changes in buying behavior, the need for greater traceability and labor challenges. Advanced inspection technologies that capture information and images on an item-level basis are a form of digitization that improves food safety and quality while moving manufacturers forward into the true digital age. At the same time, digitization helps manufacturers comply with food safety standards and regulations that often require a demonstration of measures and interventions.

Is it time for Industry 4.1? The ongoing automation of manufacturing through the use of smart technologies, known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0, has been accelerated by the pandemic. As you probably know from firsthand experience, the acute need for labor-saving processes was accompanied by simultaneous disruptions in the supply chain and consumer demand for accessible, safe products.

Many factors converged to propel the digitalization of manufacturing processes forward in a faster than anticipated way. Today, as you face ongoing labor shortages, comply with stringent food safety standards and meet strong customer demand in a still uncertain manufacturing climate, you can leverage digital technologies to produce food and/or beverages in a way that meets high thresholds for quality and safety.

Digital transformation doesn’t have to involve a total revamp of a facility or an investment in all robotic systems. Meaningful data-driven digitization takes many forms, including the use of advanced inspection technologies. Inline inspection systems provide a wealth of information and images, automatically captured and collected at many critical control points of manufacturing, from raw and bulk materials to in-process products to finished packaged items. This information can be easily accessed and shared – whether in the event of a product related question or a food safety audit – making x-ray an important tool in digitization of operations.

Here are four ways that advanced inspection systems can help you digitize your food safety and quality processes:

Automatic checks: By using powerful x-ray technologies that offer online machine access, you can quickly and automatically check a wide range of raw, bulk or packaged products for potentially harmful physical contaminants such as tiny bone fragments, metal pieces, glass shards, pieces of minerals or rocks or other foreign materials. Eagle’s x-ray machines simultaneously perform contaminant detection and checks for quality related problems like voids, missing components or mass measurements. This assures the most accurate detection and eliminates the need for manual inspection; preventing recalls and helping you adhere to food safety regulations that require measures to prevent product contamination.

Captured and stored information: Data-driven food safety systems are also more transparent – literally, in the case of x-ray technologies. Powered by the latest software, today’s x-ray machines automatically capture a great amount of detail about products and packages at every pass, expediting the tracing process. If and when needed, you can retrieve and review item-specific images and information from a central database, allowing you to identify affected products faster than on manual systems. Pinpointing potentially contaminated products allows you to remove those items while continuing to produce safe products with less downtime, particularly in harsh washdown settings like for meat, poultry and dairy facilities.

Improved internal processes: By having digital information captured via an automated inspection system and available in real-time, you can streamline your operating procedures and improve your internal processes. Data captured on a product-by-product basis, for example, allows you to present information as part of a centralized food safety and quality system. The ability to connect information is a hallmark of true digitization and Industry 4.0.

Networked support: Eagle offers remote diagnostics for troubleshooting, providing another digital link in machine maintenance, support and recordkeeping. Automatic report generation for easy access also connects important information in an overall food safety program.

Ultimately, digitization through advanced inspection systems and other systems helps you boost productivity, link phases of manufacturing, trace products and optimize workers on the line – all of which save you time and operating costs. Valuable data can mean the difference between profit and loss, especially in a manufacturing industry marked by ongoing and often-rapid change.