Food Manufacturers - How Can You Stay Competitive in a Challenging Environment?

Christy Draus, Marketing Manager, Eagle Product Inspection

17 April 2020

In a marketplace dramatically and quickly changed by the global COVID-19 crisis, many food manufacturers are weighing their next steps in determining if they should invest now in capital equipment that can bring them into the future. What factors should companies consider when trying to make that decision? According to Draus, those factors are based on answers to key questions and companies’ assessments of their own probability of detection and total cost of ownership.

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the trajectory for the year for virtually everyone.  As companies ponder their next steps in this new normal to sustain operations, they need to make some major decisions and keep tabs on unfolding events.

These next steps include how to handle requirements and processes related to BRCGS standards at a time of social distancing, from top management meetings to onsite audits. Decisions and actions must also be taken on managing quality checks for critical control points, which is more important than ever, especially when the food supply chain is experiencing both high demand and disruption. At the same time, companies have to look forward on how they can advance their business in the future, including investments in new capital equipment, specifically inspection systems that are critical to food safety and quality.

Like any decision, the final answer depends on the answers to other important questions. We’ve worked with manufacturers around the world during difficult times over the years, and one of the key things we’ve learned together is how each company must determine its own needs, priorities, strengths and vulnerabilities on their lines. Once they get the answer to fundamental questions, they are better informed to make a decision on x-ray systems that provide the lowest cost of ownership and the most probability for success in the short-term and long-term future. Those questions include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

  • What are our key vulnerabilities right now?
    If a manufacturer is experiencing issues in efficiencies that lead to costly downtime or has had food safety problems that have caused rework or recalls, now is the time to identify vulnerable areas on the line that are causing or can cause loss. While an x-ray machine is a considerable new capital cost, there can be even higher costs associated with food safety and quality issues caused by physical contaminants and with noncompliance with food safety regulations.
  • What is the state of your current inspection systems?
    Machines that are approaching the end of their expected operational life cycle might well need to be replaced in the coming year, and any downtime associated with wear and tear has a cost. As inspection technologies continue to improve, with advanced software that allows for enhanced detection and greater traceability, companies must assess if they are in a position now to take advantage of those new capabilities rather than wait until even more uncertain times when they may be forced to replace their systems. 
  • Are you producing or expecting to produce more or different products?
    If a manufacturer has recently expanded its product lines or is looking to launch new products to stay competitive, investing in x-ray systems that can detect and reject a range of contaminants across a variety of packaging is a safeguard that can protect a brand’s reputation by preventing food safety problems and damaging recalls. It also makes sense to look for systems that can provide multilane capabilities and features, such as Eagle’s PRODUCT SWITCH™ featured on the Eagle Pack 720 PRO with material discrimination x-ray (MDX) technology.  Scanning a barcode, users can run products with different inspection requirements on the same line by instantly switching to the right set of parameters. 
  • What kind of variables do you take into account to determine the probability of detection?
    Eagle works closely with companies to identify different variables, packaging and processes, and best determine their true probability of detection (POD). This is another tool that gives companies a degree of confidence that all variables have been considered and examined, and provides an accurate indication of a machine’s expected performance over time on their line.
  • Do you have measures in place to calculate your total cost of investment?
    Another important step in making a decision about a capital investment is determining the total cost of ownership (TCO) of a piece of new equipment. Similar to return on investment and net present value, TCO is a model used to assess and compare solutions from potential suppliers, taking into account all costs of equipment, from the initial cost of buying, installing and starting the system as well as the cost of running machinery year over year. Performance is a crucial consideration in determining TCO. A high-performing, efficient x-ray system that is reliable over time and that can improve product integrity, quality and safety, will lead to the highest value of ownership.

A final consideration is training and support. Is your operation properly staffed to handle the installation and operation of new systems? What kind of training and support do you need? At a time when many organizations are downsizing, either temporarily or on a more permanent basis, training is increasingly important, and should be comprehensive but easy to understand and follow with an ongoing syllabus of regulatory courses that can be tailored to a manufacturer’s specific needs. At the same time, ask about preventive maintenance, support and troubleshooting that is available, onsite or remotely. Eagle’s experts conduct onsite training during installation as well as frequent and as-needed follow-ups and service.

Learn more about the factors involved in making a sound capital investment and get details on Eagle’s wide range of high performing x-ray machines and complete systems.