Four Ways Automated Inspection Improves Process Flow

Christy Draus, Marketing Manager, Eagle Product Inspection

12 January 2021

The future of manufacturing is already here, as automation redefines food and beverage processes and production. As part of the move towards greater end-to-end automation, advanced x-ray systems improve process flow by inspecting products at several critical control points, reducing labor, enabling quick and accurate changeovers and providing important tracking data.

Even before the events of this past year, the manufacturing industry was on its way to a transformation.

Better automation technologies have arrived at an opportune time as manufacturers contend with ongoing labor challenges, more diverse and complex product portfolios and the need to improve speed and uptime while reducing errors and recalls. While the pace of change has been slower in some parts of the food and beverage sector compared to other industries, many experts agree that automated and often integrated systems, from robotics to drones to x-ray machines, will continue to proliferate and change the way items are produced for human consumption.

Of course, automated systems, while easing labor issues, do more than replace workers at certain points in the line. By embracing automated systems, food and beverage manufacturers can improve safety, quality, efficiency and speed in their facilities.

X-ray machines are an integral part of automated manufacturing solutions that keep safe, quality products moving from one end of the line to the other. Ultimately, x-ray machines can optimize process flow, allowing manufacturers to save time and money and protect their brands – a priority at a time of intense competition and ongoing marketplace uncertainty.

Automated inspection technologies are inherently designed for better flow. Here are four ways that x-ray machines help accomplish that goal:

End-to-end inspection

Put in place at multiple points in a facility, from bulk incoming materials to inline processing to ready- to-ship packages, inspection systems detect and automatically reject products that do not meet standards for safety and quality, keeping product flowing and hitting targets for speed and efficiency. Take the example of cereal: Eagle’s dual energy Material Discrimination (MDX) technology can detect small stones, glass and metal in incoming bulk materials and immediately remove those contaminants without line stoppage. At the end of the line, an Eagle machine designed for the inspection of packaged products scans cereal packages for any foreign materials that might have been introduced at other points in the production process, preventing recalls and covering all safety and quality bases for a manufacturer. End to end inspection can be applied across many product categories and applications.

Labor optimization

Whether due to COVID-19 impact or worker shortages in a particular market or region, automated x-ray machines help labor-strapped manufacturers eliminate disruptive, time-consuming and error-prone manual inspection by performing important quality and safety checks. Instead of having multiple workers conduct visual checks for foreign materials and quality-related inconsistencies or gaps, you only need one operator for a machine that does the work automatically and accurately. Other employees can then be freed up to tackle other tasks on the line or in the facility. If any issues do crop up, the machine operator can receive remote monitoring and technical support, minimizing downtime and the need for multiple employees on a troubleshooting task.

Faster, easier changeover

Over the past few years, we’ve noted the trend of companies adding more and different products to their portfolios. As manufacturers expand their product lines to accommodate marketplace needs and demands, they may find challenges with maintaining process flow. Through quick and simple changeover of inspection parameters between products, automated x-ray solutions optimize process flow and save manufacturers time and money without sacrificing consistency, quality and safety. This is especially pivotal and important for co-packers that require multiple changeovers.

Among other solutions, those who produce multiple products can leverage Eagles proprietary SimulTask PRO™ software, which has the ability to simultaneously inspect different products without the need for manual changeovers, minimizing wasted production time.

Actionable and shareable data

Having real-time, actionable data also improves process flow, by limiting interruptions and measuring efficiency so manufacturers can make good decisions with complete information. Using advanced software systems like Eagles SimulTask™ PRO and TraceServer™ platforms, a manufacturer can track products through processing and packaging, reducing downtime in the event of questionable batches or products. Having detailed, easily accessible reports also helps a food and beverage business achieve better process flow, which can be achieved with TraceServer™ software that compiles reports and stores information on a central database that can be integrated with other automated systems.

Shifting to automated systems can seem daunting, but today’s technologies allow manufacturers to start with certain systems and integrate them with other capabilities as they are added. Moreover, immediate improvements in process flow, as well as in recall prevention and compliance with regulations, pay back on the investment rather quickly.