Improve Overall Food Quality Management with Advanced X-ray Inspection Technologies

Food & Beverage
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Food quality management is a customer-driven system that encompasses food quality assurance and food quality control, among other elements. Manufacturers use quality management systems in the food industry to provide products that are as free as possible from flaws, to meet rigorous standards required by regulations, their own objectives, and that are made efficiently and consistently. Advanced x-ray inspection technologies are tools that can be utilized for both quality control and quality assurance purposes, to different ends but for the shared food quality management goals of producing goods to satisfy end user demands and protect a company’s brand. 

What do a legendary animator and a number of food and beverage companies have in common? As it turns out, it’s their approach to their craft.

When John Lasseter of Pixar and the Walt Disney Animation Studios declared that, “Quality is the best business plan,” he could have been speaking for any company working to achieve the best possible products with the best possible process. Animated films for entertainment are a way off from captured images of products bound for human consumption, but the philosophy of quality as the ultimate driver of a successful business is a shared one.

The term “quality” in a broad sense, means degree of excellence. From a business perspective, quality management is a customer-focused approach that integrates philosophies and activities to ensure that the products and processes deliver on customer satisfaction and a desired level of excellence. Elements of food quality management include process-driven food quality assurance and product-driven food quality control, which form the foundation of quality-based business plans.

Food manufacturers can focus on improving their overall food quality management system in a way that enhances food quality control as well as food quality assurance. Among other quality control measures, companies can use x-ray inspection to ensure that products are free from foreign contaminants like glass, metal, calcified bone or other material and to perform quality checks such as mass measurement, component count or fill levels. Similarly, food quality assurance methods can include systems that streamline processes or improve productivity, like multi-functional x-ray systems that can prevent downtime due to defects or equipment damage from contaminants like rocks, stone or plastic.

As these examples indicate, product inspection with x-ray technology plays an important role in a total quality management approach and also helps you prevent costly recalls.

Here are some steps to consider in your overall quality management efforts.

Conduct a thorough risk assessment of your current operation

As a systematic approach to food safety, a manufacturer’s HACCP plan should be in place to mitigate risk. If an assessment identifies the risk of potential foreign contaminants, x-ray inspection systems for the food industry can be installed at critical control points to ensure product quality and safety. For instance, pieces of stone from the fields may be embedded with fresh produce like beans and can be detected early on in production with a scan of bulk materials. Meanwhile, rough handling on a cookie production line after packaging may cause damage to products inside, something that x-ray inspection can find before products leave the facility.  

Execute your risk mitigation plan

Execute your risk mitigation plan across all identified steps in your production, from bulk material coming into packages going out for distribution to retail and/or foodservice customers. X-ray systems can be put in place across those various steps to benefit both food quality control and food quality assurance. For example, x-ray equipment keeps raw, loose or pumped products free of contaminants for quality assurance; on the quality control side, x-ray technology identifies product defects in final products that are either packaged or unpackaged.

Capture and use relevant data

Leverage information with data and images captured at several stages of the manufacturing process. X-ray systems powered by software, like Eagle’s SimulTask™ PRO and TraceServer™ can drive continuous improvement by providing greater operational visibility and access to all inspection information in one centralized database. You can access information, such as the number and type of rejected items or items that don’t meet product quality standards.

Inspection is one tool that manufacturers can use in their quality management efforts. As such, x-ray equipment can be a part of the best business plans based on quality.

Kyle Thomas is Strategic Business Unit Manager for Eagle Product Inspection and a thought leader featured in the “Eagle Speaks” docu-series to hear and see more of his insights in x-ray production inspection.

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