Manufacturers have long sought to improve efficiencies on their lines, but the impetus for streamlining operations is now greater than ever due to recent changes in consumer purchasing patterns and in the general state of manufacturing across the supply chain. Automated systems that allow for greater speed, versatility and functionality, including advanced x-ray machines, help food and beverage companies maximize their processes as they expand product portfolios and package types.
Are you or your customers making more or different products than you were at the start of the new decade in January 2020? Chances are, the answer is yes.
The initially abrupt and now likely long-term changes in consumer preferences and behaviors have led to a change in product development. For example, to meet evolving demand for retail food items, many manufacturers have changed package size and type. Brands have added more sustainable food products with a longer shelf-life as well as food items designed for convenience as people prepare foods at home and are more concerned with the getting more value for their money. Several food and beverage companies, including some of our longtime customers, pivoted to different sectors, like establishing relationships in retail after specializing in foodservice.
While the pace of product additions and changes has accelerated, there has been a simultaneous reduction in labor availability and no letup in the need for productivity. Now, as the marketplace evolves yet again with the return to consumer mobility, manufacturers simply have to find a way to do more with less.
X-ray is a technology that can help with efficiency by keeping increasingly diverse lines running continually, from the raw material phase to finished packaging steps. Here are three ways that advanced inspection systems streamline production in food and beverage manufacturing:
- High line speeds: Inline inspection systems on production and packaging lines should keep up with high line speeds, whether for a bakery company producing 300 packages of cookies per minute or a meat processor that needs high-speed imaging of beef patty packages of up to 60 meters per minute in a harsh environment. X-ray machines inspect and capture important information, as well as images, for a wide range of products and packages at high line speeds, automatically rejecting items that are problematic without sacrificing uptime.
- Multiple and simultaneous product inspection: To inspect more products at once in an efficient, fast way, multi-lane solutions can be deployed and conduct safety and quality checks on different products simultaneously. For example, one system can analyze in real-time different products from one package to the next. By carrying out multiple parameter inspections simultaneously, a manufacturer can improve efficiencies in both time and labor for their ever-growing product lines, with high-speeds and consistent results.
- Equipment optimization with a smaller footprint: Why have three or four machines when you can have one? A single x-ray machine powered by advanced image processing software can perform important safety and quality checks across a wide range of package types. This saves floor space, time, tasks and labor. For those looking for even smaller footprints, compact systems that fit conveniently over existing production lines are available for multifunctional inspection of rigid containers. Manufacturers can also leverage x-ray inspection technology as an important tool in product traceability and demonstrated regulatory compliance.
As food and beverage companies move ahead with lines that may look quite different than they did a couple of years ago, they can turn to trusted technology providers like Eagle to cut time without cutting corners. Although x-ray technologies may be deployed for safety and quality purposes, food and beverage companies can leverage them for many capabilities to keep their lines moving with minimal downtime.
Ultimately, the changes of the past year reinforced the importance of versatility in production, including inspection capability. When production demands change yet again – and they will – x-ray machines that are designed for adaptability will be ready.