Which inspection technology should you use?
Choosing which inspection technology to use depends very much upon your need, your product and your industry. For instance to check if goods are out of spec – say with missing barcodes or labels, the incorrect fill level or wrong cap colour – you would use a different piece of equipment to inspecting packaging seal integrity. But which one for which?
To explain what to use when, here are some common problems and the solution that matches them.
Below we’ve put together five common problems, looked at them in detail, then listed the solution designed to catch them and the benefits of having that solution.
- PROBLEM: Out-of-spec goods (missing barcodes or labels, incorrect fill level, wrong cap colour, etc.)
Products going out your door that don’t always meet specifications cost you. They cost because it’s a waste of initial resources, and they earn you zilch profit. There are many ways goods can be outside specifications:
- incorrect cap colour, missing tamper seals, and so on
- missing or incorrect label or code (barcode, batch or date code), or improperly formed code
- incorrect fill levels or product content, shape, size, etc.
- rigid containers (bottles, cans, tubes, boxes, tubs) not meeting dimensional or cosmetic requirements, but not being noticed until after being filled
- spending too long manually sorting products based on their marking
Solution: VISION INSPECTION
Vision inspection is an automated, non-invasive and cost-effective way to check for all these issues — and more. It ensures your products are in-spec, compliant and shelf-ready immediately they leave the production line. By fully integrating a vision inspection solution, you can fully automate your entire packaging process, thereby improving efficiency.
- Automated QC gives reliability and save costs by reducing waste and manual efforts
- Collecting real-time quality data each time a product passes through for inspection allows you to optimise throughput by using the data to quickly fix upstream issues
- Enables lean manufacturing and continuous improvement
- PROBLEM: Over or under-filled products
It’s not only consumers who get ticked off with underweight products, retailers will also reject them. But if you’re thinking you’re doing your end consumers a good service by giving them overweight product, think again. Consumers are highly unlikely to notice if you’ve given them a bit extra — but your profits will. If you send out even 5% of your goods with too much in them, that’s 5% of your profits you’re wasting. Which is 5% too much.
As their name suggests, checkweighers check the weight of goods on the production line to make sure they fit within specified weight limits. Checkweighers are pretty versatile: they can be stand-alone, manual units (great for weight-based marking), or a checkweigh-labelling system with a compact, fully automatic labeller. Checkweighers can be used on both non-food and food products, so you can use them for unpackaged food where hygiene is paramount (think milk and dairy products, fish, poultry, all sorts of meats, as well as bakery products). Good quality ones have a great weighing range (from just 10g right up to 15kg) and check goods in motion. You can also use them to classify and sort goods according to weight classes.
- Removing packs that are outside specs keeps your product quality and costs in check — which is very good for profits
- Reduces loss of materials (and, therefore, profit)
- Goods are produced to customers’ satisfaction eliminates returns and complaints, which is great for reinforcing brand loyalty
- PROBLEM: Food/beverage products contaminated with metal
Metal and non-magnetic stainless steel are two of the biggest offenders in food contamination. Consumers don’t like it, and retailers will certainly make you take it back. Then there are the likely penalties — financial costs from a recall or withdrawal and damage to your brand. But the costs don’t stop there — metal bits running through your production lines can damage your processing equipment, costing you in both downtime and machinery repair.
Solution: METAL DETECTION
A metal-detection system can eradicate the threat of your food products being contaminated with metal and non-magnetic stainless steel. These systems are a very cost-effective way to help protect your brand, and safeguard your profits from product recalls and withdrawals. They can also be fully integrated with your coding and labelling systems, with all solutions managed via integration software.
- protect your processing equipment from damage (saving repair costs)
- protect your brand (from recalls or withdrawals)
- protect your profits (from downtime, repair cost, re-work and recalls/withdrawals)
- PROBLEM: Food/beverage products contaminated with non-metal ‘bits’
While metal and non-magnetic stainless steel are two of the biggest offenders in food contamination, other contaminants also cause problems. Glass, stone, rubber and other “things” can make their way into products through the production process. And just like with metals, you’ll need to withdraw or recall your products if any of these are found.
Solution: X-RAY INSPECTION
X-ray inspection is perfect for a broad range of packaging (more so than metal detection solutions) — especially with bottles, cans, jars, pouches and foils. X-ray can also detect contaminants embedded in your product — and alert the operator as to where in the product the contaminant is. Because of technology advances in recent years, X-ray equipment is quite fast, suiting it to high-speed lines.
X-ray evaluates density through the product and packaging to identify any foreign bodies. Advanced systems can perform in-line quality checks to:
- inspect packaging seal integrity
- identify missing or broken products
- detect physical defects
- measure product mass
- PROBLEM: Incorrect barcodes disrupting the supply chain and at POS
Incorrect barcodes aren’t just an artistic annoyance — they can cause problems through the entire supply chain, right to the point-of-sale (POS). Even if the error is picked up at the end of a batch or shift, all those products your business produced through that time will need to be re-worked. Just for the code.
Solution: BARCODE SCANNER
A barcode scanner can inspect barcodes on individual (primary) items, cartons (secondary packaging) and pallets (tertiary packaging). It ensures barcodes are not only there, but are the right ones for that product to use through the supply chain and at POS; this is done by linking them to a database, using software to check if the right barcode is on the right product.
- checking on the line (not at the end of batch/shift), immediately identifies packaging or labelling errors, helping drive greater profitability and productivity
- up-to-date warehouse tallies (the same system can also be linked to a stock-control system to increment products counts as products are made)
For guidance on choosing the right inspection technology for your application, please contact us via email or call 1300 IQVISION (1300 478 474). We have years of experience customising applications from the simple to the complex.
iQVision also has a host of information in our resource library, including case studies, whitepapers, FAQ’s, videos, our blog and brochures. They’re all free to download.