Matthews’ checkweigher solution improves QC, eliminates cost and risk
A fresh produce packaging company that packs its own harvested crops as well as contract packs for other growers was wanting to automate its quality control (QC) procedure regarding checking product weights.
Several customers had specified that they wanted periodic weighing of punnets headed for retail to ensure these were within specifications. However, because the packer didn’t have inline weighing, this meant a staff member had to continually manually select then weigh products, which was a full-time task.
On top of this cost, the process only gave a result, and thus assurance, for those randomly sampled items.
This meant the business was wearing the cost of performing the checks but still had considerable risk of sending out underweight items; meaning the business could potentially have to pay compensation and fines if underweight items were detected in the market. (You may find this article interesting re the advantages of automated QC over manual, including improving overall quality and ROI.)
The packer decided to change to inline weighing weighing to remove the highly time consuming manual task, and ensure that every punnet going down the packing lines met the required weight; thereby eliminating the risk outlined above.
The business had also just commissioned two new lines that came in from overseas, but neither of these new lines had a checkweighing system in place. This meant that the packing company had to find a solution quickly. However, this was difficult as most suppliers of checkweighing equipment order the equipment to be built after receiving the order from the customer; and because they don’t hold stock, it can mean a lengthy wait for the equipment to arrive — time the packer did not have.
The packing shed is flat out during the very short cherry season from mid October to mid January, therefore all equipment must be able to cope with high volumes over extended shifts.
Having built its business by being responsive to customer requirements, the packer also needs to be able to respond quickly. For example, an order can come in for 25,000 punnets to be delivered the following day; therefore production has to be able to provide fast turnaround on orders while providing flexible service. Adding to this complexity, there are a variety of punnets depending on the customer and the product being run.
The solution needed to be fast, highly accurate and repeatable.
The checkweigher supplier needed to be able to address five particular characteristics with the machinery supplied:
- it needed to be easy to operate
- it had able to handle the fruit gently because cherries bruise easily
- it had to be accurate, because cherries are a high-value crop,
- it had to be reliable, and
- the checkweigher needed to be delivered quickly, while the season was open
To meet the customer’s requirements Matthews recommended two fully automatic checkweighers; installing them on two separate lines. This meant that the customer could run “product A” on one line while running “product B” on the other; thereby giving them lots of throughput and productivity.
The checkweighers are on two retail lines that run punnets from 250g right up to 1kg, operating at 120 punnets per minute per line.
The new inline process has vastly strengthened the packer’s quality control, giving them and their customers certainty they did not previously have, thus lessening the exposure to risk for both.
Automating the process has also greatly reduced the packer’s labour requirement, freeing up the staff member who previously manually selected and weighed produce.
Once the decision was made, the packer wanted the units set up quickly for the 2017-18 season. The checkweighers were delivered in a short lead time and have been operating consistently and without issue.
The inline checkweighing solution has automated and vastly improved QC, while eliminating the cost of manual labour, the potential for human error and the potential financial risks associated with underweight items.
This whitepaper looks at Objective Quality Assurance, taking you through the benefits of automated QC, cost savings and reduced waste. It’s free to download.
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