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Guest article

Checkweighers are increasingly becoming smarter thanks to Industry 4.0

By Philip Grove , 13-Sep-2017
Last updated on 13-Sep-2017 at 08:05 GMT2017-09-13T08:05:09Z

Florida-Eis has installed an Ishida X-ray inspection and checkweigher to maintain standards in its luxury ice cream. Picture: Ishida.
Florida-Eis has installed an Ishida X-ray inspection and checkweigher to maintain standards in its luxury ice cream. Picture: Ishida.

‘Routinely used to monitor weight limits and product continuity, checkweighers can be seen as a basic piece of kit for the food sector.

A standard requirement to ensure that food is not wasted, checkweighers can be used throughout the packing process to confirm the correct amount of product is within the packet, to check density or volume of mixtures and to avoid valuable product giveaway.

Historically, to access additional functionality for food safety and quality assurance, production facilities needed to invest in separate, supplementary machinery to check for foreign bodies such as metals, stone and glass which involved additional processes, impacting on both productivity and overheads.

Industry 4.0

However, checkweighers are increasingly becoming smarter, going beyond detection of product outside specific weight limits, bringing a range of additional features that can capture production line data, ensure compliance with European directives and even detect foreign bodies, such as metal when combined with an integrated metal detector.

These quality control features ensure all food product is leaving the facilities in optimal condition, reducing the risk of corporate liability for any product recalls.

Florida-Eis, an ice cream manufacturer based in Berlin, has installed an Ishida X-ray inspection and checkweigher to maintain standards in its luxury ice cream. The X-ray inspection system uses an intelligent genetic algorithm to achieve an extremely high level of inspection accuracy.

To then ensure the correct weight, the ice cream pots – once they have been manually filled and then automatically covered – are sent to an Ishida checkweigher.

The machine’s compact design means it can be integrated in the line. In this way, Florida-Eis can demonstrate its production and packaging processes are properly and correctly performed.

Increasingly, businesses are embracing Industry 4.0, the application of digital and automated technology into their businesses to improve productivity, whilst giving a competitive edge over their peers.

The ability to capture and analyse data from the production line enables businesses to continuously improve their processes and boost uptime, benefiting both production rates and the company’s bottom line.

Checkweigher combination units can now encompass foreign body detection, integrated metal detectors and reject systems, optimising throughput without compromising on managing risk -crucial for business reputation and for consumer safety.

These checkweighers provide space-saving multifunctional roles, touch screen capability for ease-of-use, and integration with additional equipment to give the business complete control over the production line.

Return on Investment

Many businesses can be tempted to run cap-ex investments until the very end of life, and whilst this can be viewed as maximising the current spend, businesses should explore how specifying new technology can bring more substantial long-term cost savings and a faster return on investment.

Businesses may find that by implementing new processes and equipment, they can get a swifter return on investment through freeing up valuable production or storage space, and by avoiding any downtime or – worst case – hefty bills due to recalls or legal challenges relating to foreign bodies in their produce.

Florida-Eis owner Olaf Hohn explains why they were keen to make these investments in its combined Ishida X-ray and checkweigher systems: “For us, quality assurance is an ethical matter. The future is in technology, and the procurement costs are more or less the same as for metal detectors.”

Competitive Advantage

Employing multi-function checkweighers in the packing process delivers a range of benefits that are crucial to building a strong reputation for quality, whilst reducing overheads.

Furthermore, management is empowered having access to quantifiable and usable data to boost productivity and demonstrate compliance with national and continental directives.’

Philip Grove is product manager, Ishida Europe.

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