As consumers we expect customisation in our daily lives. Jodie Curry, commercial manager at Fortress Technology and Sparc Systems, explains how bespoke systems can meet such demands in the food industry


n our daily lives as consumers, we have become accustomed to a high degree of customisation. In fact, we’ve grown to

expect it, with much of the success of companies like Netflix and Amazon stemming from their ability to create tailored offerings. However, in the world of food production, the concept of customisation can still feel like an extravagance. In particular, smaller companies may fear that ordering a bespoke metal detection with a custom-built conveying system will be expensive and complicated, fraught with delays. Thankfully, that couldn’t be further from the truth. European food manufacturers rightly

demand high levels of performance from their inspection equipment. From a safety and brand integrity perspective products must reach consumers free from contamination. However, inspection machines like metal detectors are highly sensitive. Performance can be affected by various environmental factors. These should be considered and addressed during the design phase of any system. Noise immunity technology can reduce many of these challenges and is built into Fortress metal detectors as standard. Factoring in the conveying and reject

system is equally important to guarantee reliable operation and avoid false readings. For example, when the footprint is tight, a

The 5-lane multi-aperture Ferrous metal detector and checkweighing system created by the two companies Below: A customised twin-lane inspection/conveyor system designed for a pizza crust manufacturer

customised solution may be the only way to ensure that metal detector performance is not compromised. Aperture size is also critical to optimal

operation. A metal detector’s performance becomes more limited as the aperture size increases in relation to the product being inspected. Yet, too small and there’s a risk that product won’t pass through. At times, customising the aperture around the product to be inspected is one way to ensure the metal detector will perform to its full capability. Rather than being over-engineered or

complicated, these factors are essential design elements of any successful food inspection system. Purchasing a customised machine with an integrated conveyor system, fully assembled and quality checked by a reputable food inspection manufacturer, is a stellar way to achieve functionality, productivity and the best performance. Demand for customised solutions is far

more common than people realise, accounting for around 20% of Fortress conveyor orders. Even Vector conveyors are somewhat customised to specific manufacturers’ needs. Often, our engineers are tasked with

configuring a new inspection machine with legacy upstream or downstream equipment. This can limit the options. There are also design

limitations. For instance, the dimensions of a standard Vector conveyor won’t work within the footprint. Trying to shoehorn it in may even invade the detectors’ metal-free zone and cause false reading. Due to line speed, belt width or product

profile, a particular reject mechanism may be required, for instance sweep arm or retractable band rejects. Recently, our North American colleagues

installed a customised twin-lane inspection/conveyor system for a pizza crust manufacturer. Although the line speed wasn’t particularly fast, and the product wasn’t especially difficult to handle, this project still required a customised approach. Mainly because the detection system needed to precisely align with existing upstream and downstream legacy equipment. In this instance, the only viable option was a

customised S-curve conveyor. The reject mechanism also proved challenging. Air blast wasn’t suitable because of the belt width. A kicker proved incompatible because of the low profile of pizza. Lastly, there was insufficient space to accommodate a flap style reject. Instead, we engineered an innovative retracting reject mechanism. Contrary to popular belief, custom-

designed inspection systems are only marginally more expensive than standard designs. It has long been our philosophy to support the optimal operation of all inspection systems. If poorly designed or installed, the risk of a contaminated product entering the food chain greatly increases, as do the long-term associated cost implications. The average cost of a recall according to a

joint industry study by the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association is $10m in direct costs, in addition to brand damage and lost sales. Cutting corners here can be a false economy.


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