5 types of inspection equipment every manufacturer should know


As the Japanese master of lean manufacturing, Dr Shigeo Shingo, once said: “Humans are animals that make mistakes.” (Learn more about lean here. You can also find out how SMEs can benefit from lean manufacturing.)

In today’s manufacturing industry, quality and compliance is everything. However, it’s no longer enough to rely on human inspection. More complex processes and faster production lines mean humans are simply unable to inspect for packaging errors, contamination and quality standards without impacting efficiency.

In a worst-case scenario, relying on human inspection means problems may only be found hours — or even days — after they first appear. However, hundreds or even thousands of contaminated products could have been produced before the issue was even detected. And that’s where brands run the risk of recalls, a damaged reputation and high costs. (See how costly recalls are, and one way to avoid them.)

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For many, automating inspection is the best solution. Inspection systems not only have a higher detection rate than humans, but they are also able to streamline and improve the line’s efficiency.

However, not all inspection technologies are made equal. So, the first step is to understand which inspection machinery will drive quality and process improvement while delivering the best return on investment (ROI). That’s even more important in light of the growing capability of techniques and equipment available.

As a general rule of thumb, automation of inspection drives quality improvement through repeatable and reliable inspection, with automatic data capture to measure reject rates and alarm operators.

To help, here’s our guide to the inspection systems every manufacturer should know:

  1. Vision inspection

What does it inspect?

Vision inspection is mostly used to inspect packaging integrity and product conformance, including:

Why invest?

All-in-one vision systems are instrumental in identifying a wide range of quality issues – things that humans are unable to do reliably and consistently.

Vision systems might have been around a while, but improvements in technology mean they are getting faster, more robust and can handle a greater range of inspection tasks per camera. Cameras are also taking better and clearer images, which are necessary to identify defects. The better the image, the less likely the vision system is to reject something falsely.

Another benefit is that manufacturers can tie a vision inspection system into automated processes to reduce production-line errors that could ruin an entire batch of goods. That alone could deliver the return on investment you’re looking for. (You may find this article on 3 essential inspection technologies for FMCG interesting, find out more about vision inspection and see here for a best practice guide to inspection systems.)

  1. Checkweighinspection equipment

What does it inspect?

Checkweigh systems are used to reduce waste and overfill. Checkweigh systems can support weight compliance for two standards: AQS and non-AQS (UTML). Leading retailers have their own compliance requirements — such as the Woolworths WQA, where checkweighing is essential for Home Brand products, and highly recommended for all products. These typically sit at the end of the line, where they can precision weigh at required line speeds. If a product is overweight or underweight, the checkweigher will instantly remove it from the line (reject the product) and alert you to the issue immediately, so you can address the problem before you produce thousands of out-of-spec products.

Why invest?

Checkweighers are best associated with compliance to regulations, but they can also boost your bottom line by reducing waste, tightening tolerances and ensuring more consistent products. By improving weighing precision, checkweighers are proven to provide an immediate contribution to productivity and profits. The more accurate your checkweigher, the more money you can save. So even with a packet of nuts, saving the tiniest amount of overfill could add up to massive savings over time.

Because checkweigh technology can help manufacturers detect issues with product overfill (or underfill), you are able to correct the problem fast and save costs.

  1. Metal detection

What does it inspect?

Metal detection systems only inspect products for metal. They are ideal for inspecting dry products (think flour, salt, sugar) and frozen products, plus also give very good results on a wide range of other products. Metal detection systems sit towards the end of the line in most cases and check the “final product”.

Why invest?

One of the biggest culprits for food contamination today is metal and non-magnetic stainless steel. This is where metal detection technology is extremely effective. Unlike their predecessors, the advanced metal detection systems today can be configured to detect contaminants even within high moisture content. 

However, metal detection systems come with a few issues. They can be affected by electrical interference and cannot handle aluminium packaging. Also, traditional metal detectors cannot inspect goods in tin cans or foil pouches or metalised film – an increasingly common packaging type in the food industry. Don’t waste money on buying a metal detector that the supplier tells you will work for products in foil film. In fact, avoid this supplier in the future! The development of X-ray metal detection technologies provides a solution. (Find out more about metal detection.) 

  1. X-ray inspection

inspection equipmentWhat does it inspect?

Metal isn’t the only culprit of food recalls. Glass, stone, rubber and other contaminants can make their way into the product. By evaluating density through the product and packaging, X-ray inspection equipment can identify these foreign bodies. Advanced X-ray inspection systems can perform in-line quality checks to:

  • Detect physical defects
  • Measure product mass
  • Identify missing or broken products
  • Inspect packaging seal integrity

Why invest?

Unlike metal detection, X-ray inspection is ideal for a wide range of packaging, especially in bottles, cans, jars, pouches and foils. Better yet, it can detect contaminants embedded right in the product and tell the operator where in the product the contaminant sits.

Over recent years, X-ray equipment has become a lot faster, making it ideal for high-speed production lines. This makes it a worthy investment for those processors who want to reduce contamination and protect against recalls.

However, these extra capabilities come at a cost – X-ray equipment is more expensive than metal detection. (You may find it interesting to compare metal detection with X-ray inspection.)

  1. Barcode scanner

What does it inspect?

Barcode scanners ensure barcodes are present and correct for use through the supply chain and with point-of-sale. They can inspect barcodes on cartons, X-ray inspectionpallets and individual items. Barcode scanners can be linked to databases using software to even check if the right barcode is on the right product.

Why invest?

By scanning a barcode on the line, barcode scanners help manufacturers drive greater profitability and productivity. Doing this on line, rather than at the end of the batch or shift, identifies errors in packaging or labelling immediately. The same system can be linked to a stock control system to increment products counts as the products are being made – so warehouse tallies are always up to date.

So now you have a basic rundown on 5 different types of inspection equipment. To find out what the best inspection technology is for your production line, speak to our experts.

You may also find it interesting to read our free white papers on objective QA, automating your way to lean manufacturing, avoiding recalls and the benefits of integrating identification with inspection. Click on the link below to access our free whitepaper on lean manufacturing.

Andrew Ball

Andrew Ball

Commercial Products & Marketing Manager at Matthews Australasia
Andrew Ball is an engineer and business professional with 25 years of broad industry experience. His career includes experience gained at Honeywell, Ford and Siemens, with over half of it invested in the coding and marking industry. At Matthews Australasia, Andrew and his team create and market innovative solutions, services and insights for Matthews’ customers and the broader industry alike. Aside from career and family, some of Andrew’s other passions include music, sport, fitness and reading.
Andrew Ball

by Andrew Ball

Andrew Ball is an engineer and business professional with 25 years of broad industry experience. His career includes experience gained at Honeywell, Ford and Siemens, with over half of it invested in the coding and marking industry. At Matthews Australasia, Andrew and his team create and market innovative solutions, services and insights for Matthews’ customers and the broader industry alike. Aside from career and family, some of Andrew’s other passions include music, sport, fitness and reading.

6 thoughts on “5 types of inspection equipment every manufacturer should know

  1. haggai says:

    thank you, very detailed article.
    i have a salad processing facility in new york and we package salads like hummus and salsa on Orics CMTS continuous motion tray sealer and fillers. i am very happy with their machines the line is running already 10 years non stop. now i hear and read in your article on the new vision detector. some israeli invention. i realy want to AD it to my line, where do i read more about it.

  2. Salim Boulos Kassab says:

    Re article:5 different types of inspection .Very interesting and useful article related to quality and compliance, and very true to our new food industry environment ,requirements and standards .We can also add that the 5 types of inspection help in better traceability too .Thank you Matthews and Thank you Andrew Key.Having said that I will still say the Human factor will make a difference depending on the training and the commitment of the personnel using these equipment. Regards
    Salim Boulos Kassab

  3. David Phelpz - walshmfg.com says:

    I believe those inspection equipment will become more and more important in the coming years. This is great way for companies to improve their overall product quality and satisfy customer even better.

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