Did you know one-third of food and beverage recalls are caused by incorrect labelling, including undeclared allergens? In the second blog of our series we reveal how you can avoid recalls due to packaging and labelling faults.
When it comes to recalls due to labelling and packaging faults, the simple fact is that they can be avoided. In part one of our series, we showed the types of labelling and packaging recalls that can happen — from wrong allergen labels to faulty caps. And all of these could have been avoided with the right systems and processes in place.
So what’s the answer?
Artwork control and checks. Allergens are usually declared in the pre-printed labels and the best way is rigorous artwork checks and controls in place.
Once the artwork is correct, it then needs to go on the right product!
One solution lies in vision inspection systems. Installed on the packaging line, today’s well-designed machine vision inspection systems can check for many of the issues that lead to recalls, making sure the product leaving your facility is shelf ready.
Companies can spend a great deal of time, energy and money checking products manually, but vision systems allow for appearance, character and defect inspections to be undertaken automatically – without the need for human intervention. In fact, using a vision system means technological devices can undertake most of the work when it comes to QA, allowing you to reduce your overheads in terms of staffing, as well as decreasing the eventuality of an unfit or faulty product leaving your doors.
How vision inspection works
Vision systems are capable of inspecting, identifying, counting and measuring products across many different sectors — from food processing right through to pharmaceuticals and beyond. They work by providing intelligent image recognition, using camera and computer technologies.
With basic through to high-end solutions available, vision systems can be implemented in a range of different environments to take on a number of tasks from quality control to quality assurance and even process control, including:
- Matching two or more labels on a product
- Matching labels to products
- Matching labels to other product features, such as cap colour and product orientation
- Checking use-by dates
- Matching selected product to packaging
- Matching individual product barcodes to shipper cartons
- Identifying labels based on embedded 2D codes
- Sorting products based on their specific markings,
- Ensuring the packaging contains the contents it should contain, and at the correct levels
Key benefits to food & grocery manufacturers
As well as ultimately reducing the risk of recalls, machine vision has many benefits for manufacturers:
- By automating quality control, you can establish a reliable system that delivers time and again. This also provides the ability to ensure quality based on specific parameters.
- Quality data is collected every time a product passes through for inspection. Every product is monitored, and the information sent into production management systems for process control.
- Vision inspection systems make it possible to demonstrate that reliable QA processes are in place to satisfy your customers. This is often necessary for retail customers, such as the major supermarkets. (See this 2-part blog on How you can learn from Woolworths’ QA for manufactured foods.)
- Vision inspection improves and optimises throughput by providing the data that allows managers to react to upstream issues faster. A vision system can inform you of a problem immediately — meaning it can still be rectified before the product is shipped. It can also empower operators to fix issues to improve overall quality.
- These systems provide cost savings by reducing waste and manual efforts.
Another major advantage of vision systems is that they can now be incorporated with other line technologies, so your automated solutions work as one. Any faulty products can be redirected to be properly and correctly labelled, or rejected if the error cannot be rectified. The whole process is streamlined. For businesses, this level of quality control is invaluable, as it prevents costly recalls for products that are not shelf-ready and yet still shipped.
The magic bullet?
There’s no doubt that automating quality processes is the key to delivering the highest quality products. And in today’s environment, that is a huge competitive advantage. But there’s also a push from the major Australian food and grocery retailers to embrace this technology to enhance product quality and reduce the risk of errors.
We’re not saying that vision inspection is a magic bullet – there are other processes and checks that can help (find out more about the 5 different types of inspection equipment manufacturers can use). But it is proven to vastly improve processes and reduce the risk of recalls due to packaging and labelling faults. And that can only be a good thing for any manufacturer.
Some of the other inspection technologies that can reduce risk of recalls and improve product “quality” standards include metal detection, x-ray, check weigh systems.