The just-released Packaging Technology Survey 2017 reported that one of the biggest pressures facing today’s business managers, engineers and operations managers is the constant demand for increased operational efficiency and throughput without compromising quality. No surprises there.
However, what may come as more of a surprise is the fact that only 16% of companies surveyed employ vision system technology in their operations — and yet vision inspection systems can play a critical role in ensuring product integrity and reducing risk, while improving the efficiency of production lines.
Defects unseen to the human eye can be spotted in less than a second. Machines can perform repetitive inspection tasks 24/7 and produce automated reports on flawed products. So why aren’t more manufacturers using them in their lines to increase efficiencies and reduce costs?
One reason might be that manufacturers simply don’t realise the multitude of problems that automated vision inspection systems can solve.
What problems can vision inspection solve? Read on to learn the top 5…
Using vision inspection can help you avoid many problems, including …
ERROR 1: FLAWED PRODUCTS
Identifying defective and flawed products is a critical aspect of quality control. Automated vision inspection systems can quickly identify problems in products and containers, such as scratches, blemishes, cracks, discoloration and more (called “empty container” inspection). A vision system can inspect empty bottles, cans and other rigid containers to ensure they meet dimensional and cosmetic requirements. At the other end of the line, it can also check that packs are properly sealed and will not let in air. (Download a brochure on bottle inspection here.)
How do they do this? Vision inspection systems are programmed with vision flaw-detection algorithms that look for changes in colour, texture, pattern or set structures according to pre-defined criteria. If the highly sensitive, high-resolution sensors and cameras detect a flaw, the product can be directed to a reject bin or a different conveyor for resolution. The system will also produce reports with reject rates, reject reasons and more, so you can quickly rectify the issue. (You may find this quick blog on how vision inspection works interesting.)
ERROR 2: WRONG CODE OR LABEL
Could products be leaving your factory with missing, incorrect or unreadable codes? Today’s retailers mandate that suppliers meet high-quality standards of barcoding and labelling. Get it wrong, and you risk costly recalls and damaging the relationship with the customer.
Vision inspection systems can be used to inspect the product and the packaging to make sure the labels and barcodes match the product inside. It’s also equally important to ensure that codes (such as barcodes, batch codes and date codes) are readable – vision inspection systems also manage this automatically. (Read here about using vision for code validation.) You can download brochures on verifying barcodes, 2D Datamatrix codes and date/batch codes all here.)
These are all tasks that are practically impossible for humans to do reliably and consistently. A vision inspection system can also be tied into your automated processes to reduce errors in your production line that might end up ruining an entire batch of goods. The cost of even the most elaborate vision inspection systems is negligible considering the savings they can deliver.
Learn more about label inspection in this article: 9 ways a label inspection system can ensure zero-defect labels.
ERROR 3: MISSING PARTS
Are your products going out the door with all of their components? The challenge for many manufacturers is that they need to check each product has all its components. This is especially a challenge for ready meal suppliers, as their products have multiple elements. Vision inspection systems are advancing to the stage where they can look at ready meals and identify that something is wrong or missing. This is possible if components are distinctly separated, as with an in-flight meal. (Check out this blog on which inspection technologies can be used for ready meals and download a brochure on using vision inspection to count items here.)
ERROR 4: WRONG WAY ROUND
Lots of processes depend on robots to quickly and accurately discern the shape, orientation and position of parts or components during identification, sorting and packing operations. Machine vision inspection systems can work in tandem with robotics as part of pick & place processes. They use shape-based object identification to detect a part’s orientation and communicate any necessary corrections to the robot. (For more information, download a brochure on pick & place.)
ERROR 5: TOO MUCH OR TOO LITTLE
Don’t risk under-filled or over-filled products leaving your factory doors. Whether you’re giving away too much product or aren’t meeting the adequate levels, either way, this will cost your bottom line. Vision inspection systems can detect fill levels and contents of packaging to ensure they meet the pre-preprogrammed criteria. They can also use smart cameras to count bottles and other containers within cartons to check that everything is present and correct. (You can find more information here.)
So what problems can vision inspection solve? A lot. Whether it’s misaligned labels, defective products, packaging errors or under-filled bottles, vision inspection systems are an essential component in today’s processing and packaging lines. Vision inspection systems can complete tasks that are practically impossible for humans to do reliably and consistently, around the clock. But one of the biggest advantages is that the system will notify you of a problem instantly, meaning you can rectify the issue before the whole batch is produced and the order is shipped.
5 BUSINESS ADVANTAGES OF VISION INSPECTION EQUIPMENT
- Higher rate of accuracy compared with manual inspection
- Lower costs due to fewer reworks and product recalls
- Stronger brand integrity with higher product quality
- Free up resources for other areas of the line
- Boost your bottom line with higher productivity and efficiencies
Matthews Australasia can help create a customised vision inspection system for your business that will ensure you are meeting your quality and efficiency requirements. Contact our team to discuss your application and business needs. You can also reach us on 1300 CODING.
You will also find a lot of detailed information in Matthews’ large resource library. And it’s all free to download! There are case studies, whitepapers, presentations we’ve done to industry bodies, infographics for manufacturing, articles from our thought leaders, vids showing solutions in action, lots of detailed of brochures and more!
Image credit/: iStock / olm26250