OMRON is shaping traceability in food and beverage packaging
In the food and beverage packaging industry, authenticity is essential. Consumers need to know that the foods they are purchasing consist of the things listed on their labels, because food allergies and expired foods can cause serious illness and possibly death.
One of the main things mandated by food and beverage regulation is traceability – the practice of maintaining thorough records of the origins and whereabouts of products and raw materials by scanning printed barcodes, direct part marks or radio frequency identification tags throughout the production process and the supply chain.
From the raw materials supplier to the production line to the supermarket and then to the customer, the creation and distribution of a particular food item should be as transparent as possible.
Food and beverage manufacturers also benefit directly from traceability protocols that minimise the occurrence and effect of costly issues, such as product recalls, by providing real-time data on supplier materials, processes and machinery involved in the production.
These protocols can significantly reduce the cost of a recall by isolating tainted items and making it unnecessary to pull large amounts of non-tainted products off the shelves.
To meet the requirements of the European Union regulations, South Africa promulgated Standards Regarding Food Hygiene and Food Safety of Regulated Agricultural Food Products of Plant Origin for Export.
These are collectively referred to as SA-GAP. SA-GAP is often used as the basic standard for inspections of produce destined for the local market.
SA-GAP standards require that food products are handled under hygienic conditions through all stages of the supply chain, good record keeping and that food business operators (FBOs) can withdraw or recall products that pose a risk to human health from anywhere in the trade chain.
The South African government has created a regulatory framework and related instruments for food safety and traceability.
The Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) have responsibilities relating to the safety of food locally and meeting the requirements of international markets. DALRRD Inspection Services ensures compliance with phytosanitary agreements.
Government assignees assure compliance of products in different sectors, for example, the Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) is responsible for assuring that exports of fresh and processed products of plant origin meet the requirements of the South African Agricultural Products Standards Act [Act 119 of 1990].
Similarly, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries assures that fish products comply with regulations, and the Wine & Spirits Board assures compliance of wine and spirits processes and products.
The Meat Safety Act, 2000 – Act 40 of 2000 – provides for measures to promote meat safety and the safety of animal products, establishes and maintains essential national standards in respect of abattoirs, regulates the import and export of meat, and establishes meat safety schemes.
The national Food Safety and Maximum Residue Levels is chaired by DALRRD’s Directorate: Food Safety and Quality Assurance. The forum publishes hazard profiles, food safety checklists, and compliance criteria for different types of FBOs.
A Food Safety Forum Technical Working Group updates the documents from time to time.
Further documents are under review or in the process of being prepared.
Companies handling products of plant origin that are destined for export markets are required to register with DALRRD as FBOs. Producers who supply local fresh produce markets will in the future also register as FBOs.
An FBO must adhere to good handling practices and traceability, keep adequate records and be able to withdraw implicated products from the market should there be a serious problem. An approach to responding to product alerts, withdrawals and recalls is provided in the Traceability Standard Operating Procedure.
Larger South African retailers are adopting international trade standards and/or defining their standards. This has a domino effect and backs up the fresh produce chain, and producers and processors who are unable to provide evidence of adhering to good practices may be locked out of storage and processing facilities.
The ability to show evidence of due diligence and compliance with a standard would depend on the records available about a specific product or process at each point in the chain.
Using Traceability to Analyse and Optimise Productivity
In addition to helping companies avoid recalls and other disruptions to their profitability, traceability systems are also a great way to optimise processes and evaluate overall equipment effectiveness.
By collecting and analysing operational data, manufacturers can figure out which machines are underperforming and pinpoint precisely where bottlenecks are occurring in production.
To gather this data, manufacturers need to set up numerous barcode reading stations at various points across the production line. Barcoding helps track vital productivity information, such as throughput and quality based on package type, machine, shift and product.
In many cases, this means that barcode readers need to be embedded within machinery. This poses a challenge since most manufacturing equipment is designed to take up as little space as possible and, therefore, doesn’t have much extra room for barcode readers. This creates the need for ultra-compact readers, such as Omron’s MicroHAWK readers.
The MicroHAWK industrial barcode readers and smart cameras are designed to be highly flexible and configurable within an exceptionally compact casing. This means that they can be easily embedded within machinery while still providing a fast and accurate reading.
Thanks to their liquid lens autofocus technology, the MicroHAWK readers eliminate constraints on camera positioning. The same MicroHAWK camera can be used for machine vision inspection, enabling the expansion of automation as a facility’s needs evolve without investment in new hardware.
Courtesy of Engineering News – read full article here.