A weighty issue

Related tags Mettler toledo Manufacturing

Food manufacturers are under pressure to be able to trace every
product at every stage of the supply chain. Equipment supplier
Mettler Toledo explains the role of weighing and measuring
technology in helping firms to meet stringent regulations, and
achieve production efficiencies at the same time, writes Anthony

Weighing and measuring procedures represent critical points all along the industrial food supply chain. They are required at the acquisition of raw materials and play a vital role in quality control. After all, an ingredient can only be used in the preparation of food if it is wholly compliant with food regulations.

The weighing and measuring of food is then carried out during the processing phase to formulate and batch ingredients, to portion meat from carcasses and to determine characteristics such as moisture content. Packaged goods then have to be weighed for compliance to net content legislation prior to shipping.

The importance of weighing and measuring can therefore be seen right across the food manufacturing industry. For Urs Berli, market manager for food at equipment manufacturer Mettler Toledo​, weighing is a very important quality factor, as it gives manufacturers vital information to improve their key performance indicators. However, each sector has special requirements that need to be fulfilled.

"It depends on what particular food sector you are working in,"​ Berli told FoodProductionDaily.com​. "For example in the meat industry, overhead rail scales are used to weigh carcasses and hygienically designed, portioning scales in the cutting area need to stand heavy washdown procedures. In Ready-to-eat meal formulation, spices need to be precisely formulated to achieve constantly the right taste.

Berli points out there are also cost benefits to adopting the latest measurement technology. For example, a blue chip chocolate manufacturer recently invested in a Mettler Toledo net weight control system that cost above hundred thousand Euros. The company was overfilling as a safety precaution, which was resulting in huge product give away.

However, accurate measuring allowed the company to fill its products exactly, complying with the legislation and , according to Berli, resulting in payback below three months.

Weighing has also become an important ID point in the process flow, and a means by which a manufacturer can trace a particular product. Each formulation or batching step within a production order provides an opportunity to identify and/or mark a particular component. This is especially important considering the traceability regulations about to come into force in the EU.

This legislation, which comes into force in the EU in January 2005, states that food manufacturers have to be able to show that they can trace products right through the food chain. "Traceability is all about record keeping,"​ said Scot McLeod, Ross Systems​ vice president for marketing, North America. "It means keeping track of raw materials through to shipping a final product, and everything in between."

Simon Lawson, Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) account manager with systems integrator Capula, says that a lot of companies will have traceability systems in place by 2005, but the problem is that they are often manually linked. "The problem is speed, and this is becoming apparent as expectations are raised,"​ he said. "In the US, the Bioterrorism Act obliges manufacturers to be able to respond in four hours, and this is colouring expectations in Europe."

This is something that Berli is highly aware of. "There is a clear trend away form paper documentation towards electronic process documentation. In case of electronic batch documentation, US CFR21 part 11 legislation describes requirements for electronic data storage and electronic signature.

"All this is part of a big trend that is coming to the food industry,"​ claimed Berli. And it is here, he says, that weighing and measuring systems can really benefit food manufacturers.

Related topics Ingredients