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New Metal Detector Spices Things Up

Givaudan installs the new APEX 300 drop-through to eliminate false positives & simplify cleaning processes, saving both time and money. The Inspection Challenge When a factory needs to process and package 100,000 pounds of spices daily, a single machine not working at peak performance can be a major problem.

Givaudan installs the new APEX 300 drop-through to eliminate false positives & simplify cleaning processes, saving both time and money.

The Inspection Challenge

When a factory needs to process and package 100,000 pounds of spices daily, a single machine not working at peak performance can be a major problem. Givaudan, the world's leading company in the flavors and fragrance industry, experienced this in 2007 when an older metal detector at its Chicago-based spice processing plant began signaling regular false positives. The plant, part of the flavoring arm of Givaudan's business, is responsible for supplying flavoring products to some of the largest snack food and food ingredient companies in the United States and abroad. While the quality of the end product wasn't affected by the oversensitive detection system, the alarm went off daily, which interrupted workflow and made it difficult to process the 2,500 pounds of spices that the plant's seven metal detectors needed to inspect every hour.

Even the most accurate metal detectors occasionally signal a false positive and, to account for this, Givaudan retested any questionable product and discarded it when necessary. However, maintenance supervisor Tim Pignato knew that the vibrations of nearby machines were partially to blame for the false alarms, an error that was wasting time and affecting productivity.

"We have a careful and thorough process of identifying what causes a false positive, but that procedure also creates downtime where product is not being packaged," Pignato explained. "We recognized that it was time to begin upgrading our metal detectors with newer technology."

The APEX 300 Solution

Pignato approached Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc. for a solution. He needed a metal detector that was not only highly sensitive and accurate, but one that could be easily cleaned and sanitized. A variety of spices pass through the detectors, so all of the equipment had to be carefully washed down every night to ensure that there is no cross-contamination.

Based on Givaudan's requests, the Thermo Fisher Scientific team recommended the Thermo Scientific APEX 300, a new drop-through design metal detector that was in the beta testing phase. The detector offered high sensitivity and a hygienic design, built specifically for simple, thorough cleanings. The APEX 300's unique, patent-pending multi-coil technology was capable of inspecting Givaudan's quick-flowing spices with greater sensitivity and thus a lower false reject rate. Constructed with a waterproof chute made of poured epoxy, the metal detector and remote control panel were also free of any crevices where particles could become trapped. In addition, the new detector was significantly smaller in size and weight than Givaudan's existing machines, making it easy to mount, install, and access for maintenance.

Pignato agreed to try the new APEX 300 and had it installed in December of 2007. As a beta testing customer, he would assess its performance and features, offer feedback to the product team, and consider it for purchase.

"The Thermo Fisher Scientific technicians did their homework ahead of time. They brought in the APEX 300 already programmed for our specific needs," said Pignato. "It was smaller than the previous metal detector, so they came with special attachments and custom-fitted it into the same space." Working together, the APEX 300 installation went smoothly and the work of inspecting Givaudan products could begin.

Results at Givaudan

The daily false positives immediately came to a halt. The APEX 300's new, more advanced algorithms combined with the multi-coil design enabled the detector to "learn and ignore" the problematic nearby vibrations and only respond to product contaminants. The added sensitivity also gave the metal detector more "headroom" so even if there were occasional periods of high, false signal levels the system wouldn't indicate that a contaminant was found.

"This 'learning' mechanism is the biggest challenge in metal detection technology today," explained Bob Ries, product manager with Thermo Fisher Scientific. "There's a delicate balance between a machine that accurately detects trace amounts of metal, but that isn't overly-sensitive to other effects like product or environmental changes, where it is causing interruptions and inefficiencies on an inspection line."

In addition to eliminating false positives, sensitivity was heightened by the APEX 300's specific drop-though software designed to handle vertically falling product. For Givaudan, it was critical that the metal detector quickly react to contaminants - every millisecond between detection and reaction meant a potential product loss. The APEX 300 delivered on this requirement, and in Pignato's words, "is now the most reliable metal detector in our operation."

The Givaudan team also found the APEX 300 extremely easy to clean. They needed a metal detector that could withstand a daily cleaning of a chlorinated solution to strip off any particles stuck to the machine followed by a high-pressure rinse with 150°F water to remove residual product. Spices typically became trapped in crevices in Givaudan's existing metal detectors and, therefore, required extra attention.

"We would have to disassemble parts of the chute once a week for extra cleaning, but that was unnecessary with the APEX 300 because of its design," Pignato said. "Again, this was a huge time saver for us."

When the beta testing period was complete, Givaudan purchased the APEX 300, making it a permanent fixture in its inspection operation. The company also purchased additional APEX 300 metal detectors to upgrade older models.

"The APEX 300 helped us create a more efficient workflow, but also gave us a sense of security - we know we're always delivering our customer a safe product and now we can do that with fewer inconveniences," Pignato said.

"Product contamination can be very damaging to a brand and customer relationships. It's our job to give our customers trust and peace of mind," Ries added. "We're thrilled with Givaudan's APEX 300 drop-through experience and proud to launch this new metal detector on such a success story."