A completely new system for process monitoring and optimization has been installed in the Findus food processing plant in Sweden. Product and process data are combined in the system, which optimizes recipes, ensures more even product quality and gives better traceability.
Findus has factories in Bjuv and Helsingborg (processed food and vegetables) and Loftahammar (bakery). There are two lines for meat products in the food processing plant, one for flat and one for round. “We work with expensive raw materials and they have to be used as economically as possible. That’s why we’ve revamped our meat line. Our goal is increased yield, less weight variations, better utilization of equipment and increased productivity,” says Plant Manager, Kenneth Malmqvist.
A long and close collaboration with food processing solutions company FMC FoodTech in Helsingborg led to the first pilot installation of LINK Process Analysis in March.
Meat & Fish
This line produces 35–40 items, and the Wärdshus ready meal series represents almost half of the production. “We’ve developed a readymade concept for meat, fish and poultry products based on customer demands. Interviews with 20–30 major food producers around the world show that they want to optimize their existing process lines but need help,” says Thomas Lundqvist, Product Manager, Automation at FMC FoodTech.
“We want to help our customers improve product quality and productivity, while reducing food wastage and variations between the different runs. It’s difficult to get the exact same results every time with shaped, fried and breaded products because of the variation in raw materials. Just a few degrees over the correct cooking temperature can cause yield loss and a lower quality product.”
Findus’ product data – weight, temperature, batch number, etc. – are fed into the system manually. In new processing lines, this is automated.
All production data – actual temperatures, belt speed, pressure, etc. – is logged automatically during the run. All three production rooms (raw materials, cook, and freezing and packaging) have a touch display, where staff continually register the weight and temperature of products. The target is six samples per hour.
“By adding more values to the system, we get faster analyses and greater reliability,” says Kenneth Malmqvist. The screens show how each run lies in relation to the target, e.g. weight, and upper and lower limits. All data is stored in the same database and can then be selected by quality supervisors for analysis.
“With both product and process data in the same system, you can see exactly how the machines were set when the best results were achieved. And traceability increases because you can see exactly when something happened during production,” says Thomas Lundqvist.
“The system can be used in all types of processing lines, both old and new, and for individual processing stages. Investment costs depend on conditions,” says Thomas Lundqvist and adds that no investment will have a longer payback period than two years. By analyzing data from the system, recipes are constantly optimized and the system is updated with new targets, and upper and lower limits. A temperature alarm, for example, can also be added to warn of too high cooking temperatures.
Better results than expected
The system has helped Findus develop a new recipe. The next step will be to install the temperature alarm. After an evaluation in October, a decision will be made about installing the system for the meatball line.
Kenneth Malmqvist thinks the system is outstanding. “The product has worked so much better than we expected. It will provide significant savings in the long term. We expect a payback period of less than one year. I used to have to download data from several different systems and then wait until information was processed. Now, one person will work solely with data analyses from the system. New opportunities are appearing all the time. This is just the beginning,” said Malmqvist.
So far, Findus is the only company in Europe to install the system, and there is one other installation in the US.
Spend time on analysis
“In this type of production with expensive raw materials like meat, fish and poultry, there are huge opportunities for increasing profits and improving quality. The industry needs help with installation, training and process optimization because internal resources are so limited,” says Thomas Lundqvist. “The equipment may be important, but only training and analysis will enable full utilization of the technology.”