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Food Processing Awards - Technological Development

15 August 2013

To cast your vote for the Technological Development category of the Food Processing Awards 2013 simply email your choice to

1) Olympus Automation
For the most significant technological innovation a food or beverage processing environment
PDX Reactor for food processing -  Olympus Automation’s acquisition of PDX Reactor technology is a significant innovation in the processing of soups, sauces and ready meals in the food industry. The PDX reactor heats, mixes and homogenises liquid based products simultaneously with a dramatic reduction in processing times. Greencore have received major benefits from the system being able to double sauce output, 10 batches can now be produced in the same time it used to take to produce 5. Furthermore, the advanced mixing allows reductions of ingredients such as salt with no taste difference, offering major health benefits as governments globally target reductions in food salt content.

2) Signatrol
Spydaq from Signatrol is an affordable, wireless temperature and humidity monitoring system designed specifically for the food processing industry. Spydaq allows users to deploy sensors in various locations from fridges, walk in chillers to production areas and warehousing, without the restrictions and cost of hard wiring. Results are monitored from a PC to ensure a paperless data logging chain.
The BaseStation, which manages the transmitters, also checks locally for alarm conditions via its inbuilt audio and visual alarms. Alarming locally is a requirement of the BRC Standard and means that any potential trouble spots can be identified quickly and corrective action taken, often saving vulnerable goods from damage or rapid decay. 

3) Igus 
igus UK, has introduced a blue energy chain that is easy to detect and blue anti-microbial cables. Even in the most modern production lines, machine failure and damage cannot be eliminated, and being able to detect foreign materials quickly in food is vital to guarantee the reliability of food production lines.  
igus’ experts have designed a detectable polymer energy chain by using a special plastic material, igumid DT. As a result, spherical particles of the blue material as small as 1 mm can be detected in fragments passing at speeds of 20m/min by all standard metal detection systems. The blue detectable material igumid DT is available for the reliable E2/000 and E4.1 series energy chains.
The new material has successfully passed the international tests for anti-microbial activity and effectiveness in line with ISO 22196 and JIS Z 2801.

4) Pacepacker Services
Pacepacker designed and manufactured a new patented product, FlexaPac, in Summer 2012. The system automatically loads difficult to handle netted fruits and delicate vegetables into supermarket/grocer trays, crates and cartons.

The product came about when an Independent Food Production Consultant Trefor Mason approached Pacepacker with the challenge. To his knowledge, Trefor had never come across a system which successfully automated the labour intensive process of loading netted products into crates. 
The supplier, which handles UK grown produce, weighs, packs and then loads citrus fruits into crates for many retailers including Morrisons and Tesco. Although most of its packing line was automated, the loading of netted fruits into trays was labour intensive with multiple packers sitting round a rotary table (lazy susan) picking up and placing by hand the netted goods into the trays. Trefor identified two problems at the packing facility:- 
1. The onerous task of packing fruit into trays led to human error which resulted in high levels of waste due to produce being squashed, bruised or dropped. The manual packers, which would pick up the product coming off a conveyor, would occasionally miss the crate, overload the crates, and shake the crates to get an even fill – all of which led to product damage and the packer incurring retailer imposed financial penalties.
2. Throughput was limited during peak seasons. Manual packers could only work as fast as humanly possible, and the space around the conveyor table restricted the number of people that could be employed to do the job. In peak seasons the fruit company had a production bottleneck.

Trefor comments: “Having worked with many fruit growers, packers and suppliers it was apparent that the ‘lazy suzy’ rotary style table concept of packing netted fruit into trays had been overlooked and required a complete overhaul. For the fruit supplier, I looked for an automated solution to eliminate product bruising due to human error, increase line throughput and re-deploy manual workers.”

Dave Slaughter, Packaging Manager of the Kent based fruit packer (which want to remain unnamed to protect their competitive edge) comments: “As a fruit supplier to many leading supermarket chains we wanted to streamline our production process. While difficult to automate this labour intensive operation, due to the delicate nature of the netted product and the inability of grippers to effectively pick it up without getting tangled in the net, this area remained the most inefficient process in our production cycle. One of the key benefits in moving away from this manual process was to reduce the impact damage on the fruit. While the netted fruit continually rotates on the table it is susceptible to damage from the impact of other fruit joining the table. We could only pack as many as the manual operators working could manage –there was irregularity in the pack presentation – if we needed to pack 40 netted fruits into a tray they would ensure the amount was correct, however the quality of the packing was inconsistent and this often resulted in the fruit being bruised further. Consequently this issue brought cost implications and wastage as bruising to the product can result in costly penalties charged by the retailer - damaged fruit would need to be discarded - plus high staffing requirements to operate and supervise the line brought further costs.”

5) Snowbird Foods
A new convenience ingredient has already attracted customers in the pizza and ready meals sectors and is currently being tested by sandwich and wraps manufacturers.
From Snowbird foods it is Mini Meat Bites – tiny, irregularly shaped pieces of pork, lamb, chicken or turkey (or selected combinations of the meats).
Weighing in at just 1.7g. Mini Meat Bites have joined their bigger brother, a 4g. option.
The ability of the Snowbird technical team to manufacture the bites economically is the result of a technical breakthrough which the company is keeping under wraps.
Careful attention to colour means the bites have high visibility and the number which can be used guarantees their presence in every mouthful.

6) Testo
The Testo Saveris data monitoring system measures the temperature and humidity values of sensitive goods and products in the food environment, in processes and during transport.  The easy-to-use measurement technology delivers safety and savings in time and cost thanks to automated data recording. In stationary operation the dat transfer is via wireless and/or Ethernet to a base station. This documents and monitors all measurement data. If limit values are exceeded then a whole range of alarm options are available. Testo Saveris also offers a transport version. Both variants provide central software storage with analysis and print-out convenience.

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