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Quality assurance 4.0

23 July 2018

Deployment of digital technologies in industrial settings, particularly multi-site food factories has been slow to materialise. However when it comes to quality assurance, things are starting to change, according to Phil Brown. 

I think it’s fair to say that many food plants, even in westernised economies, still make do with manually monitoring machine performance and this can can be extremely labour intensive and impact productivity. Even those who have upgraded legacy systems continue to gather data on a machine-by-machine basis rather than integrating and analysing information side-by-side and building up a performance picture.

For many IT departments, upgrading equipment and selecting which Internet of Things (IoT) technology will add the greatest value can be a bit of a minefield and creates a sense of burden. There is a perception that moving towards Industry 4.0 will require great investment, or will offer slow or limited return on investment.

Although many Fortress Technology customers express a strong interest in innovation and harnessing the power of data capture, they have been reticent to take the leap of faith. There is an underlying belief that they will not be able to connect new applications with existing legacy inspection machines. To achieve end-to-end production visibility and enhanced due diligence, integration across an entire fleet of machines is critical to achieving connectivity.

When Fortress set about developing a solution to enable production managers to monitor the performance of their entire fleet of food metal detectors through a single web-based gateway, its software developers intentionally kept things simple. The result is the Remote Management Software (RMS) which allows food factories to manage operations from anywhere in the world from smart phones, tablets and laptops. Believed to be the first-of-its kind web-based inspection machine browser, RMS connects multiple Fortress metal detectors by utilising wireless machine-to-machine (M2M) communication. This helps to reduce the expense of sending a team member out a plant to collect data manually.

Secure access
Rather than creating an App, which would have to be hosted, refined and updated on Android and IOS operating systems, RMS provides secure access to a web-based browser that connects to each metal detector installed with the software.

Once the software is installed authorised users simply log into the RMS browser from a laptop, tablet or mobile phone and can troubleshoot a performance issue without having to be physically in front of the metal detector. The fully traceable Quality Assurance information details what and when an event occurred on a specific unit.

To comply with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) food safety management systems and principles, each event is also automatically time stamped.

This level of oversight can be especially helpful to support flexible production. It means one operative or production manager can monitor all of a company’s metal detectors, analysing comparative data for different inspection zones, side-by-side.

Of course, the thing that makes data valuable is how it is analysed and applied to business decisions. From a QA perspective, the level of surveillance provided by RMS offers food factories peace of mind. And, from an operational viewpoint, production efficiency is enhanced.

Phil Brown is MD at Fortress Technology Europe.

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