X-Ray System Proves Essential For State-Of-The-Art Food Manufacturer
Building a food manufacturing facility from scratch would be a daunting project even for someone with a strong background in this industry. So imagine how challenging it was for Ivan and Elaine Pezzoli whose only previous experience was as a restaurateur in Brazil.
It all started when Pezzoli told his neighbor in Brazil that he was moving to the United States. The neighbor told this to his brother-in-law, who had a background in corporate infrastructure, and had previously worked with businesses with gluten-free food products. Knowing Pezzoli had an exceptional recipe for gluten-free cheese rolls and that such a product could be a big success in the United States market, the neighbor’s brotherin-law proposed a partnership. “It was at that moment that elaine’s* was born,” Pezzoli says.
Quickly, though, the partners realized the uphill battle they faced. Pezzoli was committed to making the rolls “the way Grandma cooked them on the farm using a wood oven and fresh starch and ingredients,” but with no food manufacturing experience, he had to do a lot of research to determine what kind of facility and equipment would accomplish his goal. Eventually the decision was made to build a facility from scratch rather than lease an existing building and have to adapt it to their demanding specifications. Thus, construction began in 2014 in Apopka, FL on a 10,000-squarefoot building.
The Goal: Go Beyond Metal Detection
Although Pezzoli didn’t have food manufacturing expertise, he still knew that to make the best impression on his potential customers — and to create the highest-quality product — he needed to design a state-of-the-art production process. That meant conducting exhaustive online searches for equipment and speaking with numerous manufacturers’ reps from companies that made everything from mixers, to cutters (of the dough), to cryogenic freezers (for freezing the final rolls). It was during one of those conversations that Pezzoli became more acutely aware of the importance of food safety equipment — which until that point he hadn’t even considered. “I was talking to a rep for Mekitec who gave me some really good advice and guidance around food inspection systems and how essential they are to achieving HACCP compliance,” Pezzoli says. “For example, in a baking production line, there’s a chance that some metal part from a blender or mixer could break or perhaps tiny pieces could scrape off and end up in the dough. There’s also the possibility of contamination from the various plastic and paper containers of the raw ingredients [e.g., flour, salt, eggs].” Armed with this new knowledge, he came to the conclusion that he was still missing a critical component to creating his state-of-the-art facility: He didn’t need a standard metal detector; he needed an food X-ray inspection system.
A Consultative Sales Process
The Mekitec partner explained that the company offered three models of X-ray inspection systems — CombiMEKI, MEKI, and MidMEKI. To help Pezzoli choose the right model, the two men gathered some key facts about the elaine’s process. For instance, each plastic bag that comes off the production line is filled with 120 cheese rolls, and the facility is designed to run 45 tons of product per month. Also, as this machine was an afterthought in planning the building, the physical space it would occupy was small. “It was really a consultative process,” Pezzoli says.
Mekitec is based in Oulu, Finland with presence in APAC, EMEA, and the Americas. Having such a global footprint enables a quick turnaround for delivery, setup, and training. The Mekitec partner suggested that before Pezzoli make his final decision that he send some bags of his rolls to the Texas commercial center for product testing with the results analyzed to confirm the MEKI system’s capabilities. That proved to be a key factor in Pezzoli’s decision to purchase the MEKI model. Of course, cost also came into play. “They were able to give me a price for an X-Ray system that was near what I would have paid for a metal detector, but with the X-ray technology I got a lot more performance,” states Pezzoli.
What Makes A Cutting-Edge Bakery Operation
The MEKI model includes a linear scanner (where the product is placed to be inspected) with a width of 10 inches and a detection area of 9.84 inches by 4.33 inches, which was the optimal size for elaine’s packaging. The entire machine measures 32 inches — 47 inches (width) x 20 inches (depth) x 79 inches (height) and weighs 165 pounds.
The MEKI unit can locate not only metal, glass, plastic, stone splinters, Teflon, and bone. It also has the capability to see into frozen food or products wrapped in aluminum. The X-ray technology examines the product and alerts the operator of any contaminants or foreign objects. The operator can then save an image of the item for later review by a manager who can analyze if the process and program are running efficiently and correctly.
As not only a first-time user of this kind of equipment, but someone new to the entire food manufacturing industry, Pezzoli says the installation and training Mekitec provided was a huge help in getting his facility operational — quickly. For instance, a Mekitec engineer arrived onsite to unpack and assemble the unit, which took one day. The next day that same engineer trained the entire elaine’s staff on everything from the amount of radiation emitted from the machine (less than 1 micro SV leakage) to the benefits the MEKIGuard™ software offered. The software analyzes every pixel in the image (captured from the high-resolution X-ray camera) and identifies on a touchscreen all suspect areas. It does this in realtime at line speeds in excess of 90 meters/min. Product profiles can be stored in the system for simple and fast product changeovers. All the operator has to do is present six products to the system in auto learn mode, and the MEKI learns the products and stores the settings. Data on every captured image and its corresponding production run is saved. That data can then be used to generate HACCP-compliant reports. The software also monitors system performance to minimize downtime.
“Despite the MEKI unit being probably the most advanced piece of equipment we have, we all found it to be one of the easiest to learn how to set up and use,” Pezzoli says. “The Mekitec technician walked us through the process of using the machine and then immediately had each of us try running it on our own. We quickly understood how to create HACCP-compliant reports as well as the significance of that data.”
“This technology … really set(s) us apart from some of our competitors; it shows how dedicated we are to food safety.” Ivan Pezzoli, elaine’s
True Test Of Food Safety
With the MEKI food inspection system integrated into his production line with staff fully trained on its use, Pezzoli had achieved his goal of creating a cutting-edge facility. He says that he quickly saw the ROI this technology provided after the MEKI unit detected a foreign object in one of the bags of rolls. “All of our employees agreed that a metal detector would have failed in this instance,” he recounts. Now, this food manufacturing newbie who hadn’t even considered food inspection equipment before he heard about Mekitec, often uses the X-ray component of his production line to impress his potential clients. “This technology and this unit really set us apart from some of our competitors; it shows how dedicated we are to food safety,” Pezzoli says. “When I feel confident that our food products are safe when they leave the factory, our clients feel confident in us.”
For more information on elaine’s please go to www.elainescreations.com.