Automated technology brings traceability gains

SPARC Systems in collaboration with Fortress Technology has announced it has developed the only known paperless audit software featuring unlimited pre-programmed Codes of Practice (COP). 

Available on Sparc’s range of checkweighing, x-ray and combination inspection systems, the software provides food factories with automated equipment performance testing, capturing the data required to guarantee traceability.

Sparc explained its latest release automates the entire testing process while providing due diligence reports. The solution is said to be especially useful for high care production environments where COP compliance and food safety assurance are integral to productivity.

COP checks are typically conducted at the start and end of daily production shifts, following production batch and machine setting changes and after downtime for repairs/maintenance. Sparc said that depending on the criteria set out by each retailer, tests are also typically scheduled throughout the day at hourly intervals.

In food production settings where COP checks are still conducted manually on paper, the time spent conducting tests on every line where an inspection machine is installed can cost thousands of pounds a month per line in downtime and human resources. For larger factories with multiple lines, expenditure can run into tens of thousands of pounds. 

Rather than relying on operatives to schedule, perform, document and submit inspection checks, Sparc revealed its software automates timely aspects of the process. 

Given most food businesses supply multiple retailers, every test is pre-configured by retailer and product being inspected. A visual reminder occurs five minutes before a test is due and if not achieved by the deadline, the system either stops operating or sends an alert to the QA or technical manager.

Charlie Graham, Sparc’s European sales manager, said, “By using automation to follow the test principles, it’s impossible to bypass a step in the test process, significantly reducing labour time and increasing the productivity and transparency of machine performance audits.”

Reducing the frequency of manual tests also helps eliminate the risk of human error. 

All of the inspection data and test parameters are stored and made accessible from one place. Graham added, “This is an exciting development as it gives food manufacturers an element of flexible customisation. Rather than burying valuable statistical information away in a menu, users simply select and drop the parameters that they regard as most important.”

Since COP parameters are pre-programmed, operatives can simply select from the list of retailers and the product being inspected. The process is explained with step-by-step instructions and, once carried out, the user gives the inspection system a fail or pass and signs it on screen to ensure accountability. 

“As part of their audit, certain retailers conduct ad-hoc assessments on operators to verify that they fully understand every COP parameter and test procedure,” Graham added. “The beauty of Sparc’s automatic testing software is that it not only reminds operatives to perform the test, but ensures every user follows the exact test conditions set by the retailer according to the products being inspected.”

Smart technology means that when a sensor establishes a test has been conducted, a dated, paperless due diligence report is generated which allows the operator to add notes to before submission if required. 

Tests tailored to different retailer results are automatically recorded and real-time reports can be generated. The solution is configured to provide remote access. Dependent on the information required, reports can show information on contaminant rejection, average weight, and machine performance in line with COP parameters. 

When a retailer updates its COPs, Sparc issues an instant upgrade via a USB stick.