100% reliability at Huhtamaki
Supplying packaging for a global baby food manufacturer cannot be taken lightly. Huhtamaki France were faced with potential technical and public relations issues when dealing with a seemingly straightforward challenge. A challenge that could only be completely and safely satisfied using machine vision from Cognex.
Each element for the packaging of a baby food container is produced individually by Huhtamaki to be sent back to the client for filling. The transparent lid of each container being produced at very high rates each day has a label affixed declaring the contents and flavor of the food. It is vital that each delivery to the client contains the right label. The initial supplier of the label cannot guarantee that each batch contains the correct labels.
Thus, the risk that presents itself is that of a label mix-up which could result in a consumer allergic reaction. Considering the high standards demanded in this kind of market, Huhtamaki found themselves faced with a straightforward yet consequential challenge requiring a zero fault tolerance to protect not only the end-user but also the reputation of both Huhtamaki and their client. This is an ambitious goal considering the extremely high levels of production concerned.
Each production line at the plant is fully automated, high speed and flexible. Production is in operation 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Each line is capable of producing different products and any changeover needs to happen quickly.
All of these factors came into play last year for Huhtamaki when producing packaging for a global baby food manufacturer.
Huhtamaki in France, situated in Auneau, south of Paris is a major manufacturing site specializing in four main types of packaging aimed at the food and beverage industry. These activities include paper forming, plastic extrusion, thermoforming, plastic injection molding and in-mould labeling as well as molded fiber. The production in question concerns in-mould labelling.
Tiny consumers, serious consequences and a 100% reliable solution.
With manufacturing and sales sites in 36 countries and over 15,000 employees, Huhtamaki is one of the world’s largest consumer packaging companies and a truly global player. Huhtamaki offers custom designs as well as total packaging systems and solutions. The company is proud of its status as world leader in the areas of rigid plastic, paper and molded fiber packaging. Their clients include producers of dairy products, meat products and baby food and with Huhtamaki supplying almost all aspects of the food industry from ice cream and baby food to fruit and vegetables and meat products, this is obviously a key market. As a result Huhtamaki finds itself a significant player in an increasingly competitive business environment where stakes are high when it comes to safety and quality control.
On this sensitive market the company such as Huhtamaki, France has no choice but to reach a zero defect level while maintaining high levels of productivity. Their membership of the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point), which implies strict compliance with hygiene regulations, must also be taken into consideration. In this context, nothing that could jeopardize their reputation or compromise quality control can be tolerated.
The Challenge and the Response
The nature of the challenge prompted those responsible at Huhtamaki to turn to machine vision for a solution. It was the only possibility for such high speed production where human inspection would not be viable. Didier Lemaire, technical manager at Huhtamaki in France had had prior experience with vision, but this time he needed a faster, more robust solution that was, above-all, easy to use. Aware of Cognex products by reputation, Mr. Didier Lemaire contacted Cognex and following a consultation began to work with Caire, a trusted Cognex partner integrator who, ensured the implementation of a vision system with a dedicated user interface, adapted in such a way as to ensure continued ease of use and possibilities for evolution in the future.
The solution needed to address and satisfy several criteria as defined by Huhtamaki when they first approached Cognex in search of a vision system. Each production session involves two lines of lids passing along a conveyer belt each being labeled with the same sticker indicating a particular flavor and set of ingredients. The lids are constantly turning at a 360° angle adding to the complicating factors facing the vision system. Once labeled the lids need to be verified before being packed and sent to the client. To be without faults and fully reliable, the system needed to be capable of acquiring and memorizing quite a detailed amount of information in order to achieve the objective of zero faults required.
Flexibility and Scalability
The solution provided also needed to be flexible and scalable in order to allow for future changes of graphics, colors and products. In addition to all of this environmental conditions were prone to change in terms of lighting and temperature factors. The system also needed to be simple insofar as personnel with limited vision experience could be trained easily to work independently with the program and have the possibility to make simple changes without compromising the reliability and success of the system.
A 100% Reliable Solution
Caire relied on their ability to deal innovatively with customer requirements as well as their extensive experience and expertise when developing solutions using Cognex vision products.
They based their solution on a Cognex In-Sight® machine vision system equipping both lines on the conveyer with a camera and connecting the Huhtamaki interface simply by OPC on one PC. The use of Cognex advanced vision tools in the form of PatMax technology provided for a simple interface with the product images clearly displayed and played a decisive part in recognizing the label and acquiring the image to be assessed. Using PatMax, the program memorizes and recognizes an area of text and certain aspects of the label as well as its positioning on the lid.
There is no need for any complex parameter configuration which ensures ease of use and long term flexibility. An item that does not correspond correctly to the image acquired is immediately rejected. The capacity of PatMax to acquire a sufficient amount of detailed information ensures not only zero defects but also a negligible rate of false rejects.
The simplicity and reliability of the solution permits Huhtamaki to maintain a high level of production without compromising quality to the extent that the company is considering applying the technology to other areas of their production.