Product recall involves the process of returning and replacing defective goods due to safety concerns that might harm consumers or users. This process negatively impacts the manufacturer not only financially but also results in brand degradation and loss of consumer trust.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), product recalls have increased by 14% in the 2015-2016 financial year. The food and grocery sector accounted for the second largest number of recalls with 123 products recalled compared with 71 the year before. Contributing factors to these recalls included the presence of contaminants such as pieces of plastic, incorrect labelling, and biological causes such as bacteria. These resulted in significant economic impact, leading to brand damage and loss of sales. It also raises a major public health hazard.
Omron Electronics continuously aim to provide safety solutions that avoid product recalls within the food and beverage industry and the current FH Vision system has been used in many projects within the past few years. Mr. Robert Silicato, Business Development manager at OMRON Electronics, described in detail how Omron’s vision system was used in two processing plants.
The FH Vision system is the industry’s fastest vision system that features compact camera and a controller used for inspection of all types of objects. It offers high-speed precision measurement of objects using its advanced Shape Search III algorithm.
Shape Search III is nine times faster than its predecessor, and is capable of accurately detecting objects even under poor lighting, out of focus or various locations. This feature also makes it possible to detect glossy objects with no background noise effects.
The system is available with a choice of powerful controllers ranging from dual core mid speed and dual core high speed to quad core high speed to offer flexibility to the user. Objects can be detected using up to eight cameras, depending on the application, including small flat type and pen type cameras for installation in limited spaces, or cameras with built-in lights and lens, further increasing its cost effectiveness. It can detect multiple shapes within the field of view. Furthermore, the images captured can be transferred without any delay through the use of high-performance bus.
The system is easy to program, and features preinstalled GUIs that allow operators to simply switch between screens and customize the interface according to their needs. Information can be displayed in nine different languages, and there is an IP65 certified touch screen for safe operation during on-site applications. The system can be operated remotely via an Ethernet connection.
Mr. Silicato mentioned the use of FH vision system in two filling applications. The first is a liquid filling application. The manufacturing company would source PVC containers from local suppliers and fill them with soup. A product recall was issued following to the discovery of unacceptably high levels of loose fragments of the container inside the soup which raised a safety hazard. The size of the fragments was also a concern. ‘Machine operators manually stacked the containers upside down before human visual inspection ready for processing, but the handling of the container during operation could not guarantee the absence of any foreign objects before the filling station. We installed the FH vision system prior to the filling stage. The cameras were set to detect the inside of the container. Being a liquid filler, the machine is hosed down at the end of each shift, and so each camera and light had to be protected with an IP67 casing.’ described Mr. Silicato.
As the FH vision system is one of the fastest object detectors available, it’s ideal for high-processing plant in which three containers have to be detected in one cycle (three containers per second). And while simultaneous detection of multiple objects would normally result in waiting time, the FH series uses parallel processing on multi-core CPU to speed up inspection of objects.
The second case had a similar issue in which the company had issued an internal product recall due to the presence of broken pieces of the container that gets mixed with cream contents during filling and packaging. He mentioned that this was more challenging than the previous case as the container was not transparent ( it was blue), and there was limited space for setup. ‘They used a vacuum suction before the filling station, however larger foreign objects could not guarantee removal via suction and all other foreign objects located near edge of the base of the container, hence a vision inspection system was required. Lighting setup was an issue because a backlight could not be installed under the tub due to the container being blue. So a front light solution method was adopted and the solution was a success due to Omron’s real color sensing technology’ said Mr Silicato.
The real color sensing feature of the FH series ensures high speed processing using color information for accurately detecting defects and edges. Omron’s previous generation vision systems used color segmentation processing and color image processing. However with the use of real color sensing various colors (16.7 million different colors) can be detected and is presented as positions in a 3D RGB space. Therefore edges of the container can be detected if it’s broken. Formerly, the manufacturing plant used vacuum to remove unwanted particles, however this was not successful. ‘The FH vision system was installed with one controller not only to detect broken pieces of the container but also to ensure that once the lid is closed the label matched the barcode. OMRON successfully implemented this FH vision system despite the challenges faced, it can be said that with one controller five cameras were set-up to increase productivity’ mentioned Mr. Silicato. As the sensor is a multiline processing system that is able to perform GS1 code inspection, character reading (OCR), package insert detection and external inspection which is essential in track and trace industries by saving space and reducing cost.
Even though a product recall may negatively impact an industry, it is done so with respect to consumer safety. Omron’s main goal is to regain customer trust and ensure the safety of the community by providing solutions regardless of the challenges on the way.
Interview with Robert Silicato, Business Development manager at OMRON Electronics.