The Advantages of Automated Vision Inspection

In a competitive industry, appearances play a major role in the decision of a consumer to purchase baked products from one brand over another.

The Advantages of Automated Vision Inspection

Image Credit: KPM Analytics

Consumers show little interest in knowing how a piece of mixing or baking equipment is enhancing efficiency and throughput of their product purchase. Consumers’ main priority is cost, visual appeal, and other factors. For visual appeal, it is important for them that the product depicted on the packaging appears exactly like the product they are going to consume, or that it is consistent from one purchase to another.

In-Line and Over-Line Vision Inspection technologies provide 100% visual inspection of product at full-line speeds.

In-Line and Over-Line Vision Inspection technologies provide 100% visual inspection of product at full-line speeds. Image Credit: KPM Analytics

However, with the technological advancements that exist in different phases of the baking industry today, most companies still tend to use manual inspection processes to sort out-of-spec products before packaging. This is as the last line of defense. This presents risks and challenges in a few aspects, such as:

  • Operator-Dependent Assessment: Manual observation is a naturally subjective measurement process that impacts product consistency. Such risks are compounded while functioning at full-line speeds.
  • Rising Business Expenses: Food commodity prices are increasing. The increase in worldwide supply chain challenges and inflation, for exapmle, have taken a toll on companies. Hence, any wasted product as a result of incorrect inspection could considerably impact the bottom line of the operation.
  • Work-Force/Training-Related Problems: Hiring good help is always difficult, but even more so today due to the struggles of today’s labor force. Even after hiring the right person, the associated training can be expensive and laborious for the company.

Optimizing Product Flow is Key to Driving Profit

Over the last few years, many baking companies have started to install in-line and over-line vision inspection technologies — like the ones from KPM Analytics and its EyePro and Sightline product brands.

Such turn-key systems integrate high-speed cameras with imaging software and advanced algorithms to accurately detect and quantify food products at full-line speeds.

Each could be programmed to examine particular features that are vital to a product brand, like the color, size, shape, and distribution of ingredients or features (seeds, ridges, toppings, holes/indentations, and others), and virtually any other visual characteristics might be hard or even impossible to quantify by manual approaches.

100% Product Inspection While Addressing the Quality Assurance Gaps Prompted by Labor Challenges

On a frequent basis, manual observation of products is pointless since there is a huge variation between operators compared to the specification limit range. There is not sufficient data to make informed decisions regarding process quality.

As a methodology, vision inspection includes taking images of every single product, examining those images, and pulling out as many measurements as are mathematically possible.

This implies the operator could achieve repeatable and quantifiable data on highly particular 2D and 3D product attributes. In a few configurations, such systems could be programmed to examine features that have been thought to be impossible to regulate, like slope height, seed coverage, coating or texture variations, and much more.

Left: 3D geometry of a muffin; Right: Split analysis of a loaf of bread.

Left: 3D geometry of a muffin; Right: Split analysis of a loaf of bread. Image Credit: KPM Analytics

For several operations, the payback is available in the form of reliable data on every single product. Such systems can be delivered pre-installed with comprehensive product libraries that have been made from thousands of sample scans. With time, the operator could make their own special measurement libraries for particular products.

All data is stored for future reference, and it is repeatable, reliable, and accurate. Once that data is in place, it is then possible to measure things that are otherwise virtually impossible to measure by hand or sight (for instance, the number of sesame seeds on a hamburger bun).

This decreases a company’s reliance on extra labor while also enabling the operator to make data-driven decisions in real time that will aid them in decreasing product waste.

Vision Inspection at the Forefront of a Modernized Baking Operation

Example of a real-time product monitoring application, like the one used at La Brea Bakery.

Example of a real-time product monitoring application, like the one used at La Brea Bakery. Image Credit: KPM Analytics

La Brea Bakery of Van Nuys, CA, an artisan bakery brand within the ARYZTA North America conglomerate of baking operations, has integrated a custom KPM In-Line Vision Inspection solution as part of a considerable effort for continuous improvement and to automate its processes wherever possible.

To evaluate out-of-spec baguettes and other bread products before entering the packaging area, the company implemented in-line vision inspections on three distinct manufacturing lines, as well as automatic rejection applications. Monitors in the makeup and packaging divisions show visual guides to operators to show if the product meets the criteria.

Our employees love it. It’s a communication tool to tell where we’re at with waste in real-time.

Mr. Marcus Garcia, Bakery Director, Van Nuys Facility, La Brea Bakery

This operation was outlined in a recent Baking and Snack article.

Continued Advancements in Vision Technology

Vision inspection software has been rapidly advancing, and this is the core of the KPM Analytics vision inspection systems. At present, the focus has been on coming up with extensive measurement libraries and AI features that will enable the company to enhance prevalent measurements and offer solutions for future needs.

The capacity to perform porosity or crumb analysis is a recent breakthrough. This research provides a more in-depth understanding of products by detailing pore size and distribution as well as texture expectations (airy, dense).

This data is critical for quality assurance and R&D teams doing in-depth analyses of their baked products and testing or validating recipes, as well as quality teams collecting precise, repeatable data for process control.

On the hardware side, one of the newest technologies is the multi-eye system combining Hyperspectral Imaging Technology for progressed foreign body detection and classification.

This technology makes use of a combination of spectroscopy and imaging technology to obtain images of the products at various wavelengths and details the information to detect foreign bodies present on the outer surface and to categorize them.

This will be highly beneficial for baked products that consist of various toppings, such as cookies, pizza, or muffins, where it may be difficult for manual inspectors to detect plastic or other foreign materials that could blend in with other colors on the surface. The vision inspection system can find and categorize the foreign material and keep the product from being passed through to packaging.

Dependable Solutions to Help Maintain Baked Product Quality and Build a Stronger Brand

As consumer demand continues to drive product innovations and new recipe formulations (including gluten-free, whole-grain, or high-protein varieties), companies now have a solution to ensure that their baked goods maintain visual brand standards batch-after-batch with the help of automated vision inspection solutions.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by KPM Analytics.

For more information on this source, please visit KPM Analytics.

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