Smart Machines & Factories
Contaminant detection data tools
Published:  14 July, 2021

Following a year of pandemic disruption, the focus on AI and Industry 4.0 has resumed, accelerating the race to shorten production times, reduce costs and improve quality. With European food factories seeking practical data technologies and machines to facilitate smarter decision making and increase efficiency, Fortress Technology has launched its new suite of connectivity software to streamline data collection procedures.

Adding to the existing turnkey packages like Contact Reporter - included as standard on all Stealth and Interceptor metal detector models, Fortress unveils the addition of communication adapters and Contact 4.0. Giving food factories complete flexibility and choice in data retrieval technologies to support their Industry 4.0 journey.

New features include OPC/UA and Ethernet/IP adapters which for added flexibility can be integrated with each customers existing networked systems. By automating the data collation and testing procedures, the adapter technologies reduce the margin for human error, facilitating real-time end-to-end production visibility and enhanced maintenance, Quality Assurance and due diligence.

“Connectivity is key,” emphasises Fortress Technology’s European managing director Phil Brown. “We are entering a new Internet of Things (IoT) era where everything that can be connected will be connected. Knitting together the extraction of data and bridging the gap between machines and humans to help predict rather than react to all types of production scenarios.”

Manually monitoring food inspection machine performance can be extremely labour intensive and impact productivity. Even those that have upgraded legacy systems continue to gather data on a machine-by-machine basis rather than integrating and analysing information side-by-side and building up a performance picture.

For many manufacturing IT departments, selecting which IoT technology will add the greatest value can be deemed a minefield. There’s a misperception that moving towards Industry 4.0 will require extensive investment, a dedicated team of developers and slow or limited return on investment.

Phil expands: “Although many Fortress customers express a strong interest in innovation and harnessing the power of data capture, there is an underlying belief that they will not be able to connect new applications with existing legacy inspection machines. In such a fast moving sector like food manufacturing, this hesitancy can have an immense impact on competitiveness.”

Dynamic data how you want it

To assist customers gather real time data, Fortress digital metal detectors are equipped with intelligent machine sensors to provide constant feedback during every phase of the inspection process. For any food factory making tentative steps into digital decision making, Contact Reporter provides a robust, easy to use event logging and record keeping solution available as standard on Stealth and Interceptor metal detectors. No complex integration is required. Users simply install Contact onto their business PC.

Time-stamped data is extracted via USB on a machine-by-machine basis. When uploaded onto the PC, Contact Reporter software converts this data into readable formats.

Contact Reporter collates all this batch data pulled from individual metal detectors, for example any faults that have occurred, metal detection and system changes, as well as detailing any system configurations and settings “This standard record keeping of all events and performance verifications is essential for quality control and ultimately audits. Additionally, data generated can highlight to production managers bottlenecks and drill down to the machine’s performance flagging potential upstream processing issues,” notes Phil.

As an alternative to manually extracting machine data, Stealth and Interceptor users can opt for automated remote data collection using Contact 4.0. This can lead to more consistent reporting and a more accurate data picture for each metal detector, as well as future proofing Smart Factory automation projects.

All of the Contact options maintain compliance with all international food safety standards, including HACCP, BRC and GFSI/SQF. “For food SMEs in particular, Fortress recognises that digital fear remains prevalent. Contact provides a transition step from manual, hard copy data gathering to a digitised Food Quality Management system and begins to facilitate data use in a more sophisticated way,” states Phil.

Small data tipping point

In food inspection, the quantity of data tags is fairly small. Yet, this makes it easier to automate the identification of meaningful patterns. When time-series granular data is monitored side by side across a fleet of machines 24/7, it provides production managers with the level of production oversight previously unattainable.

Responding to this trend, Fortress has launched Contact 4.0. A real-time web-based remote management solution, it enables multi-site food plants to review and collect data and securely monitor the performance of unlimited metal detectors connected on the same network.

Providing secure access via a web gateway and 24/7 monitoring of multiple units, Contact 4.0 is a networked connected device that sits on the same network as the metal detector, communicating via the IP address. Authorised users simply log into the browser from any networked device. By creating this cohesive two-way reporting system, production and QA managers can troubleshoot a performance issue without having to be physically in front of the metal detector. Reports can be configured and emailed daily, per shift or weekly. Test failure or fault events trigger an email alert, detailing when an event occurred on a specific unit.

Adapt and evolve

Despite fears of cybersecurity breaches, paper records actually bring higher risks than digital data. Not only can manually collated information be incorrectly recorded, forgotten or lost, results can also be deliberately falsified. If food manufacturers cannot prove when and where inspection of their products took place, there’s a risk that they’ll be unable to demonstrate HACCP compliance and could be forced to re-inspect an entire batch. This not only slows down production, at worst it could trigger a product recall.

Utilising automated OPC/UA Adapter and Ethernet/IP Adapters provides a robust, simpler and safer way to rapidly stream data within the firewall of a business network. Giving customers an industry standard system integration option, data tags defined by each food factory are converted in real time to auto-populate an internal business database. Again, providing valuable oversight to support flexible production.

Fortress Technology’s OPC/UA Adapter is a one way web-based solution, collecting data and storing defined data and production parameters. Its interoperability allows multiple metal detectors to feed data in real time into a client’s central server. Additionally, the OPC/UA architecture is supported by most major automation technology suppliers. Making it easier to synchronise data generated by multiple machines in smart processing environments.

Paving the way for remote management of multiple machines across multiple sites within local IT infrastructures, the Ethernet IP Adapter gives food manufacturers the technology to connect and view the performance of an unlimited number of metal detectors via the connected IP address, as well as push parameters out for remote set-up and monitoring. This feature can help to reduce machine downtime by providing remote assistance.

The road ahead

Latency, fragmentation and security are critical areas that continue to be addressed as the race towards Industry 4.0 accelerates. Phil is quick to point out that connectivity is the foundation of any good digitisation strategy commenting: “The standout factor that makes data so valuable is how it is analysed, spots trends and patterns and as a result informs better business decision making.”

In designing this modular suite of data communication tools, Fortress is ensuring all customers are catered for. For those with existing data extraction and factory management software, Adapter technologies provide a seamless connection and integration system aligned to industry standard systems. Those yet to introduce systems to collect and collate factory data may be more drawn towards the Contact Report or Contact 4.0 options

Reassuringly, implementation of Contact software is quick and doesn’t divert a company’s in-house IT resources away from other projects. Functional and available on all Stealth and Interceptor metal detectors, it’s simple to adapt using Fortress Technology’s new suite of Industry 4.0 tools. Delivering practical data integration in the format to match every customer’s internal reporting systems.