All fruit and vegetables sold in Europe and the UK must conform to marketing standards. This protects us as consumers and helps us make informed choices based on our preferences for quality and freshness. Depending on the type of fruit or vegetable, there are requirements for the type of information on the label, such as country of origin, classification, size code, weight, and variety name. There may also be separate code markings on the pack for retailer and producer specific requirements.
Packaging verification – Is it needed for fruit and vegetables?
Allergen risks are generally lower in this industry, but fresh produce snack pots and mixed pots are on the rise due to the trend for healthier eating. As a result, the need for packaging verification is required for accurate labelling and to legally conform. As a consumer, you would expect the basic rule to be that the package you buy contains what’s on the label. However, mistakes and errors do happen. They can occur at any point in the primary through to tertiary packaging process, from punnet to tray to pallet.
Packaging verification is the implementation of line control to ensure that the right packaging are on the right lines, and that the right codes are always present. The presence of codes ensures that produce data and counts can be accounted for and recorded.
In the fruit and vegetable industry, packaging verification is predominantly a manual process, requiring an operator to confirm that the correct coding and packaging labels have been properly applied. Various checks are carried out throughout the production run, including manual barcode scanner checks to ensure the correct film and label are in place.
Automation for fresh produce on the packaging lines
As a result of labour shortages, fruit and vegetable producers could benefit greatly from implementing automated systems on the packaging line for three main reasons:
1. Right first time during recipe deployment
Improve set-up times and eliminate human error
Automated packaging verification can be set up right at the start of the production run during recipe deployment. With an automated system, all line devices and data parameters are automatically programmed and matched to the master data in the recipe. This eliminates the risk of devices being set up independently and incorrectly, which is common in manual processes, and eliminates error in using the wrong film or labelling. As the codes and produce are pre-programmed, changeover times are reduced, improving the process of setting up the next production run.
2. Keeping produce fresh with continuous and multiple inspections
Improve quality assurance and production efficiency
Unlike the intermittent manual inspections of traditional approaches, the coding and labelling of artwork is continuously verified 100% of the time during the production run of an automated system. Implementing an automated system that can detect not only the packaging, but the produce, can lead to increased confidence and quality assurance for producers. It also eliminates errors that could result in spoiled produce, incorrect country of origin, or different produce or weight due to incorrect labelling or coding. Visual inspection systems and automatic print inspection work at high speeds, allowing the producer to work at speed and achieve higher volumes and throughput, while keeping the produce fresh.
3. Programmable data monitoring, collection and logging
Provide opportunity for improvement through data insight
Data from the code markings on packaging is continuously monitored, collected and recorded. The data can be aggregated from various points on the packaging line, from primary to pallet labelling, and from each line device. It can be used to drive line performance reporting, understand performance and identify opportunities to optimise processes. The packaging lines can also be programmed to collect manual audit inspection data to drive paperless quality checks from automated systems.
Software solutions for smart packaging lines: a fruit-focused demonstration
If you’d like to learn more about packaging line automation in a fruit environment, we’ll be hosting a demonstration at Fruit Logistica 2024.
We are working on a joint project with our sister company Proseal, the leading provider of packaging solutions to the fresh produce industry, to develop an integrated inspection system. Please visit us from 7-9 February 2024 in Hall 1.1 Stand C-20 to request a demonstration of our automation capabilities.
AutoCoding and Proseal are part of the JBT Corporation family, a leading global technology solutions provider to high-value segments of the food processing industry, committed to providing a service that surpasses customer expectations.