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All-in-One Fat Standardisation Solution

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article image The NIR sensor above the grinder outlet in idle position. Grinder stopped.

The advantages of continuous process control of fat content in meat products are broadly recognised, but implementing a monitoring and control solution is no simple matter when you have to assemble the various hardware, software and calibration elements and then make them all work together. A Finnish processing plant has found a new and more convenient approach with a ready-to-go solution, providing everything needed to implement standardisation monitoring: the XDS Process Analytics™ Direct Light system from FOSS .

The Jyväskyla meat processing plant is a part of the Finnish Saarioinen group that takes prides in a range of healthy, high quality food products. The plant must constantly remain within the company’s strict standards and this made the decision about whether to invest in new technology to monitor fat content quite easy. But with limited in-house technical knowledge the next question about how to implement a system was a little tougher. 

Production manager Heimo Viitamäki recalls how a number of suppliers were contacted during 2006 in the search for a means of making fat content more consistent. “The decision to go with FOSS was made because of its total solution concept. This includes the analyser and the monitoring software which was modified to meet the needs of the production line,” he says.

How it Works

At the heart of the XDS Process Analytics™ Direct Light system, there are a number of near infrared (NIR) analysers placed at the outlet of the meat grinders. These provide the fat measurement part of the total solution concept. The ground meat is measured continuously and the measuring head sensor of the NIR analysers is integrated with the grinders in a way which does not interfere with the normal process.

Load cells placed under the mixers provide additional measurements of weight.  

The information is fed to a sturdy monitoring system attached to a wall in the processing plant. This includes a touch screen PC.

The monitoring system then receives fat content and batch weight information continuously from the sensors. The solution is designed to run unattended, leaving production operators free to concentrate on their main production issues.  

Before starting a batch production, the operator chooses a readymade recipe which may be modified if necessary. The measurement results are displayed on the touch screen display in the form of a graph together with information about achieved fat content and batch weight.

The system also continuously calculates the remaining parts of lean and fat meat required to meet the target. This is presented as a recommendation to the operator.

An Integrated System

Calibration of the system was an involved process that drew on the resources of near infrared experts at FOSS to calibrate measurements according to the diameter of outlet pipe from the grinder. Researchers investigating the subject have found a clear correlation between the grinder hole plate and possible accuracy. Most findings agree on a recommended diameter of less than 15 mm for optimal accuracy.

The system has now become an integrated part of the Jyväskyla plant and according to Viitamäki the investment has been worthwhile. “We produce more consistently than before and we are satisfied with the system, since it makes the discussions about delivered fat level to customers internally and externally, almost obsolete,” he says. “We already have the possibility to check historically on production data one year back.”

Future possibilities include expansion of the system to include automatic control of the grinder, which would make the monitoring system into a closed loop control system.

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