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Two Heads Are Better Than One

A versatile twin-head metal detection unit from LOMA SYSTEMS® is allowing Tendercut Meats to inspect frozen meat packaged in both foil and plastic on the same line, without compromising detection performance.

This future-proof investment gives the meat processor the flexibility to accommodate changing customer demands and represents a far more economic, space-saving solution than operating two separate inspection units.

Tendercut Meats has been processing and packing frozen meat, from chops and joints to whole legs of lamb, for over 30 years. On average 140 tonnes of meat - the majority New Zealand lamb - is packed at its BRC (British Retail Consortium) and EC approved facility in Eastleigh, near Southampton. Last year, following the launch of a new product range by one of its key customers - a leading frozen food retailer - the meat processor replaced an existing ferrous-in-foil metal detector with a flexible twin-head system.

The original ferrous-in-foil detector had been purchased to inspect purely foil-packaged products, such as sliced lamb in gravy. With the new product range, plastic oven-ready bags were introduced. The two materials needed to pass through the same cartoner packaging machine on the same production line, but required different food industry metal detection capabilities.

Drawing on their longstanding relationship, LOMA® advised Tendercut Meats on their options, recommending a combined twin-head unit, comprising an IQ3 system to inspect products wrapped in plastic, and a ferrous-in-foil detector. By simply flicking a switch, the operator can change between the two heads instantaneously.

“There is both a financial and a space saving benefit to installing a twin-head system rather than running two units independently of one on another on separate conveyor belts. The advantage stems from the fact the heads ‘share’ a conveyor and a reject system,” explains Tony Bryant, UK sales manager at LOMA SYSTEMS.

The twin-head unit also has a larger 185mm aperture than the previous ferrous-in-foil unit, giving Tendercut Meats the ability to inspect a wider range of carton sizes.

This is not the first time Tendercut Meats has purchased a LOMA system. In fact, the company has three IQ3 metal detectors, two IQ2 metal detectors, two CW3 checkweighers, plus a LCW 6000 checkweigher that, true to LOMA’s ‘designed to survive’ ethos, continues to operate efficiently 15 years on.

“The LCW 6000 checkweigher is still giving good service, which is testament to the build quality and longevity of LOMA’s machines,” declares Richard Gubbins, factory manager at Tendercut Meats. “One of the things I like about LOMA is that they keep their equipment going thanks to regular servicing and a very rapid rate of response.”

This value-added service extends to the LOMA team, who are always happy to share industry advice, reflects Richard. One such instance was helping the company to interpret and action BRC’s newest Global Food Safety Standard (issue 6). Stipulating that all metal detectors need ‘reject and contain’ systems rather than stop belt style reject mechanisms, Richard points out that: “LOMA was extremely proactive at working with us to bring all of our inspection equipment in line with this new standard and carried out all the necessary upgrades at a minimal cost.”

One of the more challenging metal detection applications at Tendercut Meats is the screening of frozen lamb chops coated in a mint glaze and packed in metallised bags. This task is carried out by LOMA’s metal detector, which like all of Loma’s newest inspection systems can tune out the interference from the metallised bags, providing reliable detection of ferrous and non-ferrous metals as well as stainless steels. A second metal detector is used to inspect frozen chops in plastic trays with film lids.

“We run a two-shift process that starts at 7:30am and runs continuously until 1.00am, so reliability is paramount for us. The LOMA has been a robust, dependable workhorse,” says Richard.

Solving the wet/dry sensitivity challenge

In metal detection terms, frozen products are ‘dry’ and therefore easier to inspect than ‘wet’ or ‘conductive’ products, which generate an electric signal that can disguise the signal emitted by metallic contamination. Several of Tendercut Meats ‘wet’ products involve packing fresh meat in vacuum pouches, which are subjected to a hot water shrinking process.

Impressed by the performance of LOMA’s IQ3 on these wet products, Richard says: “Being a meat processor with very stringent hygiene requirements, durability, IP rating and ease of cleaning have also influenced our inspection equipment purchasing decisions. But the real reason we come back to LOMA year after year is because for the last three decades they have helped us to grow; they’ve always been there to offer support and advice.”

He continues: “Regardless of what product and packaging challenges arise in the future, we are confident that, with LOMA’s unstinting support and knowledge of our business, we will be able to guarantee the safety, integrity and quality of our products.”