Health Specialties Manufacturing (HSM) could borrow the tagline Ford used in the 80s and 90s: “Quality Is Job 1.” To protect product quality, in January 2015 the company installed a standalone Safeline SideChek x-ray inspection system from Mettler-Toledo Safeline. The machine ensures that HSM’s products—including probiotics, enzymes, vitamins and joint-muscle blends— are free of contaminants, correctly filled and complete.
As part of The GHT Companies, HSM serves its sister companies, Global Health Trax, Vibrant Nutraceuticals and Green Leaf Sciences, but it also formulates and produces private-label lines for a growing list of global customers and has produced vegan-qualified products for select markets. The ever-expanding product lineup includes liquid and powder blends and a variety of packaging sizes and formats.
“The investment in the x-ray system shows we care about the safety of our products,” says Ernesto Mejia, Director of QC/QA and R&D at The GHT Companies. He explains: “If we were using metal detection, we would need to inspect product before sealing. But we believe inspecting the package after it is sealed is essential to maximize product quality, and it increases efficiencies.
“There’s a big price difference between metal detection and x-ray equipment, but management made the commitment because metal detection had difficulty efficiently checking products with iron content, an oxygen scavenger or a pump with a metal spring. X-ray systems can detect non-metal as well as metal contaminants and check other attributes. For example, in a canister of powder, it can confirm the presence of a scoop and desiccant pouch. An x-ray system also can check fill level. If a container isn’t filled to specifications, the machine can be programmed to provide an alert.”
The SideChek x-ray system also excels at inspecting packaging involving foil laminations, which can confuse metal detection systems and result in inefficiencies. “This broad capability is what’s unique with x-ray,” says Mejia, who first learned about the systems at a PACK EXPO trade show.
The SideChek x-ray inspection system was purchased through Pacific Packaging and Inspection (PPI), Ontario, CA, an independent sales representative for Mettler-Toledo Safeline. “The GHT Companies wanted to inspect products for foreign contaminants plus have the ability to ensure that fill levels are correct and all components are present,” says Kirk Isham, sales representative at PPI.
With so many different configurations and sizes of product packaging, Mejia wanted one machine that could inspect everything. He says, “I didn’t want to be limited, so Mettler-Toledo Safeline designed the system to work with all the types of products we currently produce. My Safeline SideChek unit is big enough to inspect packages ranging from 1 ounce to 1 gallon.”
The SideChek x-ray system inspects product from all three packaging lines and detects and automatically rejects product with contaminants as small as 0.2mm, including metal, stone, glass and bone. Multiple wall openings in the x-ray room allow product to arrive from one of the packaging lines or from storage and exit to secondary packaging where it is manually loaded into cases. A maximum speed of 600 ft/min translates into up to 1,200 inspections/min.
Even at maximum speed there are no problems with false rejects. “The machine is very accurate,” reports Mejia. “The unit is programmable, and we can set the detection parameters,” he notes. In addition, he says, “We are able to check why a package was rejected.”
Software, recipes and a touchscreen operator interface simplify operation. Virtually no in-house maintenance is needed. Cleaning and sanitation requirements are minimal since incoming product is sealed. “I’m very pleased with it,” says Mejia.