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Measurement Engineering in Meat Automation Begins with Sensor Selection

07 March 2015

Quality and hygiene are top priorities in the meat processing industry, because consumers expect high-quality and safe products.

In the Schleswig-Holsteiner city Böklund one knows what's on the line when it comes to sausages. By the end of the 1930s, Böklunder was the first company in Germany to introduce automated production.

Since then the company has prevailed not only as the inventor of sausages in a jar, but is one of the pioneers of a branch which won recognition relatively late in automation: the meat processing industry.

Meat is not only a hygienically sensitive product. It is above all a product whose anatomical features set limits to far-reaching automation.

Solutions are being investigated which deviate from the standards of other branches and open up economical prospects to processing operations.

The best example of this is the work from EDEKA Southwest in Rheinstetten, Germany, one of the most modern meat businesses in Europe.

In all 20 production lines allow for the smooth processing of 4,000 sides of pork and 1,000 beef quarters daily round the clock.

In order for a factory of this order of magnitude to work efficiently, all processes must be IT-supported - from the receipt of goods to the dismantling and production to the packaging and shipping.

Exact Pictures for Dismantling

Early analysis of meat quality is of central significance for the automated dismantling process in Rheinstetten.

A special hardware and software solution, the "Image-Meater" from CSB, classifies the sides of pork fully automatically.

Cameras record the carcasses and sort them into different quality levels with the help of the measurement results. In this way the software determines the exact trade value of all parts such as ham, shoulder, pork belly and cutlets - contact-free and perfectly hygienically.

Wireless Data for More Hygiene

It goes without saying that the transmitter and the measurement amplifier must meet high standards.

But high requirements are also placed on the measuring cable.

Foregoing a wire definitely has its appeal - as in hygienically sensitive areas in which laying cables is very involved.

Meanwhile a whole line of solutions emerges which make the application of wireless technology in the meat industry attractive.

Today, in addition to the tried and tested cabled devices, cable-free devices are also used to record temperatures. Like the Wtrans-T resistance thermometer with radio measurement transmission from Jumo.

With the Wtrans system, the temperatures in the cooking and smoking chambers are recorded continually, but also the core temperature of the product.

Indirect Insight into Production

Today not only temperature and pressure can be measured inline, but much that previously required a chemical analysis.

The parameters are not directly measured, but indirectly - with a physical quantity which correlates to the desired value.

The inline measurement of fat content is a stage of expansion for automation.

It plays an important role in the standardisation of the fat content in the final product. In his plant, Seydelmann conveys this "indirect insight" into production with high resolution near-infrared spectroscopies (NIR) and x-ray technology.

The real time results of the NIR method achieve a precision not inferior to that in laboratory analyses. In this process, the surface of the ground meat is scanned during transport.

Thanks to the continually displayed fat content on the service terminal, immediate changes can be implemented while production is in progress. X-ray technology enables an even more exact analysis.

The fat content can be checked for deviations up to a certain percentage and allocated according to weight. Simultaneously, product safety increases, because contaminants such as bones, glass and metal can be reliably identified and removed.

Trend Towards Automation Continues

Continuous lines are still used less commonly in the meat industry than in other branches.

But the trend towards automation continues, most strongly in processes close to the product, such as packaging.

From 24 to 27 March in Cologne, Anuga FoodTec will prove how large the proportion of automation and measurement engineering is in this important sector.

The exhibitors at the international supplier fair for the food and drink industry will give insight into modern meat production.

There will be state-of-the-art sensors which not only control production, but also record inline the quality of raw goods and manufacture.

Anuga FoodTec shows how far automation in meat and sausage production has advanced.

Next to individual machines, the exhibitors present the fully automated lines for the processing of meat, ham and sausage which display a multitude of highly productive modules.

They not only maximise the producers' economic efficiency - they also guarantee high-quality and safe food.

March 2015

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