Quality inspections are a critical requirement for all manufacturing and packaging lines. Being able to identify defective products before they are shipped to customers can bring significant savings in both time and money. It prevents costly product recalls, wasted production and potentially expensive legal costs.
For perishable products – from food to pharmaceuticals – quality inspection of the packaging is also vital. An unreadable barcode or a wrong expiry date could lead to perfectly good products being discarded. And increasingly strict legislation is making clear marking a top priority for all types of products.
Smarter systems, greater efficiency
With the increasing automation of production lines, there needs to be a corresponding level of automation for inspection and quality control. Automated systems can improve a line’s effectiveness by enabling tasks to be carried out quickly and accurately.
However, the real benefits only become apparent with ‘smart’ automation, using features such as smart data. For instance, smart vision inspection systems enable any defects to be identified and dealt with rapidly, with minimal impact to the line. This can boost the efficiency of any production line and reduce both product wastage and downtime.
A question of quality
All production lines face quality control challenges. In the pharmaceutical industry, it’s particularly important that any mistakes are avoided. The industry therefore leads the market by ensuring that its line equipment delivers the best guarantees against any defects. Although the potential consequences might not be as severe in other industries, if any defects reach the public domain, the consequences can still be far-reaching, affecting everything from consumer health to brand confidence.
Governments also want to protect their citizens, and are therefore enforcing increasingly tighter restrictions on package markings, especially in the food and pharma sectors. For example, the EU is introducing new regulations in 2019 that require production lines to meet even higher standards of quality control.
Omron’s systems cover all aspects of the production line, including quality inspection. Whether providing a complete system solution or a partial upgrade to an existing system, each component is geared towards ensuring the highest levels of quality control. Our very compact visual inspection units monitor production in real-time and respond instantly to any defect.
Data from the vision system is processed locally and sent via the cloud for powerful analysis that then enables the system to take appropriate actions. The system is totally interlinked, with better connections between the machines in the manufacturing line leading to more accurate quality control and higher efficiency.
If an error is detected, the system can often compensate automatically without disrupting production. Our smart automation solutions are very fast, with powerful processors, but are easy to use. This combination of speed, intelligence and user-friendliness delivers the most effective inspections and transparent quality control.
Inspections that lead to action
To be capable of making smart decisions, an inspection system needs to collect data from a sensor, such as a vision camera. Vision cameras can monitor different aspects of the product – for instance, they can check for imperfections or check labels for misprints or missing information.
Powerful processing then analyses this data, comparing the actual results with the expected results. If any problems are found, the system follows programmed rules on how to respond. It might even be able to deal with the matter automatically but an operator will always be informed to ensure correct process management and in case any additional action is required.
With increasing volumes of data being processed, smarter machines are needed to keep manufacturing lines running longer, with less downtime and higher productivity. All data is logged by the system and is typically stored in the cloud. This also ensure compliance with regulations, as operations can be reviewed later for auditing purposes.
An effective inspection and process management system will not only locate production errors and reduce waste, but will also be very flexible. By combining vision, motion, control, safety and robotics within a single management system (such as Omron’s Sysmac Studio), production lines can accommodate short production runs and adapt to market demands more easily. Line set-ups can be changed quickly for new production runs, and the recognition pattern for quality inspection can be updated easily in the software. This ensures that different variants or even different products are produced and packaged correctly.
The system is also future-proof, as it can be easily adapted to accommodate any changes to regulations. Manufacturers therefore won’t need to worry about modifying their production lines to meet future regulations: all that’s required is a new firmware update.