Lakeside's Random Lake facility processes frozen cut and cob corn and peas, which are shipped in 1,650 lb. totes to other Lakeside Foods locations for packaging or to outside sources for storage. The plant made its first foray into automated inspection in 1995. The first machine did a satisfactory job of removing defects and helped reduce the number of manual inspectors needed. But Pete Simon, general manager of the Random facility, sought a more efficient way to meet product quality standards.
"We were overrunning the old machine, especially with peas," noted Simon. "We were running about 50 percent more capacity than what the machine was rated. We had to have more hand inspectors."
Rather than upgrade the old system, Lakeside's management team decided that it would be more cost effective to purchase a new machine. The plant installed the Prism®2 inspection/defect removal system from Key Technology just prior to the pea harvest.
"We were after a better quality sort without changing our lines too much," Simon said. "The new machine fit into the same footprint. It was installed in one day, and a service tech came in and set it up in half a day."
Prism2 retains the "sorting engine" - cameras, flexible camera configurations, electronics, and user interface - of the first Prism inspection system. But Prism2 offered improvements such as a shorter, narrower footprint, an integrated control module, high intensity discharge (HID) lamps, and a quick-release belt for fast application changeovers.
"We do a better job of sorting out defects with less loss of good product than on the older machine," Simon noted, claiming major improvement in product quality, especially with peas. "Before, we had to drop our production down 10 to 20% to adjust for a higher defect field.
Changeover between products is significantly faster with Prism2, according to Brian Ziebell, operations manager. "There are programs in the machine that let you jump between corn and peas with the blink of an eye. With the old machine, changeovers took between 15 and 30 minutes."
Operators can quickly adjust Prism2's sorting criteria for color changes or increased defect levels. "If the color changes in your corn, it's five minutes maximum to make adjustments," says Ziebell.