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Skånemejerier is Implementing a Fully Automated Non-destructive Leak Detector on the Production Lines

All productions wish to limit packaging leaks to some extent. The dairy Skånemejerier in southern Sweden experienced a sudden increase in the number of leaking packages on a new product line. As a result, they decided to find a solution that would solve the problem. This initiated a well thought out decision to add more leak testing technology to the production.

Skånemejerier, a dairy situated in Kristianstad near Malmö, has 600 employees and cooperate with more than 400 dairy farmers in the surrounding area. Since 2012 Skånemejerier has been part of the French Groupe Lactalis which is the world’s largest dairy company and cheese producer. The company works on three basic values: proximity, taste and health. To be able to fulfill these values the dairy must be able to guarantee fresh and tasty products while at the same time meet modern standards for healthy and nutritious food.

We cannot afford complaints

The dairy has a wide variety of products ranging from different varieties of milk and yogurt to cheese, butter and juice. In total, they have seven separate production lines. Four of the lines are joined into one line just before palletizing. To some degree the dairy has always had minor problems with the packaging. In 2010 when the dairy started up a new line for the Finnish market, they suddenly experienced a rise in the number of packaging leaks.

“This was very bad. At that time, we had a Dansensor LeakPointer from MOCON Europe (Dansensor) to test samples from the production. That used to be sufficient to be sure that no leaking packages left the dairy. When we started the production line for the Finnish market the number of leaking packages seemed to explode and the Dansensor LeakPointer suddenly couldn’t keep up with the number of leaking packages.

A dairy like Skånemejerier cannot afford complaints from our customers, so we had to find a way to stop the leaking packages – and it had to be found quickly,” says Lars-Göran Alm, Maintenance Manager at Kristianstad Ostförädling AB.

“We saw the Dansensor LeakMatic II presented at a fair in 2012 and realized that this was the best solution for us. In coorperation with Mikael Sidmalm from Proreg Control AB we managed to install the machines in the production so that they work online and we do not need extra staff for supervision. But we are now able to catch all the leaking packages and repack them so we avoid any product waste, and equally important, we avoid dissatisfied customers,” Lars-Göran explains.

Easier to leak test than to change the production line

Skånemejerier discovered that part of the leak problem is due to a vertical flow packaging method used on the product line for the Finnish market. “When the product is automatically dropped from above into the package, there is a risk that part of the product gets stuck in the sealing of the package. This creates a leak in the sealing and allows air to enter the package. Air in the package will damage the product and shorten the shelf life. As we cannot change the production line, we cannot prevent the products from creating leaks in the package sealing. But we can identify the leaking packages and prevent the damaged products from ending up with customers.

“Food waste is a big problem today and we do not want to be part of that, so of course we want to give the longest shelf life possible to our products. At the same time, happy customers mean everything to us, so we are not willing to take any risks in terms of our product quality. We saw only one solution to our problem with the leaking packages: to test for leaking packages, then sort out the leaking packages and repack,” Lars-Göran says.

We have achieved our goal

Today Skånemejerier has implemented two Dansensor LeakMatic II machines. Each machine can test 4-5 shipping cartons per minute, but each production line produces up to 25 crates/cartons per minute. “This means that we can’t possibly test all the packages. We are testing samples off-line in one Dansensor LeakMatic II. We also test different products depending on the load and requests we have for the production. We are going to install a third machine so we can keep up with the production. Then we will have a Dansensor LeakMatic II on each of the two packaging lines and a third one for testing samples,” Lars-Göran says.

Skånemejerier is not used to customer complaints and they have until now avoided any unsatisfied customers. “We want to keep it that way and still be able to change our packaging methods like the one for the Finnish market. We measure our leak percentage in ppm (parts per million) and our goal is to keep the leak percentage under 8 – this we have achieved. We have very few complaints from customers, and these few we have managed to reduce by 50 %” Lars-Göran says.

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