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FILTEC: Scaling SME manufacturing

Source:Food Bev Asia

Date Published:8/13/2019 10:08:12 PM

FILTEC’s James Kearbey shares how the company meets the needs of Asian SMEs in scaling operations to size, cost, and speed.  

IN-LINE inspection solutions provider, FILTEC is making it easier for small and medium enterprises to test and examine their packaging according to scope, budget, and pace. “Our technology provides the flexibility to expand from a single-point, single-solution for inspection to multiple technologies that provide total container integrity,” explains company President and CEO James Kearbey. Whether for fill level, seal integrity, labeling, or other inspection criteria, FILTEC can continue to add new sensors to a single controller to expand its use. The controller is also universal so it can be used throughout the entire process, and one operator can manage the machines throughout the whole production facility. FILTEC’s solutions are versatile and can inspect containers for the food, beverage, and consumer goods industries.

The scalability and versatility of FILTEC machines make them suitable for SMEs. “They can be scaled according to applications, and a control package can be sold as just a stand-alone fill level. As companies’ inspection criteria and businesses grow, they can incorporate additional technologies to make the systems versatile. It is not as if you’re buying one machine, and it does only one thing. With a FILTEC solution, one machine is used for various requirements, and it allows you to change or replace the technology and add sensors to meet each of those requirements. So, it is versatile and useful for smaller operations.”

Production speed is adjusted to the manufacturer’s need and can be set for one container per minute, or it can be 2,500 containers per minute.”

FILTEC team (from left) Patrick Hilgert, General Manager; James Kearbey, President and CEO; Joern Melzer, Managing Director, Asia; and Christian Beck, Senior Product Manager

FILTEC team (from left), Patrick Hilgert, General Manager; James Kearbey, President and CEO; Joern Melzer, Managing Director, Asia; and Christian Beck, Senior Product Manager.

Industry experience

FILTEC was founded more than 60 years ago as a company-manufacturing test and inspection equipment for the packaging industry. Its initial focus was on the beer and beverage sectors.

FILTEC inspects glass bottles, metal cans, and PET containers. From empty containers coming into the production facility to the full-finished cases going to the end-user, our solutions present at each point of the process.  “FILTEC empty container integrity solutions ensure there is no damage or foreign particles inside the container,” says Kearbey.

The containers then go through the filling process and analytics for a performance check of each filling valves to ensure proper fill level. Kearbey stated, “If there’s a valve that’s underperforming, not only do we remove the underfill from the production line, we log which valve is underperforming, so companies can schedule maintenance to repair that valve to eliminate waste from their production process.”

FILTEC solutions conduct various packaging inspections, including vacuum and pressure detection, and label inspection to validate the process and the quality of the container to protect the customers’ brand.

Customising solutions

The continuously evolving packaging industry has led to a gamut of brand differentiation through container sizes, shapes, closures, and thickness. To keep its inspection systems abreast with such changes, FILTEC tailors and calibrates its solutions to fit even the most unusual niche applications.

Industry 4.0-ready

FILTEC’s ability to integrate, scale, and gather data make it easier for clients to transition into operating smart factories incrementally.

The machines enable them to make fast changes in production levels based on demand, as well as network sensors. They likewise gather and feed data to identify and mitigate potential problems.

“The INTELLECT Quantitative Analytics provides real-time reporting and collects production line performance details that plant operations can use for preventative measures or maintenance in their production process. This level of detail analytics is important and will reject the defective container from the production line and provide details on what caused that defect. Do the raw materials used in production have problems? Is there something with the filling or the packaging process that caused it? You can capture that information, and report it back as part of the clients’ total operations controls.”

Affordability of US brands

When FILTEC first entered into the Asia market, it was the larger multinationals producing in Asia that first adopted our technology. Today, local brands and manufacturers are starting to buy and are putting standards in place that their multinational peers are going by,” he shares. “It seems like it’s expensive even if it’s just a stand-alone machine; however, when additional inspections are incorporated, you have completely different solutions at minimal incremental costs to add to the machine.

We’ve been doing this for more than 60 years and its 100% inspection at full production line speeds. That’s crucial. You can have an operator standing there trying to find the defect visually, and he might get lucky, but it’s not reliable. So having automated inspection machines on the line is critical.”

Business in Vietnam

Vietnam, in particular, has been investing in inspection machinery for automated inspection over the last 10 to 12 months, according to Mr. Kearbey. “More manufacturers are going to the market, labor costs are low, and it’s easier to distribute from that region, so we are seeing investments going in the market.” He adds that in the last year alone, FILTEC has had several projects in Vietnam. 

Expanding its vision

Plans to further test inspection technology are afoot, Mr. Kearbey said. “We’ll be doing more with vision technology which can be a one-machine vision engine that can support three cameras, or it can be four-machine vision engine that can support 12, 14, or 16 cameras. It’s scalable with different packaging, different mounting in different locations of the production line,” he assures. “It can be used for packaged foods, as well as packaged beer and beverage. We will look at different technologies as well for different, total solutions for test and inspection.”

 

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