Need X-ray machines for your site?
Here’s what I’ve learned in 30 years as an FMCG Engineer
– and why I now specify Sapphire X-ray machines:
If you’re thinking of purchasing X-ray machines for your site, you’re making a big decision. You’re committing a lot of money and it’s really important that you get it right. Throughout my career I’ve been responsible for purchasing decisions, I’ve seen a million different contaminant problems, and a million and one different solutions. I’ve been part of teams that have purchased equipment well, and I’ve seen some disastrous lateral thinking.
I want to share with you what I’ve learned so that you can make the right choice for your line(s), first time.
Although we’re primarily an X-ray Inspection Service, I really enjoy helping teams work through their needs to find the right machines for their application. As a result, I now specify X-ray machines as part of our core business. I’ll explain what and why a bit later on, but first I want to get to the useful stuff: I’ve found there are two sets of questions you can ask that will drastically improve your chances of choosing the right machines…
The two sets of questions that get a great result
If you want to get the right machine for your site, I’ve found that firstly you need to start with you: your lines, your applications, your products, your needs. When that’s done, you can move onto the next part – finding the right machine(s) to fulfill those needs.
Let me show you the types of questions that I use to help people find their solutions:
Part One: You – What, How, and Why
The start point isn’t looking at machine brochures. Before that happens, you and your team need to think about what you’re currently doing, what you want to do, and why. Each part of your team will have different viewpoints, so it’s really important to get everyone together to ask the questions and really dig into the details.
- Why: Why are you investing in new machinery?
- Downtime: What %age of downtime are you experiencing on your detection devices?
- Contaminant size: What size contaminants are you currently running at? What do you want to get to?
- Contaminants other than metals: What would you like to find, and what are causing you (or your customer’s) issues?
- Throughput: What speeds would you like to run at?
- Data collection and display: What would you like to see and from where?
- Ease of use: What concerns do you have about how easy the machines are to operate?
- Uptime performance: What realistic %age are you looking to run at?
- Speed of a product changeover: What is the allotted time for a changeover of product and would you like it to be easier and shorter?
- Product quality: What could you be looking for that you are currently not looking for?
- Rejected Products: How do you handle them?
- Cleaning: How long does it take for your machines to be fully cleaned?
- Physical interruptions: What could affect the smooth running of the new machine?
- The magic wand: If you could wave a magic wand, what would you point it at in your process and why?
I go into great detail explaining what I mean by each of these questions in my Metal Detection to X-ray Inspection article, so I won’t repeat myself here; but if you’d like to understand what I mean by each of them, then please do give it a read.
The point is that these are the sorts of questions you need to be asking yourself to have a real insight into the problem you’re trying to solve. If you go through this process, you’ll probably realise there’s a few things that can be improved even before you get new machines, and there’s a few things you can be doing to your lines for when the machines come in. In particular, you’ll probably see that the machinery is only part of the solution.
Now that you know exactly what you want, you can drill down into what the different machines can do:
Part Two: Questions to ask of the machine(s)
Of course, the most import thing is that the machines reliably detect the contaminants you need. But that’s not a question I want to spend time on here. I’m assuming that the reliable detection is a given, and it’s the easiest thing to figure out anyway. The best thing you can do to answer that is to ask the X-ray machine manufacturer to run a batch of your products and show you the findings. Think of all the tricky corner cases that might cause problems and throw them into the batch. If the manufacturer’s smart they’ll volunteer all that for you themselves.
The questions I want to focus on are the practical ones, because in my experience that’s what people forget to focus on up-front.
I recommend you gather your team round a whiteboard – someone from Production, Engineering, Technical, Hygiene, Finance – and start thinking of all the different things you each need to know. Make a list under each dept. heading and you’ll get something that looks like this:
- IP Rating
- Power rating/ consumption
- What technical training
- Onsite RP Regulations
- FDA/ FSMA Approval
- PUWER compliance
- CE compliance
- Compressed air (bar)
- Ethernet connection
- Maintenance needs
- Average reliability stats.
- Intelligent machinery
- Spare parts & lead times
- Technical backup
- Future proofing
- Delivery & installation
- What historical data stored
- What data can be extracted
- Real time display
- Data anywhere?
- Format of paperwork
- Program modification audit
- Built in QA timer
- What can it see?
- IP rating
- Disassembly/ assembly
- Cleaning times
- Hygiene training
- Do’s & Dont’s for Chemicals
- P/P/Minute capability
- Real time display
- Whats on display
- Operator training
- Can it be on my PC?
- Size of product limits
- Parts/ Servicing Costs
- Average lifetime Costs
- Staged payments?
- Rent to buy scheme?
I’m sure there’s lots of questions in there that might seem obvious, but there’s likely a few that didn’t immediately come to mind. Don’t worry that some of the same questions turn up in multiple columns – it’s going to happen.
With those answers in place, you can set up a grid and then evaluate and compare each machine on the same, objective basis.
Whilst the process of choosing the right X-ray machines is an important one, I hope I’ve shown you that it can be made easier. Start with a thorough investigation of what you’re doing and why, from that make a list of features you’re going to objectively rate the machines with, and take control of the process. If you do that, then in my experience you’ll find a fantastic solution for your needs.
Want me to help you?
As I said before, I love helping people through this process – so I’d love to discuss your application and help you find your right solution. When we’ve been through it all, and decided what you need, I’ll get you a quote from Sapphire Inspection.
I always specify Sapphire’s X-ray machines because I believe the Cheyney technology inside of them is more capable and more reliable than anything else on the market. They design and build the machines themselves completely in the UK and every line of the software has been written by their hands. They’ll tell you with a straight face that – if it’s properly looked after – an X-ray tube need never be replaced, and I’ve seen hard data that they’ve had customer machines running for twenty years to prove it.
If you decide to accept their quote, then I’ll be there to make sure they install the machine properly, set it up, programme your products, train your staff, and I’ll watch it run through to make sure I’m happy it’s right. For me there’s not much better than a job done properly.
Sapphire’s machine range
As you can see by the table below, Sapphire have a range of systems for different applications – but the main thing to understand is that each of these machines can be completely customised to individual needs. That’s why I offer to help you go through the process and find the right machine (and customisation!) for you.
|Machine||Datasheet (click to download .pdf)|
If you think I can help, please do get in touch!
If you’d like me to help then just say; either fill out the contact box below, or give me a call – and I’ll be in touch asap.
Prefer to call us instead?
If you’d rather call, then please do – our numbers are here!