As Lock Inspection Systems’ recent installation at Bacheldre Mill illustrates, artisanal producers as well as large industrial food manufacturers stand to benefit from advanced in-line quality control.
Bacheldre Mill in Mid Wales dates back to 1575 and was taken over by former Royal Mail workers Matt and Anne Scott in 2002. Initially planning to operate the site for camping, they were inspired by the idea of preserving and building on the mill’s heritage. They turned the water mill from a working museum, grinding a tonne of grain a month, into a thriving cottage industry, producing premium stone-ground bread, home baking and speciality flours including spelt, rye, wholemeal and oak smoked varieties. Demand means that the stones are now turned by motor as opposed to water, but aside from this, the production methods are very much in keeping with tradition.
Bacheldre Mill counts Waitrose, delicatessens, independent food halls and Michelin star restaurants among its customers. All of these high-end establishments expect the very highest quality standards from their suppliers.
To ensure they do not default on their commitment to supply unadulterated, stone-ground flour, the Scotts have implemented a three-tier quality control system which utilises magnets, receivers and automated metal detection equipment from Lock Inspection Systems.
"We might operate from a centuries-old mill but we have adopted the latest food production standards including a full HACCP system," says Matt Scott. "We’ve never had any issues with metallic contamination, but with the quality of our product of paramount importance, we cannot afford to be complacent. As in any food production environment there is always a chance that a problem within the upstream manufacturing process, for example, a bolt coming off an auger, could result in metal entering the product flow. Deploying metal detection gives us the reassurance that even if this does happen, each bag of flour that leaves the mill will still be contaminant-free."
And the Scotts’ trust in Lock’s metal detection units has not been misplaced. "Lock’s systems are performing exactly as we hoped they would. They are proving reliable, giving us complete peace of mind," adds Matt Scott.
Bacheldre Mill has two Lock units in operation. One, a compact throat metal detector which inspects flour as it flows into bulk 16 and 25kg bags, is located within the mill itself. The other conveyorised system is located in the packing hall, where it performs a final check on 500g, 1kg and 1.5kg retail bags of flour before they are packed into transit cases. Approximately 4000 retail bags of flour pass through the inspection unit each day.
The metallised labels on the retail packs could potentially cause problems for some metal detectors, but as Rob Gray, from Lock Inspection Systems, explains, Lock’s multi-frequency units are engineered to find metal within metallised packaging without the risk of false rejects.
"Our multi-frequency systems work within a range of three crystal tuned frequencies and will automatically select the optimum frequency according to product characteristics. So when the unit is confronted with metallised packaging, it will operate at a frequency which can ignore this but which still delivers excellent detection results."
Bacheldre Mill also uses Lock’s proprietary DDS software to assist with detector set up. "By optimising the product settings and detector parameters, this software ensures the highest sensitivity levels are achieved when inspecting metallised packs," says Gray.