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The Right Metal Detector at the Right Thym
by Sandra McBride
Thymly Products, pronounced “timely,” is a manufacturer of dry mix ingredients for the food industry. One of its top priorities is food safety, which is why the company's customers, from the largest bakeries in the United States to small mom-and-pop bakeries, trust Thymly—and for good reason.
“This is an interesting time to be in the food industry,” said Dustin Rahn, plant manager at Thymly Products. “So many things are changing from a food safety perspective. A food processor must either conform to the new, rising standards or be ready to go out of business. Thymly has always done a very good job with food safety, and part of that is always looking to improve.”
Thymly operates three production lines at its plant in Colora, Md. One line is flexible enough to run every product and package that Thymly produces, from 10-pound pails to 80-pound kraft bags of dry mix ingredient blends. This huge size range, in addition to the varied moisture content, challenges most metal detectors. Typically, a metal detector designed to handle products as large as 80 pounds cannot detect a 2 mm piece of stainless steel, which is the goal of many processors. Oftentimes, a processor with such large products must downgrade its specifications to 2.2 or even 2.5 mm.
Thmyly found its solution in Mettler-Toledo Safeline’s PowerPhasePRO RB. It is designed specifically for processors that demand the highest detection sensitivity when inspecting large bulk products or packages. An advanced detection coil design features unique transmit-receive coil geometry, and new electronic filtering techniques deliver unparalleled sensitivity to all metal types and shapes. The PowerPhasePRO RB easily detects ferrous, non-ferrous, and the more difficult to identify non-magnetic stainless steel, as well as non-spherical contaminants such as wire, swarf, and slithers of metal, which are notoriously hard to detect.
Thymly’s journey to the PowerPhasePRO RB began in December 2010 when the company decided to replace its old metal detector. “We had been running at the industry standard when a customer came in and requested that we bump it up,” noted Rahn.
“We considered metal detectors from three different suppliers. We compared detection sensitivity, ease of use, and the quality of construction. Also, we needed the metal detector to communicate with our PLC system,” explained Rahn. “Our sales rep, Dick DeNenno from Reliant Packaging Systems, was very confident in the PowerPhasePRO RB, and that confidence spilled over. He took me to a plant in Baltimore where a similar unit was being used. I was really impressed with the effectiveness of the unit, and the ease of use blew me away.”
Food safety is a critical focus in the industry today. Food security and food defense are important parts of food safety. Thymly has gone through its plant to identify any potential issues, and has made every attempt to make sure the plant is secure. The metal detector is a big part of that security.
“To improve food defense, the industry is increasingly moving toward capturing non-editable records,” said Rahn. “The PowerPhasePRO RB metal detector throws records directly into our data management system, automatically documenting the operation and streamlining our processes.”
Thymly connected its new metal detector to its PLC system to keep track of run sizes, run times, line workers, and product type, as well as temperature and humidity. “This information is automatically delivered by the metal detector and stored in the plant’s PLC system,” explained Rahn. “It reduces the potential for user error and it takes one more thing off the operator’s plate, which allows him to focus on other things. Having password protected the metal detector also reduces user error and helps everybody stay focused on their respective areas.” Operators, supervisors, and quality assurance personnel each have different levels of access.
Thymly connected its new metal detector to its PLC system to keep track of run sizes, run times, line workers and product type, as well as temperature and humidity. This reduces the potential for user error and allows the operator to focus on other tasks.
Connecting the metal detector to the plant’s PLC system enables Thymly to make another productivity-enhancing advancement. Currently, when the metal detector senses a reject, the line stops and an audible bell sounds to alert the operator, who addresses the situation. Once the robotic palletizer is installed and connected to the plant’s PLC, the metal detector will send a signal to the palletizer when it senses a reject, and the palletizer will automatically divert that package to a separate area.
When a product is rejected, Thymly runs the product back through the metal detector to find out if the reject was false or valid. If it’s rejected again, the product is sent to Thymly’s quality assurance team for further investigation.
“We’ve had no problems with false rejects with the Safeline metal detector, in part because we take the time to set the machine up correctly. It’s very easy for the detector to learn a new product with its built-in auto set-up routine,” said Rahn. “The first time we see a new product, one pass through the detector’s auto set-up routine takes about three minutes. But since we’re working with such small detection pieces to achieve the highest sensitivity, we spend an extra five minutes to be sure the settings are just right. It’s very easy to use.”
After the detector learns a new product for the first time, the parameters are stored in memory. The next time that product is run, it takes less than one minute to change over the metal detector. During product changeovers at Thymly, the operator chooses the product code from the metal detector’s touchscreen control panel, and the production supervisor verifies the code is correct. With triple frequency operation, Thymly’s PowerPhasePRO RB maintains the highest sensitivity across the broadest range of products.
“We regularly test the metal detector by intentionally passing test strips through to confirm they’ll be identified,” noted Rahn. “We’re at the highest standard that you can achieve.” Thanks to this kind of attention to detail, Thymly has earned a superior rating from the American Institute of Baking and has become an SQF-certified practitioner.
“Our dedication to achieving this high level of food safety and producing high quality product has contributed to our success,” explained Rahn. “We’ve been growing by leaps and bounds despite the economy. We’re currently one of the largest suppliers of dry ingredient blends on the East Coast, producing both Thymly-branded products and private label products. We’re now starting to go nationwide and international.”
Thymly Products found its niche over the years in incorporating specialized food ingredients into a wide variety of baked goods. Since the company was founded in 1967 by Harry Muller-Thym, it has seen four generations of the Thym family managing the business and serving its customers.
“We often find that our standard mixes and dough conditioners meet customers’ needs, but we’re happy to create a custom blend, if needed, often at no extra cost. These ingredient blends enable bakers’ mixing personnel to scale one ingredient rather than several, saving the customer both time and money,” said Rahn. “We know that the only way to grow our business is by helping customers grow their businesses. Our aim is to supply functional ingredients that exceed customers’ expectations. Assuring the highest product quality and food safety is an important part of that.”
“Safeline is the Cadillac of metal detectors,” Rahn enthused. “Everybody told me that before we bought it. It’s a little more money, but it’s well worth it. I don’t worry about it ever. It just works.
“We were very fortunate to have had a Safeline customer allow us into their facility to see the metal detector in operation before we made the purchase decision,” he continued. “It takes a lot of confidence and customer satisfaction to invite others in like that. To return the favor, we welcome visitors if Dick DeNenno wants to show our metal detector to another customer. We’re all very proud of it.”
Sandra McBride has been covering technology news in the food processing industry for 20 years. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.