A new web-based tool has been launched, which could help operators of Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) plants identify how to make significant cost savings.

The tool calculates how much needless cost is accumulated due to waste generated by quality control practices — cost that could be reduced with relatively little effort.

Quality control is an essential part of any MAP process, but many operators are unaware of how wasteful it can be. Improved quality assurance measures further upstream in the packaging process could significantly reduce the amount of waste generated by quality control activities, and result in large cost savings.

The new web-based calculator has been devised by PBI-Dansensor, the Danish experts in precision gas sensing and monitoring equipment for the MAP industry.

$quot;Quality control is important, and indeed a legal requirement, for MAP,$quot; says PBI-Dansensor’s Karsten Kejlhof.

$quot;But it can generate a lot of waste, which in turn adds significantly to costs. For example if an operator removes three samples from a MAP line every fifteen minutes to test the headspace gas in the packages, this is 12 samples an hour. If they do this every hour, eight hours a day for 250 days a year, this adds up to 24,000 packages a year.$quot;

Because the headspace analysis test is destructive, the packaging materials are wasted, adding to the overall cost of the process. Furthermore, some operators also dispose of the product within the test packages — more waste, more cost.

In addition, the time that the line is waiting for the result of the test results in lost production, and commercial waste itself is becoming increasingly expensive to dispose of — yet more cost.

A simple way of reducing the amount of post-packaging quality control testing — and hence saving on packaging materials, wasted product and packaging line down-time — is to ensure that the gas mixture in the packaging chamber is of the correct composition. This can be done by an online analyser, which constantly monitors the quality of the gas during the packaging process. This is a quality assurance measure, as opposed to quality control.

$quot;Putting in place rigorous quality assurance reduces the amount of quality control that is needed,$quot; says Kejlhof. And the savings soon pay for the initial investment.

For example, one major European fresh meat processor recently installed on-line gas analysers on all four of its MAP lines. The company calculated the reduction in waste and lost time due to a reduced frequency for quality control testing would result in savings that would pay for the new analysers in less than a year.

$quot;Quality control is of course necessary,$quot; says Kejlhof.

$quot;What we are suggesting is that an increased emphasis on quality assurance can reduce a company’s reliance on quality control to ensure that every package that comes out of the plant has the correct gas mixture, and that such an approach will reduce waste by such a significant amount that it is evidently a highly cost-effective route to go down.$quot;

The new web calculator can be found at http://www.modifiedatmospherepackaging.com:80/QC_Cost_MAP.php