Metal detectors and checkweighers 'run and run and run' at Grimmway Farms' high-volume, washdown-environment carrot processing plant.
By David Newcorn, Senior Editor
Several years ago fresh carrot processor Grimmway Farms which originally bagged whole carrots began cleaning peeling cutting and polishing baby carrots. The baby carrots business became tremendously profitable and the company grew quickly adding packaging lines regularly at its Bakersfield CA headquarters operation. In June the company installed its most recent line bringing the total to 28 packaging lines. Today the company claims to be the largest fresh carrot processor in the world. Integral to the packaging of the carrots is checkweighing and metal detection. The latter function is important for obvious reasons. But checkweighing is critical since even one or two carrots missing can have a noticeable effect on the finished package weight. For both of these important functions Grimmway has standardized on Ramsey (Minneapolis MN) equipment including the line that was just installed in June. "We decided to go with Ramsey machines because they're reliable durable reasonably priced and we receive tremendous service" says Kent Williams manager of fresh food technology. Separate units for better control Carrots are bagged in sizes ranging from 1 oz to 5 lb at speeds to 75 bags/min. After bagging on combination scales married to form/fill/seal machines bagged carrots proceed through a checkweigher first then a metal detector. Although combination checkweigher/metal detectors are common today Grimmway made a conscious decision to purchase separate machines. "I don't like the idea of having both [functions] in one [machine] because if one goes down the other one goes down too" says Williams. Being without a metal detector is simply unthinkable explains Williams. "We've got a big place. We are moving a lot of carrots around every day and we have stainless steel throughout our plant. We want to make absolutely sure we don't put any metal in the bag." Even the smallest fragments are detected by the equipment. "We can pick up a head of a needle" says Williams. In the rare case that metal is detected Grimmway has programmed the packaging line to stop. "It's not just a simple reject" explains Williams. "If we find metal in the bag we trace it to find where it's coming from. We pride ourselves on being the best in the industry and that's why we take the extra step." Both the checkweighers and metal detectors are tested for accuracy at the beginning of each shift as well as once per hour. Grimmway confirms that the equipment performs well in a high-volume washdown environment. "They just run and run and run" he says "twenty hours a day six days a week."