Quality Control of Catalan Sausages

Splendid Foods S.A.U. company, was founded in 1946 in a pork’s butchers in Centelles, Barcelona. As time went by, its products became very popular in Spain and expansion to Europe began soon, going from being a small business to a nationwide company. Today, the Splendid Foods has modern facilities combining both tradition and innovation. The introduction of the automated checkweighing systems played a key role in process optimization and set the quality to a new high.

The cured meats company Splendid Foods S.A.U. was founded in 1946 from a pork butcher’s in Centelles, Barcelona. As time went by, the establishment acquired its own character and its artisanal food products became very popular. In 1990, Splendid Foods moved to a new facility in Vic, thus initiating its consolidation process in Spain and its expansion throughout Europe, going from being a small business to a nationwide manufacturing plant. Today, the company has modern facilities in the town of Seva, where it combines tradition and innovation. It continues to manufacture its products according to family recipes, but has incorporated the latest technology into production processes to improve quality and food safety.

Splendid Foods’s Exentis “fuets” go through the checkweigher

Tradition and process

Splendid Foods S.A.U. is a company specialised in the production of high­ quality cured sausages, such as the traditional Salchichón de Vic, a product under Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). Today, the company has state­-of­the­-art facilities in the town of Seva that allow it to adapt to modern times while keeping its artisan tradition, without sacrificing the quality of the products it provides to its customers in using the finest selection of meat and a completely cold curing process. All Splendid Foods work systems are based on strict production processes, which are certified for quality by the IFS (International Featured Standard) and the BRC (British Retail Consortium).

Oriol Rodríguez, from the quality department, checks production main indicators

In order to understand the importance that an adequate weight check system plays in any industrial process, it is an essential requirement to know in detail the care taken by the manufacturer from the moment it receives the raw material, and subsequently in each processing phase. In the case of Splendid Foods, premium quality meats are carefully selected before being placed and preserved in cold storage, where they await the corresponding work order. Depending on the production order, a computerized system selects the type of meat as well as the quantities of ingredients and spices to be used. After a first weighing, the product goes to the processing room where it undergoes a chopping and mixing process. After a period of rest, the mixture is stuffed into natural casings, from where it is taken to the drying sheds. Finally, from there it goes to the shipping room where it is packaged and boxed for later consignment.

After primary packaging, products pass over the Weigh Cell

The need for greater control
The need to provide its customers with the highest possible quality has always been an absolute priority for Splendid Foods. An important part of quality control involves verification of the weight of the finished products before proceeding to the final packaging. In order to perform such a check, the Quality team had to carry out manual statistical controls, which consisted of checking a predetermined quantity of units for each batch shipped. The process was performed by an operator who weighed a sample of 80 units per batch on a static desktop scale (offline). The resulting information was recorded in an Excel document. Although Splendid Foods always takes the greatest care in all its processes, in the words of Oriol Rodríguez from the Quality Department, “This represented significant time investment and left the door open for possible human errors”.

For this project EC­E type checkweighers were installed in 3 different production lines, all of them after primary packaging stations. The devices comply with the following technical specifications:

WIPOTEC EMFR Weigh Cells (electromagnetic force restauration)

  • 1500 g weighing range
    Product rejection by means of a flipper
    3­ colour classification­ sorting lamp
    Product flow control
    Protection class IP65, dust ­tight and water ­jet­ proof
    Data management via Ethernet interface
    Machines according to MID (Measuring Instruments Directive)

Both David Garcia­-Gassull, CEO of Splendid Foods, and Isaac Valls, Head of Operations, identified the need to automate this process in order to raise the quality standard and ensure 100% final product control. This would also allow them to have a comprehensive view of production and reliable data to analyse in order to apply any necessary adjustments and corrections. After the initial contact, the WIPOTEC­OCS sales team worked on analysing the specific needs of the lines. Later, the engineering department defined the details of the machines that would eventually be installed in the plant and that would meet every one of the customer’s requirements. With a throughput of up to 150 products per minute, the EC­E model is the basis for efficient production planning. It is equipped with an EMFR Weigh Cell to ensure extremely reliable weight readings. The user interface is designed to allow quick and intuitive operation and includes different menus for production control and review of statistics and histograms. It can store up to 200 items and the various possible settings to suit the needs of each project make it a robust and versatile machine for weight check in many different production environments.

The importance of WIPOTEC’s renowned EMFR Weigh Cell techno-
logy should be emphasized, which improves the speed and reli­ability of each weighing in dynamic environments. In addition, the product flow control ensures that no discarded or additional units leave the checkweigher.

As automatic weighing instruments (AWI), and at the customer’s request, these 3 checkweighers are MID compliant (Measuring Instruments Directive) and thus comply with the government metrological guidelines. This enables Splendid Foods to work fully transparently and automatically according to the Average Weigh Control of Prepackaged Products (RD 1801/2008), respecting the tolerable negative errors with respect to the nominal quantities specified on the packages.

The benefits
For David Garcia­-Gassull, Isaac Valls and Oriol Rodríguez, the benefits of having introduced this automation are clear. We talked to them and this is what they told us:

What were the main objectives when this project was discussed?
Isaac Valls (Operations):
The optimisation and automation of the processes, which were also a challenge in themselves, since we came from manual control.

What have been the main benefits of such automation?
David Garcia-Gassull (CEO):
First of all, the peace of mind of guaranteeing the weight of deliveries to our customers, which contributes to raising the final quality of the product and reducing incidents. Secondly, it has contributed to improving our productivity as it allows us to ensure the continuity of the process by eliminating manual weighing.

What regulations and/or standards does Splendid Foods observe in the area of food safety?
Oriol Rodríguez (Quality):
All Splendid Foods work systems are based on strict production processes, which are IFS (International Featured Standard) and BRC (British Retail Consortium) certified. These certifications are increasingly demanding and require greater control of production, so the use of these control systems helps us to align with such standards.

In terms of process, has it enabled you to identify and improve other aspects?
Oriol Rodríguez:
We can detect deviations in the process and implement corrective measures. Now we know with greater accuracy and foresight whether the drying time of the sausage is right. Testing the weight enables us to detect whether the injected mass is correct or if, on the contrary, the filling is too heavy and it is necessary to increase the drying time.

Splendid Foods has launched the Embot­It’s project, which aims to improve efficiency in the sausage curing process. This will be done by studying, monitoring and implementing control strategies to optimize the drying of sausages, which will reduce curing times to ensure the final quality of the product, reducing waste and surplus material. David Garcia­-Gassull explains, “This project will allow the company to be a step closer to Industry 4.0, implementing Big Data analysis for industrial processes, which will make it easier for us to face new efficiency challenges”.

WIPOTEC­-OCS would like to express its gratitude to Splendid Foods for the trust in our technology, this means the world for us. Also big thank you to all the people who were involved in this project and supported us with their unmeasurable contribution to the production of this Case Study.