From ‘Pie HQ’ in Leeming Bar, North Yorkshire, Vale of Mowbray have been traditionally baking pork pies since 1928. Now one of Britain’s major manufacturers of the classic hot water pastry product, Vale of Mowbray makes 1.6 million to 2 million pork pies every week.
Alongside the traditional pies made for sharing, Vale of Mowbray also bake huge quantities of their individual, snack and mini pies, whilst innovative new recipes and seasonal variations are developed year-round.
Quality is paramount in everything Vale of Mowbray do and this has led to increased demand for its products. There has been significant investment in new factory capacity, machines and automation and Vision For Food was introduced to help management maintain visibility and control over all production processes using a combination of IP69K touch screen stainless steel terminals (located throughout the factory) and portable Android tablets.
As the system has been implemented it has been seen that the area of most significant impact has been traceability. Traceability for manufacturers of pastry products can be particularly challenging because of the use of reworked pastry that is processed, collected and reused in successive new batches of pastry over a week-long production cycle. It is not uncommon for a new batch of pastry to include quantities of 20 or more levels of reworked pastry batches, and in each case every ingredient used in each batch and every previous (reworked) batch, needs to be identified and be traceable.
Following implementation of Vision for Food a full trace that used to take the full 4 hours allotted during audit now only takes a few minutes using the trace reports running over the operational data captured by Vision For Food.
The trace is not only much faster in terms of reporting but much more presentable to auditors as previous trace data relied on a large number of handwritten documents while the new trace can be shown on one page!
The traceability process begins in intake where jobs are created automatically in Vision For Food from each purchase order line. Vale of Mowbray record quality and hygiene checks on the Vision For Food system and barcoded labels are printed for all raw material batches and packaging items received using standard Zebra printers. These labels identify each item, its batch number and the use by date.
In production raw material batches are consumed as recipe inputs. These are recorded in-process on the Vision For Food system using barcode scanners. Each scanner is connected via Bluetooth to a base station, which in-turn is connected to lineside Vision For Food touchscreen terminals. Stainless steel enclosures provide protection for the scanner hardware during clean down.
As the material batches are used during the production of WIP products and finished products, the labels are scanned and the production recipe quantities recorded. Batch life is assigned automatically by the system.
For each batch of pastry, meat mix or jelly produced (and any subsequent level of WIP production), new barcode labels are printed and applied to colour coded tags which identify the WIP output batches. These tags pass between departments to be consumed in the pie assembly, baking and chilling processes using hand scanning to input the data from the barcode.
To preserve traceability through the ovens, foil backed oven proof labels ensure that the barcodes remain fully readable.
Standard Zebra printers are also used at lineside which keeps costs down significantly. The printers themselves are not IP rated, instead they sit in a stainless-steel waterproof enclosure which has a ‘cloche-like’ lid design which allows them to be freely used while being completely protected during cleaning.
Every day many batches of pastry are made and the ingredient batches used are scanned and the quantities used, recorded. Most production recipes include a quantity of re-work pastry, the amount of which may vary according to the recipe. As a given batch of pastry is worked down a particular line to make the pie cases or lids, there is always an amount of pastry that is trimmed off or unused. The pastry that remains from the worked batch is collected, scanned, weighed, given a new batch code and new barcode labels are printed and attached in readiness to be mixed into a new batch of pastry as rework.
This process is then repeated continuously over the week-long period, at the end of which, all existing batches of pastry are disposed of and a new round of ‘virgin’ pastry batches are produced for the beginning of the next cycle.
To capture the precise weight of the rework batches, Vision For Food web services link directly to Mettler Toledo network scales using OPC (IIoT) technology which immediately captures the scale readings and displays them to the operator in real-time on the Vision For Food touchscreens. This has proved so successful, that Vale of Mowbray intends to add scales to all lines where batch weights for inputs or outputs are recorded. Once this investment has been rolled out, traceability and mass balances will be entirely accurate and immediately visible.
As the pies move through the bakery, in some areas it is not always efficient to record data on the static stainless-steel touchscreen terminals installed to lineside. Where this is so, Vale of Mowbray use inexpensive Android tablets, protected by an elastomeric surround and a clear adhesive screen protector. The tablets run exactly the same Vision For Food browser software as the lineside terminals, but the tablet’s onboard rear camera is used to read the barcode labels instead of a separate scanner.
Vale of Mowbray will soon complete the roll out of their Vision For Food system by adding finished product packing processes and then despatch information. In addition, an ever-increasing volume of QC and routine QA checks are being completed on the tablets by production and QA operatives. Visibility over every operational and technical check associated with every production batch is already complete in key areas, with the data collected becoming instantly available for reporting, trending and analysis. The achievable goal is to replace every paper record in the factory and to use the data positively to continue improving efficiency, improve material yields and reduce costs, all at the same time.