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A test of its metal

J.O. Spice Company has come a long way since it was founded in 1945. This crab and seafood seasonings company was started by a husband and wife team, who initially mixed spices in a porcelain basin and sold the blends at a nearby market. Today the third-generation, family-owned business produces 4 million to 6 million lbs. of product a year. To accommodate that growing capacity, J.O. Spice recently installed a metal detector to improve the efficiency of its operations and ensure the safety and quality of its spices. 

The seasonings processor needed a new metal detector to set up a fully automated packaging line. Because the company had been using metal detectors from Mettler-Toledo Safeline since 2009 and was pleased with their performance, J.O. Spice decided to stick with Mettler-Toledo Safeline and purchase its new Signature Touch metal detector to inspect bulk packages. 

J.O. Spice installed the Signature Touch metal detector in early 2017 at its facility in Baltimore, Maryland. Prior to using the Signature Touch, boxes were filled with product, taped, laid down on their sides to go through the metal detector, and then manually stood back up for palletizing. To automate the line, boxes need to go through the metal detector standing up, which requires a system with a taller opening. The Signature Touch at J.O. Spice has an aperture that is 14 in. wide and 20 in. tall to fit its 20-lb. to 50-lb. bulk boxes and retail packs.

“Although we haven’t yet finished automating this line, we’re already saving time because we don’t need to lay boxes down and stand them back up,” says Donald Ports, president of J.O. Spice and the grandson of the founders. “Those seconds accumulate and quickly pay for our new metal detector.”

Ports is also impressed with the sensitivity and accuracy of the equipment. The metal detector features a high-frequency advanced coil technology and state-of-the-art electronic filtering techniques to maximize detection sensitivity and minimize false rejects. It can detect both ferrous and nonferrous metals, including difficult-to-detect nonmagnetic stainless-steel fragments and nonspherical fine wire. 

“Our new metal detector is so sensitive that it’s capable of finding even the tiny amounts of naturally occurring metallic minerals in certain spices we use like red pepper and paprika. We simply adjust the sensitivity for some of our blends, which is easy to do on this system,” Ports says. “When we do get positive hits from our Signature Touch, it’s almost always from the recycled material in the corrugated cardboard. I have never seen a false reject on this metal detector once it’s properly calibrated.”

Up for the challenge

J.O. Spice processes and blends about 60,000 lbs. of spices a day and manufactures seasonings, batters, breadings and soup mixes for retail, foodservice and food processing customers in the Mid-Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions. So the company wanted a reliable metal detector that could keep up with production.

For example, the production line changes over as often as 10 to 15 times per day. To reduce downtime, the Signature Touch features a single-pass, auto-setup routine to quickly program the settings and parameters for each product. Up to 100 different product settings can be stored in the metal detector’s memory for fast recall during changeovers. It takes only a couple of minutes to switch the settings, run test strips and document adjustments. In addition, product-clustering capability minimizes the need for setting changes. 

The metal detector is also holding up well in a facility where spices may have a chemical reaction against metal or steel equipment, according to Ports. “Our facility is tough on equipment,” he says. “Not only is it hot in the summer and cold in the winter, it’s a harsh environment because of the salt in our products. Salt is corrosive, but our metal detectors run wonderfully thanks to their well-sealed electronics and wash-down capabilities.”

Ports has also found that the metal detector helps with ensuring safety and quality: “We stamp all our bulk boxes and retail cases with ‘Metal Detector and Q.C. Approved.’ Our customers see this, and it helps them trust the quality of our food.”