As one of America's largest contract manufacturers and packagers of nutraceuticals, Garden State Nutritionals, West Caldwell, NJ, prides itself on its ability to innovate, creating more than 1,000 custom dietary supplements every year. Its customers rely upon it to give their products flair, effectiveness and the differentiation they need to find success in the marketplace. Manufacturing and packing more than 5,000 active product formulas for various customers in hundreds of different configurations, the company needs flexibility and reliability from package-inspection equipment that can improve acceptability and minimize production losses. Anything else would be a hard pill to swallow.
To be successful, the company's packaging lines in West Caldwell and in Fairfield, NJ, must perform at high accuracies, with consistency and reliability. That's why it recently added a series of new metal-detection and checkweighing systems from Lock Inspection Systems (www.lockinspection.com), including the MET 30+ pharmaceutical metal detector, the Waferthin metal detector, the MET 30+ Pipeline metal detector and the WeighChek CK 100 checkweigher.
Garden State produces thousands of herbal, nutraceutical, energy and sports nutrition products under various brand names, including those for the Windmill Health Div. of parent company, Vitaquest, on assorted production lines that run anywhere from 20 to 120 containers/min, depending on the line, the product and the package configuration.
The products include tablets and capsules in assorted plastic bottles, blister-packs and foil packets, powdered supplements and drink mixes in resealable, composite canisters and caplets that come in packets or plastic bottles that are overcartoned. Some containers are packaged in kits or in secondary containers. Customers include key U.S. brands, multilevel marketers and direct-sales companies.
The company has begun a world-class quality program that includes metal detection and inspection of all critical production areas. The comprehensive program is based on proposed federal Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) for dietary supplements.
Upgrading 13 packaging lines, Garden State performed test trials on new metal-detection and checkweighing equipment with several suppliers, and selected Lock for its technology and for its ability to custom-build systems to suit each area and application. Garden State also wanted sensitive, economical, accurate, food-approved systems that could guarantee the quality of the products as well as comply with customer needs and changing U.S. Food and Drug Administration requirements. In its search for equipment to improve product quality, the company found several equipment choices from Lock that were suitable for its various production lines.
Explains Ron Smalley, vp of technical services, "The Lock equipment is accurate, reproducible in action, durable and easy to use. We're very happy with its performance and ease of use. It has been a significant addition to our quality systems and has also lowered costs, due to improved manufacturing efficiencies."
Installed were 12 MET 30+ metal detectors, which include six pharmaceutical models, one mini pipeline unit for a granulated product line, two Waferthin metal detectors equipped on auger-filling lines and three WeighChek checkweighers. The equipment rejects only questionable products or those out of specification—instead of large quantities—in order to minimize waste and improves efficiencies. The product is removed from the line by a mechanical or a compressed-air system into a receptacle.
"Our early experience and success were key in the selection of further equipment from Lock for our New Jersey plant," Smalley says. "Our product lines are so diverse, customization is required to optimize performance, but this has never been a problem for Lock. Every aspect is covered, from the provision of appropriate certification and approvals to training, troubleshooting and the integration of the systems with existing equipment."
The sensitive MET 30+ Waferthin detector provides metal detection on the powder-filling lines, allowing Garden State to meet both its own quality-control standards and those of its customers. The MET 30+ pharmaceutical metal detectors are 1-mHz systems that are sensitive to all metals. They incorporate Lock's ADC software, which allows all data and detection parameters to be viewed graphically by networking to a PC or laptop.
Lock states that the ADC software takes transmitted and received signals from the metal detector and translates the data into a graphical format, providing operational and maintenance staff with a powerful, on-screen diagnostic tool.
Positioned at the discharge stations of tablet presses and capsule-manufacturing machinery (Garden State uses a variety of tablet-making equipment, including standalone tablet presses from DT Stokes (now Sencorp [www.sencorp.com]), the MET 30+ system is able to find and reject metallic particles as small as 0.5 mm and 0.3 mm for ferrous metals at a rated speed of up to 30,000 tablets/min, and provides 100-percent inspection of products.
"Like those of of our other customers, Garden State's requirements are changing rapidly," observes Mark D'Onofrio, vp of Lock Inspection Systems. "Theirs is a high-pressure environment, with fast production, frequent product changeovers and no room for mistakes."
Constructed of stainless steel, the MET 30+ is gravity-fed and comes with a polished, 316 stainless-steel reject device and can record profiles for products that are conductive, such as iron-containing products, to minimize false positives and to ensure optimum performance with minimal waste. Able to withstand washdown-cleaning conditions, the detection system automatically stores up to 100 product setups, retaining 300 metal-detection events in memory.
The WeighChek CK 100 checkweighers are able to weigh packages with accuracies to +/- 100 mg, according to Lock, which Smalley says is the case at Garden State. The most recently installed model is coupled with a custom, automatic, side-transfer system from Applied Engineering Corp. (www.appliedus.com) for sequential, high-speed checkweighing of solid-dose products and powders. Smalley says this was needed to both automate the transfer process and provide individual, sequential placement of the packages onto the weigh scales.
Explains D'Onofrio, "We worked with Applied Engineering to design the feeding system with a special pick-and-place conveyor that takes packets [produced on a form/fill/seal machine], elevates them and presents them to the checkweigher in a uniform and timed sequence. Space was very tight at this location, so we created a solution that would fit in the production area."
Mounted on an incline, the infeed also provides line-height adjustment and spaces and orients the containers before they pass through the checkweigher. Designed for weighing products up to 200 g, the checkweighers verify the weights of packages at rated speeds up to 120/min, processing the weight signal in real time.
The weighers feature a display and menu screens. The first weigher that was installed features a membrane keypad interface panel, while the most recently installed model put into the plant has a touchscreen interface and offers a range of statistical report options. The display panel is rotatable and tiltable, and its electro-luminescent touchscreen delivers product information to the operator via a series of windows.
Running on a daily basis, usually two shifts, five to six days a week as required, the packaging lines operate in HEPA-filtered rooms to purify the air as much as possible. After the products are packaged, the packages pass over the checkweighers.
We're happy that these systems are working well and anticipate expanded use within our operations as customer requirements and regulatory conditions dictate.
The pair of MET 30+ Waferthin detectors was added to powder-filling lines that deposit sports nutrition, diet, vitamin and herbal products into plastic jars or into canisters in various sizes. Measuring about 4.5 in. tall, these compact detectors were also designed to be positioned on the infeed of Garden State's vertical f/f/s bag- and pouchmakers. Garden State had its models modified to fit the outputs of Cerebus auger fillers from All-Fill (www.all-fill.com).
Specifically designed for tight spaces, the Waferthin units include a 7-in.-dia aperture and auger collars with a support frame that allows them to be quickly and easily moved vertically when Garden State changes the line over from one package configuration to another. These systems check the powdered products and reject questionable containers. In the case of the 18.6-oz canisters, filling speeds range from 30 to 60 units/min.
The Waferthin and mini pipeline systems in place on the powder-filling lines have remote controls and keypads mounted on remote enclosures for easy operator access. The remote controls are used in this case because the detectors had to fit into hard-to-reach areas. The Waferthin units were supplied with remote air cylinders mounted on an existing conveyor so that if the detectors find a reject, they send a signal to the cylinder to reject the canister contaminated with metal.
With the Lock equipment, we are able to perform state-of-the-art metal detection and checkweighing, and are able to demonstrate and verify the quality of our products, which we and our customers expect.
Approximately 150 different powdered products are packaged on lines equipped with the mini pipeline metal detector, which tracks products transported from point-of-manufacture to a set of filling machines and sounds an audible alarm that alerts operators to automatically reject questionable packages. The mini pipeline detector has a small case dimension that also fits into a tight space in the facility. Here, the sensitive pipeline system checks for product deviations and guarantees 100-percent-reliable identification of acceptable product. Powder filling is performed on equipment from All-Fill and Mateer-Burt (now available from Pneumatic Scale [www.pneumaticscale.com) and f/f/s machines from Enflex (www.enflex.es) and Wrapade (www.wrapade.com). Lock configured the Met 30+ detector as a vertical-fall system that checks product prior to filling it into canisters or bottles. The free-fall detector was also customized with stainless-steel mounting frames and product tubes to fit beneath the auger fillers.
Says Smalley, "With the Lock equipment, we are able to perform state-of-the-art metal detection and checkweighing and are able to demonstrate and verify the quality of our products, which we and our customers expect."
Myron Jacobowitz, executive vp of Garden State, says, "We're happy that these new systems work as well as they do, as we anticipate expanded use [of them] as customer demands and regulatory conditions dictate."
More information is available:
Lock Inspection Systems, Inc., 978/343-3716. www.lockinspection.com
All-Fill, Inc., 610/524-7350. www.all-fill.com
Applied Engineering Corp., 973/276-0488. www.appliedus.com
Enflex SA, 34 935 706 550. www.enflex.es.
Pneumatic Scale Corp., 330/923-0491. www.pneumaticscale.com
Sencorp, 508/771-9400. www.sencorp.com
Wrapade Machine Co., 888/815-8564. www.wrapade.com