Title
An Improved Manufacturing Quality Control System
Microcontroller provides a return of 2,000%
Technologies used

    Microcontroller

Industrial sector (PRODCOM code)
    29 Tools and Machinery
    332 Precision Instruments
    1 Agriculture
Abstract

Rachel's Dairy Limited started as a farm-based business in 1982 and expanded into a purpose-built dairy in 1990. The company produces a range of organic dairy products, and is involved in all stages of the processing of these products, and in the related marketing and distribution. The company employs 58 people and achieves sales revenues of over 5 MEUR per annum. The industry sector occupied by Rachel's Dairy is defined by the standard industry Prodcom code 1551 (Food).

The company's product range includes organic yoghurt, crème fraiche and double cream. Rachel's Dairy supplies these products to major chain retailers (the supermarkets), and via wholesale distributors to delicatessens, health food shops, small retail and some catering outlets. A limited quantity of direct sales are also achieved. The company uses commercially available food processing equipment to produce these products, and until the application experiment had no experience in using or specifying microelectronic products.

The production process for yoghurt requires precise control over the pH of the milk during the incubation and the subsequent blast-chilling process. The current manufacturing process at Rachel's Dairy requires the use of periodic sampling using hand-held pH meters. This method is inadequate, and operator estimation of the required incubation time can lead to excessively 'acid' levels of pH in the final yoghurt. The batch of yoghurt must then be disposed of.

The rationale for the application experiment was to improve the quality control process by repeatedly monitoring the pH of the yoghurt during its incubation process to prevent this commercial loss. The improved monitoring of pH is estimated to result in a reduction in the current rate of wastage from 3% to 1%.

The technical objective of the application experiment was to replace the current pH sampling method with a continuous, in-line measurement and data logging method. The application experiment therefore involved the development of a microcontroller-based multi-channel pH measurement, display and data logging system to provide the following functions:

  • Monitor pH in yoghurt continuously during the incubation process, and provide out-of -limit warnings.
  • Log the values of pH over extended periods of time, and to transfer this data to a PC for later analysis.

The duration of the application experiment was 10 months. This was extended from the 8 months anticipated to allow for the more complex design undertaken, and the inexperience of the company in developing specifications which required longer to complete. The prototype development cost was 38 K EURO, and a further 12 K EURO was required for industrialisation.

The economic impact of the adoption of the improved quality control process is significant, and will produce not only cost savings but provide opportunities for increased sales by the development of improved supplier ratings with the major supermarkets. The projected payback for the combined prototype development and industrialisation cost is 10 months, and the rate of return on investment (ROI) in the first four years is estimated as 2000%.

Company

    Rachel's Dairy Ltd
    Unit 63, Glanyrafon Industrial Estate
    Llanbadarn Fawr
    Aberystwyth
    SY23 3JQ
    United Kingdom.


Detailed information

You can also benefit from microelectronics

Microcontroller technology provided Rachel's Dairy Ltd. with the means of improving its products and enhancing its market position. You can also achieve significant benefits by acquiring the right microelectronics technology and utilising it in your product or manufacturing process. You can get help from FUSE to realise this.

FUSE is a technology transfer programme, funded by the European Commission to stimulate the wider use of microelectronics technologies by European enterprises to increase their competitiveness and enhance their economic growth. The demonstrator described here is one of many examples in the public FUSE portfolio covering the whole spectrum of microelectronics technologies and spanning a wide range of applications and industry sectors.

FUSE provides you with:

  • Best practice in acquiring specific microelectronics technologies and conducting full development projects through the FUSE portfolio of real life demonstrator documents.
  • Local training and expert support to plan your innovation realistically and help you conduct your project successfully.

Further information and support relating to this and other demonstrators can be obtained from the addresses below.


Further information   Guiding Technology Transfer Node
For further information and support regarding this case study, please contact a Technology Transfer Node (TTN) in your region.
Homepage: http://www.fuse-network.com
Univercity of Glamorgan
Mid Glamorgan
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