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Fast growing dietary supplement manufacturer Oxford Contract Manufacturing (OCM) has invested in a Fortress Stealth metal detector on the back of a contract win to produce bulk 15kg boxes of supplement tablets. Delivering unrivalled sensitivity along with built-in data capture capabilities, the high performance detector is pivotal to the company’s HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) program, ensuring compliance with regulatory and retailer standards in global markets.

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In the space of five years, James Allan and his former school friend, Thomas Humphrey, have built a healthy £1.5m business in manufacturing dietary supplements. OCM has over 200 stock lines to its name, from vitamin tablets to botanical supplements and sports nutrition powders, which are sold throughout Europe via all the major on-line channels as well as bricks and mortar retailers. In a marketplace where it can be difficult for consumers to know which products they can trust as being safe and genuine, OCM’s advantage lies in the assurance that it offers – it manufactures all of its products in-house in an ISO 22000 FSSC certified facility in Oxfordshire, England.

On the back of the reputation built through its Oxford Vitality branded range, the company has also developed a successful contract manufacturing business. Rigorous quality control is key to maintaining the trust of these customers and ensuring products meet the regulatory requirements of every geographical market they are sold in. Therefore, besides carrying out on-site auditing and off-site product testing, OCM follows an internationally recognized HACCP program, in which metal detection is identified as a critical control point.

Last year, OCM won a prestigious new contract to supply supplement tablets in bulk to a company that sells worldwide. As none of the metal detection equipment on-site was able to accommodate the 15kg boxes of pressed tablets, the company took the decision to invest in a new large aperture detector.

From using a rental machine as an interim solution, James Allan knew exactly what he wanted when it came to purchasing a metal detection system: “A sensitive, compact metal detector system that could achieve the
accuracy we wanted on a large product and could fit into the limited space available.”

Product tests confirmed that Fortress Technology’s flagship Stealth metal detector was able to detect ferrous particles down to 2mm, non-ferrous to 2mm and stainless steel to 2.5mm – sensitivities that are incomparable within the industry.

This performance was particularly impressive given that the cardboard boxes used to contain the tablets were made from recycled carton board containing some particles with metallic properties, presenting a challenge to the detector’s sensitivity.

“During the tests, the boxes were causing the detector to trigger false rejects. We were able to phase out this interference by using digital signal processing technology to optimize the detection parameters,” says Kevin
Shackell, UK sales manager at Fortress Technology.

The Stealth incorporates built-in data collection software with USB data transfer. OCM recognized that this functionality could play a key role in facilitating compliance with HACCP regulations.

“It is all well and good to hold paper records, but what happens when an inspector demands to see paperwork and some data is missing or incomplete? Capturing and storing all data electronically is far more efficient and removes the margin for human error. We are currently moving across from paper to e-records and the Stealth will greatly assist with this,” says James.

In August 2017, the metal detector was delivered to Oxford Contract Manufacturing, built to its requirements with a left hand conveyor system, belt stop and alarm reject.

“It was important to us to ensure we met the highest retail specification, demonstrating to our customers that we are serious in operating a fail-safe system,” says James.

The metal detector is situated downstream from the tablet press, providing a fail-safe critical control point (CCP) to safely detect and reject any products that could contain metal contaminant.

“We sieve all ingredients to safeguard against foreign bodies entering the product flow, but there is always a chance – albeit a small one – that shards of metal could break off equipment such as the ribbon blender and the
tablet press,” says James. “As part of HACCP, we have evaluated metal as a potential source of contamination as our reputation rests on adhering to stringent quality control practices. Deploying high performance metal
detection equipment like the Stealth gives us complete confidence in the products we are delivering to the global marketplace.”

He adds: “We are really happy with this machine; it is compact; it is sensitive and – importantly, on a line that produces between 200 and 400kg of tablets per hour, 24/7 – it is reliable.”