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For small and medium food enterprises (SMEs) investing in entry-level inspection equipment, the biggest nemesis has long been ‘you get what you pay for’. Well no more.

 Of the estimated 30,000 drink and food processing plants in the United States, approximately 68% are regarded as operations employing fewer than 20 people1. According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau report, SME manufacturers account for 96.4% of exports and they contribute 20.3% of the sector’s $798 billion in exports. On the import side, 93.5% are classed as SMEs, accounting for 14.5% of the sector’s $826 billion in imports.2

With their appetite for innovation and entrepreneurship often characterizing a food SME’s success, metal detector specialist Fortress Technology has just re-launched its flagship entry-level Phantom model that can be upgraded with technology features to support expansion programs and new contract wins.

Now, when future production requirements and retailer codes of practice demand it, a Phantom unit, can be upgraded to include the data capture specifications in the company’s Stealth model.

Aimed squarely at start-up food manufacturers, SMEs and companies in emerging markets, the Phantom range offers robust metal detection functionality and Quality Assurance in a fit-for-purpose, reliable way that Fortress is renowned globally for. By rationalizing some of the technology options previously available, Phantom users pay for the features they need to satisfy local and international food safety standards at a price point that suits their budget.

Yet, by sticking to a universal modular design and introducing a common membrane panel, all customers benefit from being able to upgrade to a Stealth level of performance to meet the most stringent North American and global retailer codes of practice when it’s demanded.

Suitable for inspecting bakery, meat, dairy, confectionery, fresh, ambient, chilled and frozen food, healthcare and packaged products including any items with aluminum foil packaging, the Phantom can be installed in a conveyor, gravity, pipeline, bulk or laboratory configuration.

For many longstanding Fortress customers, the functionality of the Phantom has ticked every box. And although upgrades to existing operating systems were available for the lifetime of the machine, this is the first time Fortress has offered customers the option to add features from another model.

The basis for this product rationalization has been market and customer driven. In part, due to the sheer volume of food SMEs within the North American marketplace, but also the focus on improving food safety in emerging economies, including Latin American food entrepreneurs in the early phase of globalization and with food safety and inspection reforms still at the fledgling stage.

Even if inspecting for metal contaminants isn’t a retailer requirement now, food SMEs that start to institute systems at the early stage will be ready to expand and meet the demands of the more stringent retail and export Codes of Practice when their product range takes off.


A sign of the globalization times

By maintaining the universal simplicity of the unit and introducing symbols on the control panel, Fortress is also catering to much wider international markets and food factories where English might not be an operatives’ first language.

Realistically, with the right maintenance, a well-built metal detector like the Phantom can run for 20+ years. Good news for companies seeking longevity in their inspection equipment. And even better for the environment as it doesn’t mean replacing perfectly functional kit with a newer model because it doesn’t comply with the latest retail inspection standards or regulations.

Spare parts continue to fit all, which is a major benefit when cost of ownership is high on the agenda for food companies reliant on machine uptime to fulfill customer orders.

During this rationalization exercise, Fortress has invested significant Research & Development into its three core metal detectors.

For close to two decades, the Phantom has and remains an excellent food inspection metal detector, with Stealth evolving into the mainstay model for factories requiring advanced technology features like retailer COP compliance, data capture and single pass product learning. The Stealth unit can also be customized quite extensively to suit specific customer applications, for example a gravity metal detector used widely by the snacks industry, or into a multi-lane system. Top of the range is the Interceptor, designed to overcome product effect and deliver increased metal detection sensitivity when inspecting wet or conductive products and reduce the volume of good food being wasted due to false product rejects.

The company’s Never Obsolete promise continues to apply right across the range. Having the ability to now upgrade with technology from another model goes a long way to boosting overall equipment effectiveness and providing quality assurance for food processors and manufacturers, as well as safeguarding consumers.