Towards the true value of NIR
The use of near infrared (NIR) analysis has long been a standard part of operations, but now a new versatile instrument that is run as part of a network is helping to exploit its true value.
Fabien Dalais, Global Head of Quality & Regulatory Affairs “Being able to monitor the instruments remotely is a massive benefit to our business”
“NIR analyses have been part of our organisation for quite some time and used primarily as a compliance tool for raw materials and finished product,” says Fabien Dalais, Global Head of Quality & Regulatory Affairs at Real Pet Food Company. ”There are many advantages to our business. Apart from its benefits in ensuring compliance, the ease of use of the equipment, combined with the speed of analysis and reliability of the results make it a great tool in our manufacturing environment. Additionally, the ability to also detect adulteration is something that is extremely important in terms of food safety.”
Among the myriad uses for NIR analysis in the pet food plant, one example is the control of the fat and moisture to obtain the right bulk density and physical stability of final products. This is important to ensure that products remain intact when the bag is opened, but still have the right texture and palatability. Moisture levels are also critical for storage considerations.
NIR analysis and the availability of comprehensive calibrations covering a wide variety of sample types and parameters is particularly useful in helping producers to handle the wide variety of ingredients typically used in pet food production. “Our formulations are quite complex and with many variables,” says Dalais. “Having the ability to understand the composition of our incoming raw materials allows us to optimize our formulations to meet our nutritional requirements.”
Previously, Real Pet Food Company used NIR instruments from different suppliers. Now, the connectivity features of FOSS NIRS™ DS2500 F instruments and supporting networking software are exploited to link everything in one network across Australia.
This configuration makes it much simpler and more consistent to manage analytical operations, for example, an update to a calibration can be installed on a master instrument and then shared across all instruments in different locations at the click of a mouse button. Such an approach also allows a specialist to monitor and manage remote instruments while operators do not need any specific knowledge and training and can simply run their samples.
The approach is clearly paying off on a site level and on a company-wide basis. Dalais remarks: “Having our NIR units as part of a network and being able to monitor the instruments remotely is a massive benefit to our business. While the factories run their day to day business we have the ability to have a big picture view of how we are progressing in terms of product performance.”
Meeting regulatory and customer expectations
Real Pet Food Company were fully-supported in setting up the system by an application team from FOSS. Dalais confirms how: “The application team have been extremely supportive of our business in terms of training, support and trouble shooting. Their availability and flexibility in finding solutions has been a big plus for the factories.”
Overall, NIR analysis is a crucial element in delivering to consumer expectations and meeting quality and regulatory requirements. “With the evolution of the pet food industry and the increased quality, regulatory and consumer expectations, NIR technology is an essential tool for any manufacturer,” he concludes.