The carcass tracking market promises many solutions, but not all of them work equally. In an attempt to move away from paper tags and manual recordkeeping, more and more plants have switched to some sort of radio frequency system to track each trolley on their monorail with a radio chip. It is a good concept, but doesn’t always work out in practice.
With radio tracking, components regularly break, and you are sometimes forced to make intrusive modifications to trolleys in order to keep the chips in place. All this aside, these systems are often misleading as well. Many RF tracking systems actually work very well upon initial installation. Sadly, read rates on chips regularly start to decline at a very brisk pace because the chips are beaten or simply because they do not age well.
We have two solutions for those who are tired of systems like this. For starters, we make our own version of an RF system which is actually non-intrusive and less prone to damages, but an even more permanent solution is our Trolley Vision® system which takes an entirely different approach to tracking.
Trolley Vision®, as its name suggests, uses vision to accomplish what most other systems cannot. Each trolley is drilled with a pattern of small holes which is translated by powerful software and a smart camera at each read station required. While trolleys do have to be slightly modified to fit this system, it is a fairly simple and non-destructive process. The holes are not in a common cross section and are small enough in size so that each trolley strap remains structurally sound.
Trolley Vision® solves the problem of damages that RF chips are so susceptible to. After all, a hole can’t fall off the trolley, so unless the trolley itself is broken, there aren’t as many things that can go wrong compared to RF tracking.
Trolley Vision® is a relatively new concept for many plants, so we have also worked with companies to provide them with the ability to train their employees to understand the new system. Training systems can be created which allow employees to get up close to the hardware and software without having to work it out during plant operations. The best part of these systems is that they use the exact components which you would find in the actual system, so they can also act as replacement parts if something goes down unexpectedly.
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When it comes to carcass tracking, our Trolley Vision® is one of the most accomplished systems on the market. It is a permanent solution with exceedingly high read rates compared to current tracking operations which often use unreliable tagging methods.
With something new like Trolley Vision®, we can’t assume that the end users are always going to know how to use the system. For this reason, we have made Trolley Vision® training stations which can ease the learning curve.
The training station is essentially a scaled down separate Trolley Vision® system mounted on a single, portable cart. The stainless steel cart has a mounted reader camera, a backlight, a section of rail for trolleys to go across, and an industrial controller with keyboard and mouse.
To understand how the tracking works, employees can take a trolley that we have drilled to work with Trolley Vision® and run it past the reader and back light. The camera takes a picture which is displayed on the controller screen as the backlight shines on the other side to ensure that the picture has maximum contrast. This makes it easy for our software to interpret the patterned holes in the trolley as a unique numeric code.
The picture of the trolley is displayed along with the unique ID number derived from the pattern. By displaying guidelines for our software, service technicians for your plant can be trained on how to properly set up and calibrate the camera in order to get the highest possible read rates in the chance that the camera is somehow moved.
The beauty of a system like this is that it helps employees become accustomed to the workings of the Trolley Vision® system without causing any interruptions on the plant floor. You can’t afford the downtime of shutting down production just so new users can understand the system.
If you need any form of trolley tracking in your plant, Trolley Vision® is definitely your best option, and the training system is a very useful addition. Contact us if you are interested.
Using vision systems for trace ability is a very powerful solution to current carcass tracking problems, and we have been harnessing that with our Trolley Vision® system, but it isn’t as simple as stuffing a camera into an industrial plant and assuming that it will work without any outside aid. What happens when that vision is blocked by something?
Our Trolley Vision® analyzes an encoded pattern of holes drilled into each trolley’s strap. This works exceptionally, but because of certain regular plant processes, these holes can be blocked. One particular process that can have this effect is the oil baths that trolleys receive regularly.
Trolleys are submerged in oil regularly so that they roll smoothly and are protected from things like rust since they are often made from metals that aren’t rust-proof. When the small holes in the trolley are submerged, oil tends to stick in the holes because of its high viscosity. This can make it more difficult to see through the holes when they reach the Trolley Vision® camera, even if a back light is used.
We knew this was going to be an issue in most plants, so we added a component to the Trolley Vision® system. Initially, this was a blower which would blast each trolley with air to remove excess oil in the holes. However, this couldn’t be the ultimate solution because the oil was not controlled as it was removed and could end up on carcasses. Even if the oil was food grade, we thought it would be better to avoid that scenario entirely.
The next option was to use a suction system, which proved to be the better idea. This would remove the oil like a vacuum, and a hose would direct it somewhere where it wouldn’t get on any future food products. After being cleaned, these trolleys would proceed past the camera and back light which would send that image to an interface where the software would automatically determine the ID of that trolley.
Every day brings challenges in the industry, but with the right systems and proper installation, solutions such as Trolley Vision® can easily accomplish trolley tracking where other systems fail.
We’ve described the process and idea behind Trolley Vision® before and how each trolley has a unique ID built into it, so let’s talk a little bit about how we make those ID’s and how they work.
Meat producers send us their trolleys to be altered to fit the Trolley Vision® system.
We take each trolley and drill a series of 1/8” holes into each trolley’s strap section.
Other companies have made vision systems that used various hole sizes in combination to make a code, but we didn’t like that idea.
Drilling differently sized holes in each trolley meant that the tare weights varied from trolley to trolley.
Uniform holes eliminate that variation.
There are 9 holes drilled in each trolley, each in their own separate row.
The encoding holes adds up to over 823,000 different ID hole configurations.
When the cameras read interference or shadows over the back light, the camera begins to take pictures that are evaluated through software.
Using the holes as a reference, the system assigns each hole to a grid and computes its unique number in a short amount of time.
We think that 823,000 unique ID’s are more than enough, but we still have the ability to expand the number combinations. Just the addition of one row could increase the options exponentially into the millions. This is always a good ace in the hole when dealing with the steadily expanding meat market.
Trolley Vision® is one of our most groundbreaking technologies, that can be used extensively for one up and one back traceablity, country of origin tracking, shrink yield tracking, to name a few solutions. We know that it is capable of saving you money in no time. Stop using the mistake-bound methods of paper and tags and upgrade your tracking to a Trolley Vision® Tracking System today!
The meat industry continues to search for ways to make food safer while at the same time its margins are being squeezed by increased costs and severe competition. It’s enough to keep even your security guard awake at night!
There is one tool available to meat plants that can assist in traceability and Country Of Origin Labeling goals as well as increase operating efficiencies, thereby adding to profit margins rather than squeezing them.
That tool is Trolley Vision®.
By identifying a carcass on a specific trolley and reading that trolley at various points throughout your plant, you can track carcasses for traceability requirements.
By tracking carcasses into and out of your cooler, you have a cooler management tool that can add to, rather than take away from, profit margins.
Pinpointing cooler bay shrink problems is the first step toward solving them!
Additionally, with the data that is available, you can track yields from individual animals.
This is especially handy in beef and pork plants that want to take the next step in maximizing their operational efficiencies.
With food related illnesses and expensive recalls in the news almost every week, it is more important than ever for the meat industry to do all it can to trace its products, to comply with regulations, and to make enough profit to stay in business.
Trolley Vision® is one tool that can do it all!
With over 15 years of development and fine-tuning, we have proven to the meat industry that this the right tool at the right time!