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Mixing error prevention system

Customer : Q.P. Corporation

Toughbook enables achievement of flexible production system. Fine particles and water cause no trouble: problem rate zero.

Inspired by the slogan 'Food, for ages 0-100,' Q.P. Corporation has been promoting exclusive product development and working with the goal of producing safe and delicious products. For more agile response to variations demand, in constructing the production system with a mixing error prevention system, Q.P. Corporation has introduced Toughbook laptops as client PCs. In a production sites where fine particles hover and splashing water is a constant threat, the Toughbook laptops have been completely free of trouble.

Under the banner 'Food, for ages 0-100,' in product manufacture, they
are committed putting quality first

Shunsuke Horiike

Shunsuke Horiike, Public Relations Section Chief:
The company is committed to producing safe products that public can trust.

To Q.P. Corporation shares as much popularity as the charming Kewpie character. Besides bringing out the first mayonnaise and first marmalade in Japan, since foundation in 1919, using exclusive technology, the company has been developing other products that are full of originality. In 2001, Q.P. adopted the slogan 'Food, for ages 0-100' and, catering to a full spread of dietary scenes from infants to the elderly, has been striving to produce, in the way that only the Q.P. Group can, quality-first products for every generation. The company has developed business in five fields such as condiments and processed foods, health function products, salad and prepared foods, egg products, and distribution systems. In recent years, it has paid particular attention to the health function products business. Here, in addition to producing medicinal foods for patients with kidney diseases and diabetes, and home nursing healthcare foods, the company has been involved in manufacturing services for, and sales of, functional products, including hyaluronic acid, for use in food, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical production.
Moreover, throughout its whole operations, the company has been tackling universal design. This has involved the development of packages and caps that are easy to use, attractive to choose, and easily disposable. Shunsuke Horiike, Public Relations Section Chief says, "Every year the Kewpie Customer Relations Department receives 40,000 comments and requests, and these provide good hints for Universal Design." By putting ourselves in the place of consumers, and responding to what they request the most, in particular, packaging that is easy to understand and containers that are easy to use, we are striving to create products that everybody can use with confidence.

Dealing with mixing trouble prevention as an opportunity to construct a factory automation system

Masahiko Ito

Masahiko Ito, FA Team, Technical Development Section:
"Adoption of the Toughbook has also been very effective for controlling investment costs."

Q.P. Corporation started its own factory automation system development, and introduction began in 1983. At that time, the main priority in system development was the prevention of trouble during the mixing process. For example, during the production of baby food it is necessary to prepare small portions of about 3,000 to 4,000 kinds of basic ingredient in the facilities on a daily basis. Before cooking can be done, production technicians have to exactly measure out the various ingredients and, dividing them into small portions, incorporate them into the correct recipe. As you can imagine, this involves a complex series of operations and a large number of production technicians. Those responsible for preparing small portions of the ingredients and subsequent mixing, have to check and recheck to ensure no mistakes are made in measurement or means of cooking. They must not miss out any ingredient, and they must also check the expiry date of every ingredient used. Going further, during the past few years, Q.P. Corporation has been improving traceability. However, the greater the emphasis that the company places on product reliability, the greater is the burden that the technicians have to shoulder.
"We have built an FA system that, applying IT to ensure the stable maintenance of product quality, reduces the anxieties and burdens borne by the technicians, whose routine work carries great responsibilities."(Masahiko Ito of the Production Department's Technical Development Section FA Team). At present, a factory automation system has been developed to the point where it manages the production process from the procurement of ingredients through to product shipping. As well as the mixing error prevention system, it incorporates an overall production management system along with specific process control.

Onsite they were insistent: "We want computers we can use out of the box"

We introduced Toughbook laptops especially for use by the production staff. They carry out operations according to procedures displayed on screen.

The mixing error prevention system is part of the factory automation system. Production technicians were used to using fixed-type panel computers as client terminals inside the factory. When upgrade time came, however, to construct a production system flexible enough to accommodate changing demand, it was strongly felt that mobile PCs, which have good portability and are easy to install in different locations, would be much better than fixed-type panel computers.
"Production technicians were frustrated with panel computers installed in the stainless steel cases. They said that they wanted to remove them from the boxes and use them more flexibly. We set about upgrading the system with Toughbook because this promised to enable to us to better respond to the changing business environment." (Mr. Ito)
The choice of client PC was made after comparing the products of different makers. The final decision was made on the merits of the Toughbook, its feature set and its ability to provide a suitable software environment.

Reasons for choosing the Toughbook
  1. Resistant against fine particles and water
    Although powdery ingredients and the water used in production may affect client PCs, these conditions are not likely to trouble the Toughbook.
  2. Built-in wireless LAN
    As a rule, a wireless LAN function is built into the Toughbook in order to realize smooth data transfer to servers without the need to lay cables inside factories.
  3. Operation via touch panel
    This provides easier operation for technicians than keyboard input.

Preventing the mixing errors, supporting smooth operations

The first Toughbook laptops were installed in a Kansai factory in March 2005. So far, four out of nine factories have had the new system installed. The Toughbook has been adopted where processes for preparing small portions of ingredients are carried out.
We introduced Toughbook laptops especially for use by the production staff. They carry out operations according to procedures displayed on screen.
The series of procedures (recipe) that the technicians carry out is displayed on the screen of Toughbook. The scale used for weighing out ingredients is connected to serial port of the Toughbook and the weight automatically recorded. Each time ingredients are measured, the technician also reads 2D code attached to the small portion bag with a code scanner connected to the USB port. These procedures record production data, including time, lot number, name of ingredient, name of product, name of technician, weight, and performance value, which are transferred to the server via the Toughbook's wireless LAN function.
What is more, a system that prevents mixing errors has been incorporated. For example, if ingredients that differ from the selected recipe are weighed out into small potions, a warning panel indicating the mistake is displayed on the Toughbook screen and further progress with the recipe is disallowed.

Easy operation with touch panel

Production process results screen

Strangers to malfunction, the Toughbook laptops have also been a big help in cutting costs

"The chief advantage has been the ability to build a system that can easily be adapted to changes in production facility layout. This has given us the flexibility we need to respond to changes in the environment." (Mr. Ito) The technicians call for "computers we can use out of the box" has been answered.
Even so, around the time of initial installation, some members of the production staff were concerned about the Toughbook's ability to withstand the environment, where drifting fine particles and splashes of water are a constant hazard. The Toughbook has calmed these anxieties by operating up to now completely free of any breakdown. All the production staff now appreciate the Toughbook during use for the complete confidence it provides.
What is more, the use of Toughbook laptops has paid dividends by cutting the cost of facilities management. "For a start, we no longer needed the stainless cases that the previous panel computers were installed in. Then, because Toughbook laptops can switch to battery power if the electricity fails, we didn't need UPS back up. This enabled us to reduce investment costs." (Mr. Ito)

Helping to create an environment in which people can safely produce high-quality products

"In promoting a quality-first policy, it is essential to set up an infrastructure that provides an environment in which production technicians can work at ease in the factory and do their jobs with minimal worry. To sustain and improve this kind of environment, Q.P. intends to keep on applying IT in the future." (Mr. Horiike)

Q.P. Corporation
Head Office 1-4-13 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan (FA Team, Technical Development Section, Production Headquarters 5-13-1 Sumiyoshi-cho, Fuchu-shi, Tokyo, Japan)
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