Dairy processors rely heavily on in-house instrumentation to support their in-plant quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) efforts. However, they are not necessarily getting all they could out of that instrumentation.
Avoid purchase-decision missteps
Dairy processors could enhance their QA/QC efforts by addressing some common purchase-decision missteps. One of those missteps is selecting an instrument based solely on price.
“Go for the best provider,” Jacquelin Page, president of Hopkinton, Mass.-based Page & Pedersen International Ltd., advises. “When you buy a piece of equipment [or an] instrument, you need someone there to support application and technical support. Bringing in products without that support really complicates things — it needs to be part of the package.”
Of course, cost does need to factor into the purchase decision. But many dairy processors look only at the initial cost of the instrumentation or system, failing to think about operating and integration costs, notes Michael Connelly, vice president of sales for Foss Analytical A/S – Foss North America, Eden Prairie, Minn.
“They also do not take into account how that system will function two to three years after purchase,” he says. “Will it be outdated? Will it be able to handle the ever-changing digital demands that software and the business will put on it over its lifetime?”
Jeff Boedigheimer, food analytical solutions business and key account manager – North America for Bruker Optics, Billerica, Mass., agrees.
“In today’s dairy industry, most labs pay a high price for every new model of today’s mid-infrared milk analyzers,” he notes. “With each new purchase, they are told that the new model is going to have a lower cost of ownership, and it will run even more product types than the last. Unfortunately, this almost never meets the expectations and leaves the lab manager wondering about the value of the purchase they made.”
Instead, dairy processors should identify the new technologies with the most promise of actually fulfilling the above promises, Boedigheimer says. They could do so by running the new technology head-to-head with the existing one to determine whether the new can meet — and beat — it.
“You should really only be paying higher prices if it comes with better value,” he adds. “Better value in a dairy lab should include high uptime, low maintenance cost, ability for the user to do a lot of their own maintenance if they choose, superior calibration stability/transferability and a common technology for both benchtop and process analyzers.”
Check out what’s new
Dairy processors also could improve purchase-related decision-making by keeping abreast of new instrumentation and related offerings. One new system is the MilkoScan FT3 from Foss. The dairy analyzer features smart analytics and will change the way customers use their dairy testing equipment, Connelly explains, allowing them — for the first time ever — to manage fleets of instruments centrally instead of individually.
Notable from Page & Pedersen is the LactiCyte-HD somatic cell counter. According to Page, it is based on an embedded microscope with image cytometry and tests from 1 to 10,000,000 SSC/milliliter. It is an “excellent” choice for milk quality control efforts at dairy processing facilities, she adds.
For its part, Bruker recently introduced a mid-infrared milk payment analyzer (the MIRA) that is “priced aggressively” to ensure customers get what they need in a milk analyzer without having to pay for U.S. adulterant screening and other things they might not need, Boedigheimer says.
“The unit conforms to the requirements of AOAC 972.16 and offers high uptime and excellent precision and accuracy,” he notes.
It is worth noting that Bruker also worked with the International Dairy Federation (IDF) to establish “Bulletin of the IDF N° 497 2019: Applications of Near Infrared Spectrometry for the Analysis of Milk and Milk products,” Boedigheimer points out. The bulletin will be used to extend IDF 201/ISO 21543 (“Milk Products — Guidelines for the Application of Near Infrared Spectrometry”). The work supports a long-time Bruker claim: that Fourier transform near-infrared spectroscopy (FT-NIR) equals the accuracy and precision of mid-infrared technology and has an advantage when it comes to long-term stability.
“Bruker offers our MPA II-D FT-NIR for the dairy industry, which includes the ability to pump, homogenize, temperature stabilize and test fluid dairy samples,” he notes. “The technology also has the ability to perform reflectance measurements of solid and semi-solid materials on a dual-channel unit.”
Address common challenges
In addition to thinking more carefully about the purchase decision, dairy processors need to address some common challenges tied to QA/QC instrumentation. One such challenge is managing all of the data produced via that instrumentation, Connelly points out.
“With better networking, digital services and connection between the lab testing equipment, the material supply chain and production, you can improve the speed and efficiency of your operation and reduce the cost of operations,” he says.
Another challenge is managing testing needs within the available budget, Page notes.
“An integration of smaller equipment is certain areas — milk reception, research and development, etc. — can be helpful,” she says.