Greencore avoids future product recalls with automation


Greencore is a large convenience food production company employing over 8,000 people in 4 countries. The company is a market leader for convenient, premium meals to retail and food service providers. With factories based all over the UK, Greencore is responsible for the production of multiple food products from cakes and desserts to prepared salads. Its Leeds factory is primarily responsible for the production of high quality frozen Yorkshire Puddings for major retailers and frozen food wholesalers as well as for multiple caterers and major nationals.

Greencore's challenges

The site packs 200 different variations of Yorkshire Puddings 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and understandably keeping track of production was challenging. With a large number of different packaging variations, there is accordingly a higher risk of label and packaging errors: a product is packed in the wrong packaging.

Unfortunately a couple of years ago the site suffered a costly product recall following such a packing error that damaged relations with customers. The site recognised human checks couldn’t solve the problem and were in need of a solution to proactively verify the correct packaging and date code is applied to products.

A proven automation system solves Greencore's challenges

Following a review of suppliers, Greencore chose OAL’s proven Autocoding system to remove the risk of packaging errors. The team at Greencore Leeds, realised that OAL’s system was the best solution to ensure that human error was removed from the process and the system offered additional advantages such as a reduction in paperwork on the factory floor. The system is easy for operators to use and critically was usable on all 200 different product variations. Online Cognex scanners scan every pack barcode verifying the product against a master database of product profiles. If there is an error, the line stops and a supervisor must investigate before the line can restart. The operator selects a product from the line screen which links from the master database which was structured and implemented by Greencore with the help of OAL. Having a line screen allows complete control of the line from a central point which links to the scanners, date printer and master database.

What the system has given us is peace of mind and allowed us to regain customer confidence.
— Caroline Smales, Technical Manager, Greencore Leeds

Greencore's results

The OAL Autocoding system has provided Greencore “peace of mind” allowing them to focus on manufacturing and regain customer confidence. The system provides complete control over their packaging line and the site has been able to go paperless by utilising quality assurance modules built into the system. By controlling and linking to other packaging devices the OAL system can provide Factory Performance data. The site is now expanding the system to include OAL Factory Performance, measuring the overall plant performance by using the data it is capturing effectively every day.

Lauren Moir