APRIL™ Eye launches across the globe

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We’re delighted to announce the formal launch of the world’s first artificial intelligence-based vision system, APRIL™ Eye, for date code verification. With APRIL Eye, we can remove the operator from the date code verification process, achieving full automation to reduce the risk of product recalls and emergency product withdrawals (EPWs) caused by human error on packaging lines. Reaching speeds of over 1000 packs a minute, APRIL Eye can significantly improve your processes, increasing safety, quality and efficiency, as well as achieving substantial cost savings.

APRIL Eye combines machine learning and artificial intelligence to transform the traditional date code verification process. Instead of relying on operators to check the date code is printed correctly, APRIL Eye offers a fully automated solution that removes the human error inherent in these boring, repetitive tasks. By taking photos of each date code, the system can read them back using scanners to ensure they match the programmed date code for that product run, allowing you to introduce unmanned operations and achieve full traceability. Running at speeds of over 1000 packs a minute, you can also increase throughput without compromising product safety. The production line comes to a complete stop if a date code doesn’t match, ensuring that no incorrect labels can be released into the supply chain, protecting your consumers, your margins and your brand.

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Traditional vision systems have relied on optical character recognition (OCR), designed to read specific characters. Due to the prevalence of inkjet printers in the food industry, which have a higher degree of variability, these vision systems have not been widely implemented. OAL therefore developed APRIL Eye, which uses basic cameras backed up with an artificial brain to deliver a vision system that can deal with variations such as lighting, positioning, print quality and placement inherent in a food or beverage plant and read anything that is also legible to the naked eye. In this way, APRIL Eye eliminates errors, offers full traceability and protects consumers and your brand while at the same time reducing labour costs and waste. The system also improves over time, further safeguarding your lines.

APRIL Eye stemmed from an initiative led by a large retailer to eliminate food waste in the supply chain by preventing human error. Incorrect date codes and packaging was found to be one of the largest sources of food waste; a £60-80 million problem (excluding energy and environmental impact). We spearheaded the development as part of our Food Manufacturing Digitalisation Strategy, supported by the University of Lincoln and Innovate UK grant funding, designed to investigate how artificial intelligence could revolutionise this key area of the food manufacturing process. The University of Lincoln put together a team of global experts in AI, including Professor Stefanos Kollias, the founding professor of machine learning, to develop the APRIL Eye solution. The system was first deployed with two leading global manufacturers and has since been rolled out across existing OAL Connected customers, with no EPWs related to date code errors to date.

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Wayne Johnson, OAL Connected Director, comments, “Having experienced the pain of EPWs and product recalls first-hand, I was determined to develop a product that would offer food and beverage manufacturers a bullet-proof solution to avoid problems linked to label and date code verification. We’ve completely turned vision systems on their head, allowing manufacturers to move to unmanned production, improve traceability and reduce costs across the board. APRIL Eye gives them the security they need to do this.”

With two industry award wins already in the bag, it’s clear that the industry understands the importance of the APRIL Eye patent-pending technology. Despite the complexity of artificial intelligence, you’ll be amazed by how simple APRIL Eye is to use, while achieving far-reaching results, including more robust and reliable supply chains to reduce food waste and improve food quality. A hand scanner solution and in-line scanning are already available, with a standalone audit solution coming later in the year.

So what are you waiting for? Make 2019 the year that you implement artificial intelligence into your operations and safeguard your packaging lines!

Lauren Moir