Robust hygiene
in the meat industry

Vital-Fleisch: Lean replacement part logistics

The food industry has especially high requirements for hygiene and thus for sensor systems as well, especially in meat processing plants. Plants must be cleaned according to the HACCP hygiene regulations, in some cases with aggressive media. The electronic components cannot be disassembled every time for this. Therefore they must be constructed with a robust sealing principle and food-safe materials. autosen offers protection classes IP65/IP67/IP68/IP69K for optical sensors with stainless steel housing as standard products for wet areas and the food industry. For Vital-Fleisch that means savings of up to 25 % with unrestricted durability and significantly leaner spare parts logistics.

The sensor system plays a significant role in automating production and storage processes. Altogether about 600 sensors are installed in the entire plant at Vital-Fleisch, most of them light barriers. As a QS and IFS-certified company, Vital-Fleisch places great importance on freshness and hygiene. That means demanding cleaning routines are carried out frequently and intensively, involving steam jets as well as cleaning and disinfecting agents containing caustic solutions, chlorine and oxidants. Protection classes IP65/IP67/IP68/IP69K ensure that the sensors can withstand these harsh conditions long-term.


Cutting costs for spare parts

And yet: You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. The permanent chemical and mechanical stresses mean that components fail from time to time. Spare parts for the original equipment are often reordered automatically, which drives up costs, requires proper spare parts management and ties up capital. Ultimately enough components must be kept in reserve to prevent the process chain from breaking down. As part of a test series, Vital-Fleisch examined an economical and logistically simpler alternative from autosen.

"We have had no problems of any kind using autosen spare parts and have been able to incorporate the devices one to one into the existing connections."
Karl-Heinz Toews
Operating manager and authorised representative of Vital-Fleisch GmbH

At first eight optical sensors from autosen were mounted on the conveyor belts and in empties storage. They are used there for the start/stop function and to report full or empty, for example the AO001 retro-reflective sensor, designed for wet areas and the food industry. This compact sensor with stainless steel housing has a colour-independent scanning range which is continuously variable via potentiometer. The light scanner offers interference-resistant background suppression, even with highly reflective backgrounds like stainless steel.


The potentiometer is equipped with a double seal and is also flush recessed, like the front panel. That allows for cleaning with no residue. The coated front panel is made of resistant, shatterproof plastic. The standardised M8 plug connection allows for connection to existing wiring without any effort, to ensure a continuous sealing concept. Handling is just as simple. Tests conducted since then have also shown convincing results in functionality and cost-effectiveness: The operating manager calculated savings of up to 25% in comparison to the previous components.

The Vital-Fleisch plant in Speyer is one of the most modern operations of its kind in Germany. This is evident in the highly automated technology and optimised processes and allows the company to respond flexibly to customer requests with just-in-time production. Toews is equally positive in his assessment of the autosen logistics concept. Thousands of components manufactured and individually unit-tested to autosen specifications are in stock in the Essen central warehouse and delivery is quick and uncomplicated. Toews: "That makes keeping a reserve of spare parts a thing of the past!"

About Vital-Fleisch

Vital-Fleisch has specialised in cutting and refining meat products and has been a leading meat wholesaler in the Speyer region for about 20 years. With largely automated processes and a highly modern plant, the medium-sized company achieves a capacity of up to 480 pork sides per hour. The plant was placed in operation in 2004 and has been continuously expanded and modernised since then. In 2008 a new fully automatic deep-freeze warehouse with 1,000 pallet bays was erected on the plant premises. After quick freezing at -22 degrees Celsius, meat products refined to individual customer specifications are stored there before being delivered with the company's own fleet to international customers.