Mike Riley of Compac says the firm's Sizer Simulator could bring great advantages to fresh produce packinghouses. ( The Packer )

ORLANDO, Fla. — Mike Riley believes Compac’s Size Simulator can give fresh produce packing line operators optimal efficiency in delivering the best possible results by packing fruit in a virtual simulation.

Compac’s Sizer Simulator, according to the company, makes it possible to experiment offline with the added functions of Sizer, the software at the heart of the company’s industry-leading sorting and packing line equipment, without posing any risk to production.

Riley, head of  food grading for Tomra/Compac, says the system is an improvement on trying to make changes on the fly with real fruit going down the line.

“The only way (before the Sizer Simulator) to figure out whether or not you’re actually packing the fruit and grading the fruit in the correct way is to do it at production time with production fruit, which is the last time you want to be experimenting,” he says.

“The whole point of sizes simulator fundamentally is you can you can run your fruit without running any fruit,” he says. After running just a small batch of fruit down the line, the system can apply different grading maps, and different types of techniques and figure out from an operational efficiency perspective and a monetary perspective if there are other ways to achieve better outcomes.

“Could I have gotten a better outcome could I have got more class one product versus class two? 
Could I have sent less to juice and could I have got more in the export pack? Did I end up giving away more weight than I could have?” Riley asks, noting that Compac’s system can weigh within 0.1 gram accuracy. “Why would you put 2.5 kilograms of apples in a 2 kilogram bag when we can, using our software, find you the right mix of apples to get you 2.01 kilos in the bag?”

Additionally, the Sizer Simulator allows packing line staff to learn without running fruit.
Compac on Oct. 18 also announced a partnership with AVEVA, a United Kingdom-based firm specializing in engineering and industrial software.

Riley said the partnership will bring new technology relating to automation and remote control process improvement. That will allow greater use of sensors to detect when parts of the packing line need attention, Riley says.

“It will allow us to look for choke points, measure the performance for continuous improvement,” he says, in addition to connecting the service department to the data to prevent failures on the line. With sensors on motors, elevations in temperature can be spotted and service can be called before downtime occurs,

Another evolution of Compac’s digital vision is greater use by the supply chain of the data generated by sorting and inspection technology, Riley says. The rise in cloud computing and the ability to handle vast amounts of data is enabling greater possibilities, he says.

“We’ve got 200 photographs of every single individual piece of fruit and right now in the industry there is not a lot of uses made of that information,” he says. Matching the condition of the fruit to the lot it was grown in could inform grower practices.

“It’s not now a matter of saying the orchard in this block did pretty well this year, it is ‘Here’s the pictures of every apple came off that block,” he says.

Retailers could also benefit from that data, with photos and dry matter measurements predicting ripeness and taste.

“When is the consumer going to get that consistent experience that my marketing team promised them?” he says. Shelf life predictions could also be pulled from the data, he says.

“Once we’ve got all the data, we’ve taken all the measurements, we’ve got the photos — there are plenty of stakeholders, who would just love to get their hands on that data,” he says.