Meeting Strict Customer Standards in Potato Processing
Lamb Weston Relies on SpectraStar™ XT NIR Analyzers for Rapid Quality Control
Lamb Weston is the world’s largest producer of fries and frozen potato products. From fast food conglomerates to the frozen food aisle of your neighborhood grocery store, Lamb Weston sells over 80 million portions of fries around the world every day.
To make that happen, Lamb Weston employs over 6,000 people worldwide, with 14 manufacturing and food processing facilities in North America alone. But no matter where they’re produced or for whom, Lamb Weston prides itself on quality products and customer satisfaction. The exact specs desired by each customer vary depending on the customer type (fast food restaurant versus hospitality industry versus grocer or end consumer), as these parameters have a direct impact on details like plate presence, crispiness, and hold times. All of these characteristics are affected by solids (moisture) levels, fat content, and—in the case of sweet potatoes—total sugar or surface moisture in the potatoes as they go through the production process.
Whether carving out curly fries or stamping sweet potato CrissCut® fries, it’s impossible to produce a uniform, quality product in so many locations at that volume without exceptional quality control processes in place. This is where Lamb Weston turns to KPM Analytics.
Quality Control Experts
KPM Analytics has been providing SpectraStar™ XT Series NIR Analyzers for a number of different industries, most notably food production.
For over 10 years, Lamb Weston has relied on SpectraStar™ XT analyzers to ensure quality and consistency for their customers. To that end, there are two points in their fry production process where Lamb Weston utilizes their analyzers. The first location is at-line after the fryer, which allows for rapid determination of solids, or moisture, on the production floor. The second location is in the lab, where grab samples are taken when the product is first frozen for a final quality test before packaging and shipping. If the solids levels are too low, spoilage increases. If the solids levels are too high, crispiness suffers.
Lamb Weston offers over 90 different styles of fries, from “Steak Cut Skin On” to “Regular Cut” to “Thin Crinkle Cut” and “Shoestrings,” and each customer requires different specifications for each product. “When Lamb Weston first brought us on board, it took a while to get the levels right for each of the products and to match all the specs for each one of their customers,” says Dan Evans, KPM Analytics Key Account Manager and Lamb Weston’s primary contact. “But now that we have them identified we know the exact settings for each production line at each plant, so it’s just minor adjustments here and there.”
“[SpectraStar™ XT Analyzers] give us the accurate real-time data we need to ensure the quality of our products. And if the analyzers have ever needed service, the KPM Analytics team has been very responsive and very helpful.”
Historically, the testing and analysis for quality control in food processing was done manually without timely controls that fed back into the process. Since the SpectraStar analyzer solution provides accurate real-time readings in only 20–30 seconds, the plant operators now have the feedback needed to make rapid adjustments (i.e., fryer time and blancher process…) and consistently produce on-spec product.
A Robust Instrument
KPM Analytics has designed the SpectraStar™ analyzer to be dependable, simple to clean, and easy to operate, as well as calibrate. Users can quickly wipe it down and clean it off after each shift, and it only requires service once a year. Calibrating the SpectraStar can be done in-house in a matter of minutes, making it the ultimate user-friendly instrument. Competitive products, on the other hand, often need to be shipped back to the factory to be recalibrated.
Should the SpectraStar™ analyzer need to be serviced other than the recommended once-a-year visit from a service tech, KPM Analytics prides itself in getting service personnel on site as quickly as possible to minimize downtime for the customer. For troubleshooting the SpectraStar™, KPM Analytics has also designed in a “remote access mode” that allows the customer to give permission to off-site Unity service personnel to securely log into the analyzer over the internet and check the status to see what’s happening with the unit.