My God, what is that?

History`s untold tale of metal detectors and one company`s vision for a waste-free future.

The first metal detector was invented in a moment of crisis. On July 2nd, 1881, James A. Garfield, the 20th President of the United States was shot at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station in Washington, D.C. by Charles J. Guiteau. Although the President did not immediately die from his wounds, doctors could not locate the bullet and Garfield suffered under the probing fingers of a medical team who did not yet believe in the importance of sanitation.

It was Alexander Graham Bell who arrived on the scene and invented a metal detector to pinpoint the position of the bullet. Unfortunately, the metal springs of the bed made the machine malfunction, and the doctor only allowed Bell to examine Garfield`s right side, where he believed the bullet to be lodged, when in fact it was in his left. Seventy-nine days after the assassination attempt, Garfield died due to infections from the wound.

Technology has come a long way since 1881, but Garfield`s bewildered cry when shot from behind, “My God, what is that?” has remained the central question of contaminant detection ever since.

Global consequences

A continent away, and nearly a century later, Sesotec was founded in Schönberg, Germany in 1976 and has since become one of the international leading specialists in contaminant detection and materials sorting. Although their application requirements are usually less dramatic than saving presidents from assassination attempts, the implications of their machinery are no less vital to the global condition.

As the world becomes more aware of the importance of sustainability, Sesotec works at the forefront of several different industries, from recycling and food to plastics, in order to eliminate contaminants while simultaneously reducing global waste. As technology has advanced, so has Sesotec and they have expanded their scope to not only include the manufacturing of metal detection systems, but also x-ray inspection machines and sorting systems.

Although Sesotec`s headquarters have remained in Germany, and the majority of the manufacturing is done there, the company now includes a total of seven subsidiaries in Singapore, China, the US, Italy, India, Canada and Thailand, as well as more than 60 partners in all key markets around the globe. Service engineers are also based around the world in order to be available for on-site assistance.

The future of recycling

There are few contemporary markets as dynamic and quickly changing as that of the recycling industry. From plastics, metal and glass, to electrical and household waste, the purity of the material is essential to facilitate successful and efficient recycling.

Sesotec`s Head of Group Product Management, Christian Stadler, explains: “International initiatives and changes in legislation in the recycling industry, which have long been talked about, are now coming into full force and the markets are reacting quickly. Resource scarcity and the growing need to increase efficiency in all areas of our lives have a big impact on the businesses we work with.”

Pure Plastic

In the plastic industry in particular, Sesotec systems help to minimize downtime and to guarantee high quality by separating metal contaminants from material flow before the product even enters the processing machine (e.g. an injection molding machine). The slightest metal contaminant can seriously damage the product, or even clog the machine, causing unscheduled and costly downtime. Sesotec`s cutting-edge separation and sorting systems remove contaminants to maximize machine uptime and secure high product quality.

Dinner under detection

Christian Stadler says he is proud to work for a company where sustainability is a driving force, and whose commitment to quality has a critical influence on everyday life. Perhaps there is no market where this is truer than in the food industry, where failure to detect contaminants such as metal, glass or shards of bone can have serious health consequences for consumers.

With the advance of x-ray technology in the last decade, contaminants as small as 0.3 mm can now be detected, and damaged items can be identified and removed. Not only does this help prevent health risks for consumers, but it also reduces waste by decreasing the number of false rejects from the production line.

Sustainable partnerships

Christian Stadler says that one of the most essential aspects of Sesotec`s success is ongoing collaboration with their customers. He explains that customer requirements are becoming increasingly individualized so that customization is an important aspect of Sesotec`s work. “Just look at our daily lives. Now you can even design running shoes to your individual preferences and buy them for a reasonable price. The same happens in our industries. Products have to fulfill customer requirements and when these are getting more and more diverse, a factory has to deal with that in an efficient way.”

“Just as we are looking for partnerships with our customers,” Christian Stadler says, “we also envision partnerships with our suppliers; they are partners who we can learn from and who help us to create added value for the customer.” For this reason, Habasit has been a natural fit as a long-term partner of the company for over twenty years.

Even as Sesotec stands at the forefront of ever-changing industries, the three main pillars of their philosophy remain the same. The key values of the company include first and foremost, collaboration, at an internal and external level, as well as simplification of complex processes and innovation, which means learning from their customers even while finding new ways to serve them.

Contaminant detection is a field which requires constant adaptation, but Sesotec, along with their partners, are up to the challenge, because it is not just about preventing problems; it is about creating new possibilities for the future. (ST)

Sonja StrimitzerMarketing

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