Better fluid handling for greater plant efficiency

Related tags Industry Energy conservation Food

Increasing production efficiency to generate higher profits is the
aim of every plant manager. But now manufacturers have to think
about their legal obligations to reduce waste and conserve energy.
Can new fluid handling technology offer food processors a helping
hand, asks Anthony Fletcher.

UK-based Pursuit Dynamic, a specialist in fluid handling, certainly believes that installing a modern fluid handling system can help processors achieve both flexibility and greater efficiency in production.

"When we talk to people in the prepared food industry, they tell us that they need quicker turn-around times, especially if they process in batches and are dealing with retailers,"​ said Natacha Wilson, head of marketing at the company.

"For this type of manufacturer, flexibility is important. Larger manufacturers are more interested to see how they can speed up the production process and reduce operating costs."

The problem, according to Wilson, is that many production lines are not equipped with adequate equipment.

"You'll find that in most plants, fluid processing equipment is pretty old; tanks, homogenisers don't appear very technical,"​ she told "Many plants are also operating with a multiplicity of equipment, when they could be operating with just a single integrated system."

As a result, Pursuit Dynamics has developed integrated fluid handling technology specifically targeted at the prepared food sector. This technology, claims the company, is capable of addressing key processing concerns of food plant managers.

The firm's steam-powered PDX technology is based on the power of ultrasonic shockwaves, which can be controlled and adjusted to meet specific processing needs. The system can pump, entrain, mix, homogenise, heat and cook fluids, powders and solids using a single system, and with no moving parts, the company claims that the new technology is reliable, safe and can be easily installed in both in-line and batch processes.

"This technology can also help processors cut down on other steps,"​ said Wilson. "If you are mixing ingredients for example, then you can put everything in the mixer at once. Before, this could not have been done."

And with the ready-to-eat meals sector showing further signs of growth, the company believes that its proprietary technology is set to take off. "If you look at market trends in the west, you can see that people have less time to cook but are also becoming more choosy about what they eat,"​ said Wilson.

This has led to growth in the prepared foods market. For Pursuit Dynamics, this presents a big opportunity as companies look to achieve not only greater plant efficiency to increase profits, but also to meet strict energy regulations.

The IPPC (Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control) regulations have wide-ranging energy-efficiency implications for plants. As Wilson rightly points out, the food industry is one of the largest consumers of energy, and energy conservation is becoming a key concern of food manufacturers.

"The food industry has traditionally only been covered by water emissions regulations, packaging requirements and Duty of Care waste management regulations,"​ said Martin Brocklehurst, head of waste management at the UK's Environment Agency. "But this is all changing with the passage of EU-level Pollution Prevention control (PPC) legislation."

PPC regulations apply to manufacturing enterprises that operate above set thresholds. These differ for each sector of the food industry. If you are a plant manager, says Brocklehurst, the first thing you need to know about PPC is whether your enterprise is caught by the thresholds.

"Thresholds are low, and differ from industry to industry,"​ he said. " For animal processing for example, the regulations cover enterprises that are capable of producing above 75 tons a day of finished product. For vegetable-based products, the regulations cover operations that produce over 300 tons of finished product."

One of the things about the IPPC is that it obliges plants to monitor energy costs per batch, and assess the environmental impact of every specific product throughput. Everyone is concerned about efficiency, but it's not just about costs; now it's about legal requirments.

Wilson claims that Pursuit Dynamic's fluid handling technology can contribute to a plant's overall strategy to achieve energy efficiency. "With our product, a processor can cook and pasteurise products at a lower temperature - at 70 degrees rather than at 85 degrees,"​ she said. "The whole process can be carried out in five minutes rather than one hour. When you think that a sauce plant operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you can see that this adds up to substantial energy savings."

PDX has been targeted at the prepared foods processing sector, but has potential in other food applications such as brewing, dairy or any process that involves the handling of liquids.

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