Manufacturing principles are often built on the idea that bigger is better. But expanding the scale of production to yield more units at a lower cost is an outdated approach for organisations who want to provide a broad product range. An alternative to the traditional fixed industrial mixer is moveable Intermediate Bulk Containers. We explain how they provide a more flexible solution that increases productivity and boosts profit margins.
Focus on True Economies of Scale
In the past, when consumers were happy with less variety, manufacturers were able to make a single product in huge quantities. In these cases, large single-line production processes were a good option. But if your business’ product portfolio is expanding, moving to a batch process will pay dividends.
That’s because there are a number of drawbacks to large fixed mixers. It’s obvious that the bigger your industrial mixer the longer it takes to fill and empty. In a continuous production line, where all your equipment is fixed, this creates a bottleneck that slows down other process steps. Which means lengthy idle times for equipment both up and downstream and reduced overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).
Smaller Batches Mean More Flexibility
By its nature, as materials are tipped in to a fixed mixer, the rest of the production process is halted. Mixing and packaging equipment sits idle as recipes are formulated; and as product is mixed, you cannot prepare the next recipe. Once blending is complete, the first two processing stages machinery is still out of action as the product is emptied and called off for packing.
Except for the blending stage itself, none of these steps are quick. The time taken to fill a static mixer is high because it involves opening and discharging huge numbers of large bags to fill the blender sufficiently. And emptying is also a lengthy process involving significant product transfer heights which increase the risk of material desegregation and poor-quality product.
An efficient solution is to use a container based system. Not only do these in-bin blending vessels accommodate different batch sizes but they decouple the system as they are transferred between processing steps which mean hold-ups are eliminated.
This provides ultimate flexibility because product can be formulated offline while other batches are blended, packed or mixed. And because they can be moved on and off a single blender, the need for dedicated fixed mixer lines is removed making your production process leaner.
This parallel-processing approach significantly reduces idle time and makes production far leaner, improving efficiency by 50% or more.
Further Improve Filling Efficiency
Matcon’s IBCs are available in a variety of different sizes. By matching up the IBC volume with the batch size, fill and empty times are optimised.
By reducing manual intervention through compatible technology, like Matcon’s Sack Tip Module, IBCs can be quickly and efficiently filled offline directly from sacks.
And, with smaller bespoke batches often requiring specific amounts of particular ingredients, Matcon’s Flexibatch Micro Module provides perfect measurement every time. This reduces the number of weighments the operator is required to make and removes human error through automation.
More Efficient Emptying Takes Place Offline
As with filling, a fixed industrial mixer also needs the processing line to be at a standstill while product is emptied. Each product will have its own emptying time, some longer than others.
Manufacturers that use IBCs remove the need to wait for the bin to be unloaded. Once mixing is complete, the container is moved on to the bag-filling area allowing for continuous production as the next batch is mixed.
With a fixed industrial mixer, further time is added to the end-to-end cycle as the mixer needs to be cleaned between different product batches. Choose to use IBCs and the cleaning time is reduced because the mixing is completed in-bin so the mixer doesn’t come into contact with the product. This allows the mixer to be used immediately further enhancing the efficiency of your operation.
Efficient fill and empty cycles are perfectly possible with the right technology in place. Use Matcon’s in-bin blending IBC solution to run smaller batch sizes and reduce loading and discharging times. By decoupling blending from your other process steps, you’ll improve efficiency, achieve greater productivity and enhance the bottom line.
Read our whitepaper on what to look for in a blending system for some helpful guidance.