The animal nutrition market is growing at a significant pace, offering huge opportunities for pet food manufacturers. But like any opportunity, it is not without its challenges. Animal Nutrition suppliers are very specific in their requirements, demanding tailored recipes with precise nutritional quantities. The demands on production to provide multiple recipes at varied batch sizes can be very difficult to deliver in a lean and efficient manner. Often, waste can occur, production time can be lost when switching recipes and contamination risks and batch variability often arise.
In this blog, we’ll look at how pet food manufacturers can address these issues while still keeping up with demand.
How Can Animation Nutrition Manufacturers Increase Productivity?
Step One - Increase Recipe Changeover Speed
All animal nutrition manufacturers aim to reduce wasted time, especially during recipe changeovers. With market trends leaning towards product variety and varied batch sizes, a flexible but efficient manufacturing practice must be followed. The answer to achieving quick changeovers is to decouple the production steps by using Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBCs). With this method, the IBCs are used to move materials between each manufacturing stage, which also increases efficiency by ensuring all key stages of the manufacturing process are in action, working in parallel with one another.
Whilst one IBC is being formulated and filled, another can be blending ingredients and a third IBC can be discharged at the packing stage. This means that operators are no longer waiting for production processes to complete, resulting in less downtime and better allocated resource. By using parallel processing and lean manufacturing methods, it is possible to significantly improve efficiency and ultimately throughput.
“Blending capacity has increased fourfold per hour for the same labour input (labour savings come from forklifts taking the work originally done by people, and by each ‘station’ working all the time. In the old system, you can’t load a blender while it’s already blending or discharging. With Matcon, you are simply working with another IBC at each station. Equipment downtime and people waiting has been eliminated.” Operations Manager, RAIN Nutrience.
Step Two - Reduce Manual Handling
Manual handling in any production environment is where errors occur and the most production time is lost. Reducing manual handling is key to increasing production.
Using IBCs to increase productivity means that less time is spent moving ingredients around and reduced human intervention means fewer errors like recipe cross-contamination or incorrect formulation. With IBC based production, each recipe is formulated and blended within the actual IBC itself.
The recipe formulation stage can be the point at which errors occur. Filling IBCs for example can be streamlined through the use of a Sack Tip Module, where the containers can be quickly and effortlessly filled directly from sacks, instantly weighed correctly, ready for the next manufacturing stage.
For smaller, tailored pet food batches requiring precise volumes of particular ingredients, the Flexibatch Micro Module provides perfect measurement every time, removing the potential for human error through automation.
Step Three - Take Your Cleaning Offline
The majority of pet food manufacturers still rely on fixed mixers. This often means that while the mixer is cleaned, production stops. With a modular IBC system, the powder recipes are blended within the IBC and as each IBC is cleaned offline, the blender is not taken out of action. As an IBC completes its journey through the production process, it can be cleaned while the rest of the production line continues. Once clean the IBC then re-enters the production flow again.
Imagine how production capacity could be increased by reducing the time it takes for recipe changeovers, time gained by not having to disassemble, clean, dry and reassemble a blender. The opportunity for pet food manufacturers is huge. Off line cleaning represents a huge step towards capitalising on these opportunities.
Step Four - Reduce the Amount of Cleaning
IBCs remain sealed and enclosed throughout the manufacturing process, therefore they don’t need to be cleaned between production stages. This saves a significant amount of time, increases product yield and reduces cross contamination. This is especially effective for pet food manufacturers who typically deal with a large variety of recipes daily. When you consider the downtime saved in every batch, the savings mount up to considerable production efficiencies over a full day and week. When calculated across 12 months, this represents a significant competitive advantage.
Step Five - Improve the Quality and Yield of Each Batch
With the increasing demand for varied recipes and quantities, traditional manufacturing processes often fall short. This leaves pet food manufacturers with stored product inventory, inconsistent batch sizes and uniformity.
A move to IBC based manufacturing offers you the versatility to produce different batch sizes easily. One of the key advantages of the in-bin system is that it enables precise control over recipe formulation. Pet food manufacturers have to carefully control the quantities of vitamins and minerals contained in each recipe. Furthermore, the final batch must have an even distribution of ingredients across the batch. The IBC based system helps both formulation and mixing, preventing ingredient segregation and ensuring consistent product quality.
Step Six - The Potential to Scale
With traditional fixed manufacturing equipment, huge amounts of production time is lost as mixers need to be filled, mixed, emptied, cleaned, re-filled, mixed, emptied and re-cleaned between the various batches. Animal Nutrition manufacturers that make the move to IBC based production, remove the need to wait for bins to go through this process. For example, once mixing is complete, the IBC is moved to the bag-filling area, allowing for continuous production as the next batch is mixed.
This shift in technology offers pet food manufacturers the opportunity to run smaller, tailored, flexible batch sizes in parallel, reducing loading, cleaning and discharge times. And the great thing with an agile system like this, is that new bins of varying sizes can be added at any time, so scaling to meet market demands doesn’t mean costly factory extensions or refits.
If you would like to explore some of the steps discussed in this blog with your particular manufacturing facility in mind, please contact our team one of our process engineers or visit our Powder Handling Systems page to learn more about Matcon's equipment.