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The increasingly complex nature of the recipes that consumers demand today means manufacturers need to adapt in order to survive. How can manufacturing methods be improved to satisfy these customer needs, whilst also balancing product quality, safety and production costs? The right technology can revolutionise the agility of manufacturing enabling quick responses to changes in market demands.
So what is your weakest link?
In-line process systems by their design are linear – the raw materials enter the process in the Formulation Area before the final product is delivered out of the far end of the process line. The problem here is that the process line will only be as effective as its weakest link. Along the way, a vast array of processes are involved from dispensary & mixing, to sieving & packing, and in some cases, more complex processes such as granulation and drying are also involved. It is almost impossible to completely synchronise everything, so as a result, there is a lot of waiting time between one process and another.
A familiar bottleneck area is mixing. It is not uncommon for the Industrial Mixer to stand idle for long periods whilst Formulation of the recipe takes place. Then the Industrial Mixer remains inactive again whilst Packing is completed. This results in an inadequate OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) rate not only for the individual equipment but the process line as a whole, affecting production capacity.
With recipe proliferation, the increased need for recipe changeover further destroys this conventional way of processing.
Increase Efficiency by 300%
A more efficient way to work is to apply a parallel processing approach whereby batches are handled through the process line all at the same time. Formulation, Blending, Packing and Cleaning take place simultaneously. IBCs (Intermediate Bulk Containers) are used to transport materials throughout the production stages, which enables them to operate independently and be continuously fed with product, giving good OEE rates. The IBC itself becomes the blending vessel so there is no product contact with the blender (which is in contrast to fixed industrial mixers) which means no down-time for cleaning between recipe changes. In fact, IBCs are cleaned off-line, so do not disrupt the manufacturing time and process line flow.
Getting the best of both worlds
A European Baby Food manufacturer uses IBC Blending to pre-mix micro/minor ingredients prior to adding them to a fixed industrial mixer line. They had been using their horizontal ribbon mixer to blend this pre-mix. Although the actual blending time was just minutes, the ribbon mixer had to be supervised by an operator, took hours to fill and empty, and demanded 1-2 hours for a full-clean down between different recipes. This resulted in the pre-mixing stage being painfully slow and labour intensive with large amounts of down-time between different batch runs. This methodology was severely limiting production capacity and flexibility.
The answer was to use IBC Blending for the pre-mix. IBCs are formulated off-line with the micro/minor ingredients which are then blended and brought to the fixed mixer where they dispense dosed amounts of pre-mix into the base material. This removed a key bottleneck and freed up the ribbon mixer to be used for the main batch production. This change has dramatically increased capacity and eliminated wasted production time.
As a result they have been able to double production capacity, whilst achieving a 30% reduction in stock, save 1000’s of man hours of cleaning and reduce lead times.
If you see mixing as a bottleneck or weakest link in your facility it might be time to take a look at IBC based manufacturing. Take a look at our whitepaper to see what container blending could offer you in terms of manufacturing flexibility.