For many types of food and beverage processing plants, pumps and valves live as the heart of the operation. Take one down—whether because of malfunction or because of regular maintenance—and thousands of dollars of product could come to a halt.
Manufacturers are striving not only to keep operations more hygienic and sanitary than ever, but they’re trying to keep uptime at a maximum, struggling to maintain profits and viability in an increasingly competitive market. Suppliers are reacting to demands for cleanliness, more effective clean-in-place (CIP) processes, improved energy use, gentler handling, and increased uptime and optimization.
“Food and beverage manufacturing regulations are always being enhanced, modified, and improved, so we have to stay abreast of any and all changes in the regulatory landscape, then be able to react with new or modified pumping technologies,” says Erik Solfelt, diaphragm pump product manager at PSG, a Dover Company.
“The trend in the food and beverage industry for modernization links to a growing demand for greater automation, more flexibility, optimized uptime, enhanced product quality, and consistency,” says Chris Sinutko, global product manager – valves, food and beverage at SPX Flow. “Valves with increasingly sophisticated control tops and advances in mixproof technology add to the flexibility and uptime of a processing line. Pumps with wide flow and viscosity ranges can reduce the total number of pumps required for a process and increase flexibility and productivity.”
Smarter and more efficient
The food and beverage industry is beginning to harness the benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart manufacturing. “With smart machines come data, which, with advanced analytics, offer insights into processes that can help to drive levels of efficiency and safety,” Sinutko says, pointing to SPX Flow’s CU4plus control unit for its D4 Series valves. “We see more sensors being added and greater communication capabilities coming soon for both pumps and valves.”
PSG has created a remote performance monitoring and alert system for its air-operated double-diaphragm (AODD) pumps called Wilden SafeGuard. IoT-enabled, it allows pumps to be monitored from anywhere 24/7 through a secure cloud connection. “The new Wilden SafeGuard enables the plant operator to know the exact operating condition of every pump at any time of the day, which helps optimize performance and also provides a way to predict when preventive maintenance may be needed or a potential breakdown may occur,” Solfelt says. “Additionally, this new technology allows operators to immediately detect and mitigate a diaphragm rupture if one occurs, saving product from contamination.”
Energy efficiency has become a growing trend as well. And while some manufacturers might be just trying to check the green box (consumer perception is all part of branding, after all), improving pump energy efficiency can go a long way toward reducing carbon footprint as well as saving money.
Dairies make up a big part of the business for pump maker Alfa Laval. And for dairies, more than 50% of a plant’s energy consumption actually comes from pumps, says Russell Jones, commercial pump manager for Alfa Laval. In large part, this is true of beverage and pharmaceutical plants as well. “Many people don’t think of pumps as a key energy consumer,” he says. “So we have a bit of an education task on our hands.”
It’s important to understand the best way to apply those pumps because the most efficient pumps in the world will not be efficient if they’re not applied correctly. The right pump needs to be put with the right application. “So that’s part of the education,” Jones adds.
With its application of about 300 pumps from Alfa Laval, Arla Foods was able to increase capacity in its mozzarella cheese production in Denmark by 25% while increasing energy consumption by only 2%. In the process, the dairy producer reduced CIP from seven to five times a week without having to make significant investments in new technologies.
“Turning 1,270 tons of raw milk into mozzarella every week requires keeping downtime to a minimum,” says Per Hansen, engineering manager for Arla Foods. “We’re constantly looking for ways to find better, more reliable ways to meet 24/7 production operations and to make our production even more environmentally friendly. Alfa Laval pumps and processing technologies have played an important part in us being able to increase our production and energy performance.”
Although other features are being improved as well, energy is the No. 1 driver in all of Alfa Laval’s new designs, according to Jones. Alfa Laval recently launched the last model in its LKH Prime series, which brought a 60% improvement in efficiency through advanced air-screw technology.
Flexibility for product innovation
With changing consumer tastes, innovation is an important factor for food and beverage producers, Sinutko notes. This requires pump and valve makers to work closely with customers to meet their demands. It also requires that the pumps and valves themselves be more flexible to produce multiple products on a single process line.
Mixproof valves provide a high degree of flexibility because they are specifically designed to allow two different products to flow through the valve at the same time without risking cross-contamination. SPX Flow’s latest valves are the D4 Series double-seat mixproof valves. “To meet differing market needs, the range comes with a cost-effective base D4 model, offering safe separation with either seat lift or non-seat lift cleanability,” Sinutko says. Other valves are the ultra-hygienic DA4 for more critical applications and D4PMO, designed specifically for the U.S. dairy market in line with the latest 3-A sanitary standard 85-02 for continuous processing Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO).
Looking to modernize its upstate New York plant for sour cream and yogurt, HP Hood looked to SPX Flow for its automated mixproof valve technology. Objectives included minimizing operator intervention and risk of contamination, while increasing operational efficiency and productivity. A total of 27 D4PMO valves were installed, allowing the dairy company to continuously run production while simultaneously cleaning in place the opposite pipelines without fear of cross-contamination. “This has greatly increased the plant’s uptime and enhanced its flexibility in alternating between cleaning and production schedules on their tanks,” Sinutko says, adding that CU4plus control units were also used to automate the valve operation from a centralized control room.
A key technology that has been taking off in food processing to provide flexibility is twin screw technology, and every major pump manufacturer in the sanitary industry has released some version of this in recent years. “That’s a major shift,” says Bob Garner, lead engineer at Ampco Pumps.
Like positive displacement (PD) pumps in general, twin screw pumps can be used for the gentle conveyance of lumpy, shear-sensitive, and abrasive media. But they offer an added level of flexibility for pumping liquids of different viscosities. They have the ability to pump large solids like meat slurries or fruit toppings, they’re efficient with shearing product, and they can pump CIP solutions as well as they pump product.
“It can handle solids well without damaging the solids—like yogurt with blueberries or ice cream with strawberries,” Garner says. “And it can be run at high speeds. So you pump your yogurt, then turn the speed up and pump cleaning solutions through. You don’t have to roll in a CIP pump system; you can pump product and then pump CIP at high speed.”
Versatility is the key for the Universal Twin Screw from SPX Flow. “It is designed for gentle product handling, low noise, easy maintenance, and wide operational speed range,” Sinutko says. “The pump works efficiently with everything from viscous product flows through to thin, CIP fluids, and handles high flow rates with low inlet pressures and bi-directional flows without modification.”
Fristam Pumps’ version of the twin screw is its FDS PD pump. “We’re able to eliminate a bunch of different pumps and use this one for pumping product and also as a CIP supply pump,” says Dan Johnson, application engineer for Fristam. “This pump can cover both high and low speeds and thick and thin product.”
GEA just launched a new twin screw pump in March as part of its Varipump line, which are pumps with a high degree of flexibility for optimum adaptation to individual customer requirements. The GEA Hilge Novatwin provides flexibility for a wide range of applications, enabling production and cleaning with one pump by variable speeds up to 3,000 rpm.
More pumps and valves are being geared toward improved CIP capabilities. PSG’s Wilden Saniflo HS Series AODD pumps, for example, not only result in a cleaner manufacturing process, Solfelt says, but also a more efficient one.
For a plant that’s switching more often from mango to orange juice, say, or Coke to Diet Coke to Cherry Coke, speed of cleaning can be a considerable factor. “The effectiveness of the cleaning is fundamental,” Jones says. “But if you can do it faster, you can save tens of thousands of dollars an hour.”
Faced with significant cleaning efforts with each change in yogurt flavor, Noosa Yoghurt took a good look at its total downtime cost (TDC) and realized the savings it could achieve improving its cleaning process. For example, fruit line piping must be cleaned after each fruit flavor in a 40-minute changeover process that repeats 12-13 times per week. In addition to the TDC for CIP procedures, Noosa was losing hundreds of pounds of product each week there and in its honey-recirculation line and blending skid. This, along with the water and chemical rinses, amounted to a potential savings of thousands of dollars each month through better product recovery and system cleaning.
One way that Noosa looked to improve the evacuation of its product lines and increase product recovery was through check valves, which are used to push residual product downstream at the end of a process while preventing product backfill during cleaning. Nick Hansen, Noosa’s improvement engineer, set out to find a sanitary air blow check valve to do the job.
The downside of standard 3-A certified air blow check valves is that they must be cleaned out of place—a manual cleaning step that adds costly downtime and introduces the possibility of human error. Because food, dairy, and beverage products are intended for human consumption, sanitary standards for production are high, and a great deal of attention must be focused on valve cleaning. But every manual step added to the cleaning process creates a potential failure point.
The answer ended up being the TrueClean CIP’able valve from Central States Industrial. It’s the only sanitary air blow check valve approved by 3-A Sanitary Standards for cleaning in place. With an air blow check valve that wouldn’t need to be disassembled to clean, Noosa could increase cleaning efficiency while also maintaining product integrity. With increased levels of automation as well, Noosa operators could cut 40 minutes of work during a flavor changeover down to 45 seconds. (See “Noosa Yoghurt Cuts Downtime, Product Loss With Valve Upgrade” at https://bit.ly/NoosaCIP to learn more.)
When designing a new pump, Alfa Laval’s engineers think about cleaning as much as they think about its ability to pump, Jones says. Not only does the pump need to be able to pump food through, it needs to be cleaned efficiently as well. “When you put cream through a pump or peanut butter, it’s going to get everywhere in that pump where it can go,” Jones says. “When you flood water through that pump, those won’t necessarily go through the same parts.”
Cleanability can be a tricky subject, though, especially in the U.S., where cleanability standards are lacking. “There are lots of shades of gray,” Jones says.
The most applicable standard for the dairy industry, for example, is 3-A, but most people look to that as a minimum standard because it doesn’t have a cleanability test. “After you’ve pumped milk all day, you have to clean the system. And the pump is one of the hardest things to clean,” Jones notes. “With thin milk, you could have a relatively sanitary design, and you’ll still be OK. But in a more viscous environment, that starts to get tough.”
In the U.S., manufacturers have a tradition of PD pumps that have to be taken apart and cleaned by hand, Jones says. That won’t fly anymore, though, and customers are looking more and more for CIP’ability.
Cleanliness, of course, is of utmost important in food and beverage production. “These types of plants always strive to keep their processes as hygienic and sanitary as possible, knowing that any lapse in quality or taste will have far-reaching negative effects for consumers and the manufacturer itself,” Solfelt says.
PSG has noticed a considerable uptick in the number of customers upgrading to higher levels of cleanliness, including sanitary construction, such as clamped ports, stainless-steel components, and advanced surface finishes, Solfelt says.
Another recent advance from PSG is the Wilden Pure-Fuse Diaphragm, which has a one-piece design that eliminates trap areas between the outer piston and diaphragm where bacteria can grow.
Running hot and cold
Hygienic pump manufacturers are seeing a substantial increase from the food industry in sales for hot oil, such as in fryers, according to Garner. Where industrial pumps used to be the norm, customers have started demanding cleaner sanitary pumps for this application, he says. “We had to open up some of the clearances and provide special elastomers that can handle the temperatures.”
On the other end of the spectrum, there’s also more demand for cryogenic capabilities—in the -50 to -60°F range—for hemp oil and CBD oil. This also takes special seal materials and elastomers, Garner says. “As soon as we started getting requests for that, we came out with a special seal design, material-wise, that can handle low temperatures, as well as special elastomers,” he says, explaining that Ampco worked with its seal supplier to develop the new seals. Customers with cryogenic processing demands were trying to use pumps with standard seals, but they were failing all the time, he adds.
Overall, considerable focus has been put on seals—how long they last, how easy they are to change. Customers want more maintenance friendly seal changes, Garner says, such as frontloading seals that can be changed without removing the piping or body of the pump. “The pump is the heart of that process room. When that pump goes down, everything else shuts down,” he states.
Looking at the cost of ownership—not just the purchase price, but the price of that pump over its lifetime—85% of that comes down to energy efficiency, according to Jones. A significant chunk of the remainder is maintenance. It can make a big difference in cost of downtime if that pump can be repaired faster. “If a pump goes down, it could cost a plant $10,000 an hour on a pump that only costs $2,000,” Jones notes.
One feature of Alfa Laval’s LKH line is that one seal fits over 16 different pump sizes. A really big plant that has lots of different pump sizes only has to stock one seal for repairs. “They’re quick to change, only one size, and it’s also a very long-lasting seal,” Jones says.
Some customers want to get rid of the elastomers in their pumps altogether. If an elastomer O-ring, for example, gets cuts into a batch of hotdog meat, that whole batch will have to be tossed—an expensive proposition. In this case, more customers are compelled to demand metal O-rings, particularly in the meat industry, where they are pumping meat slurries. If anything happens with that O-ring, the metal is more detectable and can be removed, Garner notes.
In one case cited by SPX Flow, a processor was using a PD pump to transfer yogurt containing seeds. That pump had an O-ring seal that was quickly wearing out as seeds accumulated around it, meaning the process had to be stopped while the seal was replaced, impacting productivity and cost. “The pump was changed for a Universal 3 Series PD pump, which uses a flat, profiled gasket instead of an O-ring,” Sinutko says. “This stopped the seeds from accumulating, reducing maintenance overheads, increasing productivity, and providing a solution that was cleaned more thoroughly during CIP cycles.”
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