Industrial Automation and Liquid Product Recovery

Food Manufacturers Have Most to Gain.

A recent report from well-known UK bank Barclays highlights the significant benefits to industry of automation. In terms of operations and employment, the report predicts that nearly all sectors of manufacturing could gain significantly from increased investment in automated systems.  In particular, it suggests that businesses in the food-manufacturing sector, along with pharmaceuticals, have the most to gain.

Productivity, Quality and Efficiencyautomated pigging system

The report, called ‘Future Proofing Manufacturing’ summarises the benefits of automation as improved productivity, increased efficiency, better product quality and better product consistency. It suggests that fairly modest investments in automation technology can have a major positive impact on output.

Improving Employment

Interestingly, the report also suggests that automation can also help keep people in work. This is in direct contrast to the commonly held belief that automation actually puts jobs in jeopardy.  What’s more, as well as helping to maintain jobs in manufacturing, automation may also, perhaps indirectly, help employment in related industries.

Food and Pharmaceutical Industries

The research shows that, while a wide range of sectors can benefit, automation could deliver a 10% output increase between in the next four years for businesses in the food and pharmaceutical industries. As time goes on, the gains become larger with the report estimating a possible 25% rise for both sectors between 2020 and 2025. The reason these sectors have the most to gain is their relatively large size and potential to take up automation, along with the relative ease of implementation.

Automated Product Recovery

The Barclays report looks at automation generally rather than focussing on specific techniques.  However, automation is a broad term that encompasses many different technologies. HPS has extensive experience working closely with manufacturers that process liquids, including food manufacturers. Time and again, this experience has demonstrated that one of the easiest and most reliable ways to improve productivity and efficiency is through automated product recovery (often referred to as ‘pigging’).

How Pigging Helps

Hygienic and sanitary pigging systems are in wide use in the food sector. These systems recover liquid that is left in the pipeline while changing products. This speeds up changeovers while cleaning the inside of the pipelines and reducing the risks of cross-contamination. Most significantly, the product recovered by pigging is in the same, useable condition as the rest of the product. So, it can continue to be processed or sold, rather than being flushed to waste or discarded. This increases yields, while saving energy, labour, water and cleaning fluids. Above all, it increases productivity, efficiency and profits.

Within most liquid process industries, and in particular food and beverage manufacturing, the benefits of pigging systems are well known. Automation increases these benefits even further. In fact, companies that have implemented an HPS product recovery system will typically see a return on investment in less than twelve months. By industrial standards, that’s extremely quick.

Automatic Pigging Systems

The majority of pigging systems deployed by HPS are automatic. In the food, beverage and many other sectors, to maintain sanitary or hygienic conditions, automated pigging solutions are nearly always closed-loop systems and use FDA approved pigs.

Just like manufacturing automation in general, automatic pigging provides a wide range of benefits. As well as increased processing speed, efficiency and productivity, automated pigging systems reduce the chances of human error. This means there’s less chance of incorrect operation that could cause damage to equipment, poor or incorrect operation, or most importantly people. With any processing system, safety is of the highest priority. With pigging systems, automation reduces risk and improves safety.

Adding to Existing Plant

While many pigging systems are deployed on new plant, the majority are added to existing equipment. Automation is no different. It’s common for HPS engineers to add and integrate pigging system control software in to current systems. What’s more, it is not confined to pigging. As well as developing process control systems and software and modifying existing programmes for pigging systems, it’s also common for HPS engineers to develop programmes to control a wide range of other processes at the same time.

Larger Companies More Likely to Have Invested

Referring back to the Barclay’s report, it’s estimated that while over half of manufacturing businesses in the UK have invested in automation, over three-quarters believe there’s scope for more. The report also highlights that it is larger companies that are far more likely to invest in automation. Nearly three-quarters of companies with a turnover of £10 million or more have invested in automation, compared to around a fifth of those with a turnover of less than £1 million.

More Information

A PDF version of the Barclays report ‘Future Proofing Manufacturing’ is available at the Barclays corporate website here (note HPS has no association with the report, its research, contents or conclusions whatsoever, we just think it is makes interesting reading!).

To find out more about improving your productivity and efficiency through automated product recovery and pigging, please contact HPS.