Meeting Customer Demand for Product Variety
In recent years, evolving customer expectations, narrow margins as well as intense competition have resulted in an upsurge in the number of product options. Manufacturers have responded to this pressure and strive to meet customer needs.
In the food industry for example, there’s premium, plant-based and ecologically conscious products, to more personalised, protein enriched and healthier options. So manufacturing plants now produce an extensive range of Stock Keeping Units (SKUs).
It’s the same with many other sectors.
Due to these ever-changing customer needs and preferences, process manufacturers must contend with more batches and shorter production runs. These lead to more frequent changeovers.
Changeovers tend to be time-consuming and non-productive. And with changeovers occurring with greater frequency, manufacturers face the challenge of making them as quick and efficient as possible.
In this article, we explore how technologies such as HPS product recovery (pigging systems) are helping to reduce changeover times in liquid processing.
What are Changeovers?
Manufacturers often use the same production line to process different varieties, types, and flavours of products.
Changeovers usually refer to the process of converting a processing line from running one product to another.
Purchasing new equipment is often not a feasible option for manufacturers due to capacity constraints. Therefore, changeovers are a natural part of normal daily operations.
During changeovers, instead of producing product that generates profits, equipment comes to a grinding halt.
Downtime associated with changeovers can last anything from anything from a few minutes to hours or even days depending on the line’s complexity and the changeover process itself.
The Problem with Frequent Changeovers
During changeovers, processing equipment needs to be rigorously cleaned. This is to ensure no traces of the previous product remain that could potentially cross-contaminate the next batch.
More often than not, this process is extremely time, resource, and labour intensive.
It’s also extremely expensive since product remaining in the pipeline at the start or end of the run is wasted. On top of that, there’s also the cost of water, cleaning agents and energy – all of which are critical for clearing the pipes of product residue.
And the more changeovers there are, the more downtime there is. This ultimately equates to a decline in productivity, efficiency, and revenue.
That’s why many process manufacturers are implementing smart strategies and technologies, such as pigging, to reduce downtime and speed up changeover times.
Pigging Used in Extensive Variety of Applications
Pigging is in wide use in liquid processing, especially in hygienic or sanitary environments.
It’s used by companies that manufacture food, beverages, pet food and confectionery. It’s also used by manufacturers of household liquids, personal care, cosmetics, lubricant oils, paints, coatings, chemicals, and many other applications.
So, how exactly do pigging systems reduce changeover times in liquid processing?
Reducing Changeover Times with an HPS Pigging System
Regardless of the process, whenever a liquid is transferred along a pipe, there’s nearly always product residue remaining. This product needs to be removed before the next batch can be processed.
In many applications, clean-in-place (CIP) technology is used to remove the bacteria, chemical and biological residue from the previous run and prepare the processing equipment for the next process or production run. CIP uses a mix of chemicals, heat, and water during the various stages of the process.
Typically, the first step of the CIP process involves a prerinse with water. Cleaning is then carried out with one or two specific chemical washes, using detergents, strong alkalis, or acids. Water is typically used during the final stages of CIP to flush the residual cleaning agents or chemicals from the processing equipment.
In the process industries, particularly in hygienic or sanitary environments, pigging recovers nearly all the residual liquid product from the pipe. Due to the high recovery rates of HPS pigging systems, there’s no requirement for extensive, time-consuming line flushing and CIP.
Pigging will not always eliminate the need for CIP completely, but significantly shorten the process. Sometimes it can cut out the need for a preliminary rinse, and usually reduces the rest of the CIP cycle.
Either way, pigging reduces changeover times considerably.
How Pigging Works
The pigging process consists of a specialist projectile (called the ‘pig’), which during changeovers or cleaning, is propelled through the pipeline used to transport a liquid.
Because the pig has an interference fit with the pipe, it pushes practically all the product residue from the pipeline to its destination (which is typically the filler or tank, bottling or package, or the liquid could be sent to continue processing along with the rest of the product).
Importantly, instead of the pipe being left full of residual product at the end of the transfer batches, a pigging system recovers nearly all the product.
So, manufacturers will spend far less time on flushing their pipelines out with water before proceeding with the cleaning. In some specific cases, it’s possible to immediately follow on with the next product after the pigging process, eliminating the need for flushing completely.
As an example, HPS implemented a hygienic and sanitary product recovery solution for a personal care manufacturer in the UK and they have seen their changeover times more than halved to 7 minutes.
What About in Applications that Don’t Use Water?
While water and CIP are used in many applications for cleaning purposes, some products such as chocolate, lubricants or solvent-based paints, will not use water. However, pigging systems are still an extremely effective way to speed up changeover times.
For example, in chocolate production, manufacturers may clean the pipework by dismantling it and manually scaping and brushing the equipment. This process can be extremely time-consuming, and wasteful.
In addition, some chocolate manufacturers, when changeover over from one product to another, may have an initial run-off period for the new product. So, this may involve a product-to-product push from milk chocolate to white chocolate where there’s lots of mixing and dilution between the two products, resulting in cross-contamination and high wastage. To verify product quality, the operators may also have to visually inspect what’s coming out of the filler.
This method can be extremely labour-intensive and costly for chocolate manufacturers, where in many cases, the cross-contaminated products may get sent to drain or reworked into a lower quality product. This, in turn, would result in higher production costs, and lost sales revenue.
All of this can easily be avoided with a pigging process in place.
Due to the high recovery rates of the HPS pig, nearly all the product is recovered from the line. So, this makes changeovers much faster, reduces the chances of cross-contamination, and improves product quality and value.
What are the Other Benefits of Pigging?
Reducing changeover times isn’t the only reason companies that process liquids are investing in pigging systems. That’s because pigging systems deliver a wide range of benefits. One of the most common key drivers to most pigging systems is increased yields, and faster changeover times tend to be an added bonus.
Having said that, the faster changeover times can alone can sometimes be enough to financially justify investment in a pigging solution. If you add on to that the increased yields and capacity, pigging system payback becomes very quick and ongoing ROI substantial.
And by increasing yields by pigging, this equates to less waste, improved efficiency and productivity, and higher profits.
Other key benefits of pigging systems include streamlined operations, reduced use of cleaning agents, enhanced production flexibility, prevention of aeration, foaming and dissolved oxygen and reduced environmental impact.
And for just about every company that processes liquid product, pigging systems deliver high return on investment and fast payback – usually within a few months and nearly always in less than a year.
Find Out More
If you are interested in speeding up changeover times, reducing downtime, lowering cross-contamination risks plus more through HPS pigging and product recovery solutions for hygienic and sanitary applications, please get in touch.