Manual, Automatic and Semi-Automatic Pigging Systems – What’s the Difference?

Which Pigging System is Right for Your Application?soft drink bottles beverage industry

A pigging system is ideal for process applications such as food, beverage, confectionery, personal care, cosmetics, home care, paints, coatings and many more.

Also referred to as liquid product recovery, the main purpose of the technology is to recover or remove residual liquid remaining in the pipes after it has been transferred from one location to another. Pigging is one of the easiest and most effective ways to increase product yield, boost efficiency and improve profits and environmental sustainability.

Pigging systems can be designed as a manual, semi-automated or fully automated system – whatever you prefer to suit your needs and fit your budgetary goals. So, what’s the difference between them and which is right for your operation?

Manual Pigging System

Manual pigging systems, as the name implies, use manual control to launch and receive the pipeline pig. Because they rely on operator control, they are more suited to more simpler pigging solutions. Even then their applications are limited.

Although they are the cheapest, manual pigging systems tend to be more labour-intensive, time-consuming and less safe than their automatic counterparts. The operator must do everything from opening and closing the valves to turning on the propellent and inserting the pig.

Because they rely on manual intervention, this increases the risk of human error, incorrect operation, and inconsistency. Ultimately, this could lead to damage to the equipment and the individual operating it. At the same time, manual operation means it’s easier to make routing mistakes where the product gets sent to the wrong destination. That’s because manual systems have no electronic safety interlocks to prevent incorrect operation. HPS incorporates as many safety features as possible. If we do not think a system is safe, we won’t supply it. However, manual systems are inherently less safe than automated.

In addition, if manual pigging equipment breaks down unexpectedly, it may be more difficult to find the root of the problem. With automated solutions, you can look back at the operating parameters to troubleshoot what happened. On the other hand, with manual solutions, you are relying on humans to accurately recall what they did step-by-step.

Semi-Automated Pigging System

Semi-automated pigging systems benefit from automation during certain steps of the pigging sequence. However, some elements of the process still need to be completed by human beings.

For instance, automation is used to control the launch valves. However, generally, the pig is removed manually at the receive housing after it has recovered or removed the residual liquid. Whereas fully automated pigging systems have automatic control systems, this is not necessarily required for semi-automated systems. However, it’s common to have a small push-button panel to launch the pig.

In fully automated pigging systems, the pig cleaning process is typically integrated within the wider CIP process and performed automatically as required. However, with semi-automated solutions the pipeline pig is cleaned manually outside of the system.

plant worker user HMI automated pigging control

Semi-automated systems offer many benefits to liquid processing companies. They are a great option for companies wanting to improve their processing operations but want to keep some elements of human interaction. They are also suited to single source to single destination solutions and lines that are rarely pigged. Because they only have certain elements of automation, they can meet the needs of companies on a lower budget.

Although they have many benefits, semi-automated pigging solutions are unable to meet the speed, efficiency, productivity and reliability provided by fully automated systems.

Fully Automated Pigging System

The vast majority of pigging systems provided by HPS are fully automated.

Fully automated pigging systems are operated by a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) with either HMI or SCADA systems. Because they are fully automated, they can run entirely from beginning to the end of the sequence with no manual intervention. If there is human interaction, it can be as simple as responding to system prompts and troubleshooting.

As well as ensuring high levels of safety, operational efficiency and reliability, fully automated solutions also maintain maximum levels of microbiological, hygienic and sanitary cleanliness. In this way, they are suited to a wide range of sectors, industries, and applications.

Automated pigging systems can be standalone or integrated. Standalone systems have a separate panel from the existing set up to automatically control all the various steps of the pigging operation. The PLC can also integrate pigging into your existing setup to control everything in the plant and make the manufacturing process more efficient.

Because pigging system safety is of the highest priority at HPS, our automated pigging systems have electrical interlocks. These reduce the risks of human error and prevent operation unless the system is in a safe condition to use. Therefore, there’s less chance of incorrect operation that could lead to damage to the equipment and the individual operating it.

Although they are more expensive than manual and semi-automated systems, they offer a wide range of benefits that justify the cost. As well as speeding up changeovers, reducing downtime and improving cleaning times, HPS automated pigging solutions improve efficiency and boost productivity. They also offer a high return on investment (ROI). Many automated pigging solutions will pay for themselves extremely quickly as a result of less downtime, more efficient operation and reduced labour costs.

automated control panel liquid processing industries

An Overview – Manual, Semi-Automated and Fully Automated Pigging Systems

From manual to semi-automated and fully-automated pigging, regardless of the solution you choose, the benefits of pigging are relatively clear.

Our systems will cut waste, minimise the use of water and cleaning fluids and save you money. They will also speed up changeover times and minimise cross-contamination risks. What’s more, because pigging systems recover residual product that would otherwise be sent to waste, this increases yields and improves efficiency by saving energy, labour, resources, water and cleaning fluids.

However, choosing an automatic pigging system will increase these benefits even further. As well as boosting efficiency and productivity and ensuring product consistency, automatic pigging solutions enhance safety, reduce downtime and lower the risks of human error.

Contact HPS

Since 1995, HPS has been implementing pigging and product recovery solutions throughout the world. We have successfully deployed thousands of systems to processing industries such as food, beverage, confectionery, personal care, cosmetics, home care, paints, coatings and many more.

With our extensive experience and knowledge, our experts can recommend the best solution for your organisation that meets your exact requirements and budgetary goals.

To talk to an HPS expert about the best system for your plant and process, please fill out the short form below:

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