Transition Towards Shared Production Lines

From food and beverage to pharmaceutical and cosmetics manufacture, many production facilities have evolved from using dedicated plants and production lines to utilising shared lines. Each shared line could be processing several different varieties, types and flavours of products each day.

In this blog, we provide a summary of both shared pipelines and dedicated pipelines and outline some of the key advantages and disadvantages of each.

We also look at the role of product recovery (‘pigging’) systems and how they can benefit liquid processing companies with shared production pipelines.


Dedicated Production Lines

Advantages of Dedicated Production Lines

Dedicated production lines use a separate ‘dedicated’ line for each product. So, a dairy manufacturer would have a separate line for natural yogurt, strawberry, vanilla, rice pudding and so on. Each line is designed to produce a single product at a high production rate. Dedicated production lines can be extremely advantageous from an allergen standpoint.

After all, if separate production lines are used for foods with different allergen profiles, this reduces both contamination and cross-contamination risks on the lines themselves. In this way, dedicated lines can help manufacturers manage allergens more effectively. However, it’s important to note that even with a dedicated production line, cross-contamination may still occur as a result of shared utensils, air supply, cleaning practices etc.

Because dedicated lines run just one product in one configuration, manufacturers do not have to perform a changeover when switching from one product to another. Therefore, long production runs are commonplace. In this way, dedicated lines minimise downtime and changeover expenses considerably.

Disadvantages of Dedicated Production Lines

Although desirable, having a dedicated line is not always practical due to capacity constraints. After all production plants can only accommodate so much expansion. Especially in recent years, with ever-changing customer demand and the explosion of stock-keeping units (SKUs). Manufacturers are finding that their production plants simply cannot keep up with the myriad of products.

To remain competitive, manufacturers need production lines that are flexible and can accommodate the varying production requirements and mass customisation prevalent in the processing industries. Dedicated lines are unable to do this and cannot deal effectively with variations of product.

Manufacturers have the option to build more lines or production facilities to satisfy consumer demands and increase capacity. However, this isn’t always feasible and requires high investment in infrastructure, space, and equipment.

Having dedicated production lines can also be problematic for manufacturers with a smaller product portfolio. There are many situations in which dedicated lines do not operate at full capacity, which means product gets wasted.

Dedicated production lines can also hinder efficiency, especially if the volumes are low. That’s why manufacturers are turning to shared multi-purpose lines that are more efficient, effective and responsive.

Shared Production Lines

Advantages of Shared Production Lines

Due to consumer appetite for greater variety and the explosion of trends, shorter production runs and more frequent changeovers are commonplace. Manufacturers need to be able to launch new products rapidly, manage a diverse product portfolio and quickly adapt to changes in demand. Therefore, manufacturers need equipment that is flexible, agile and can handle multiple products.

That’s where shared production lines come in, as they have the capacity to handle many different formulations and configurations of product. For example, a beverage manufacturer would use the same multi-purpose line for orange juice, pineapple juice, lemon juice and so on.  A food manufacturer could use the same line for products that contain allergens.

Because the same line can be used to process a wide variety of products, shared production lines offer greater flexibility and accommodate mass customisation. They also eliminate the need for excessive capital investments to expand production capacity. The production line will need to be cleaned and reconfigured between batches; however, it makes efficient use of equipment. After all, you can replace lots of dedicated lines with a much lower number of shared lines.

Because shared production lines are flexible, they can generally adapt and keep working even if another line breaks down or needs maintenance. So, less time is wasted on lengthy mechanical issues commonly associated with dedicated production lines. Also, shared lines are nearly always automated, which reduces manual intervention. Therefore, labour costs become very low.


Disadvantages of Shared Production Lines

One of the main disadvantages of having shared production lines is changeover losses. Because shared lines run multiple products and configurations, manufacturers must perform a changeover when switching from one product to another.

Changeovers are a critical operation in many manufacturing plants; however, they can be time-consuming, wasteful, and sustain unnecessary downtime and capacity losses. And the more changeovers there are, there more downtime there is which means a decline in productivity, and ultimately revenue.

It’s important that all traces of the previous product are removed from the pipework before the equipment can handle the next one. So, manufacturers must keep their equipment clean to avoid bacterial contamination or cross-contamination between batches. This often involves clean in place (CIP) and sanitising the equipment.

Not only are cleaning operations due to changeovers time consuming, but they can cause additional costs to manufacturers through product, resource, energy, and time losses as well as wastewater production and other environmental impacts. In this way, changeovers can be extremely costly and can hinder efficiency and the bottom line.Assemble-pipe-hps-pigging

Reducing Downtime and Speeding up Changeover Times Using Product Recovery Systems

Pigging systems can eliminate many of the problems commonly associated with shared pipelines. The technology can be advantageous to companies that process many different formulations and configurations of product. That’s because pigging recovers the majority of product remaining in the pipeline (up to 99.5% product recovery), which increases product yield and reduces waste. If you are unsure what pigging is and how it works, here are some pigging system demonstration videos.

Because there’s minimal product remaining in the pipeline after pigging, there’s much less cleaning, water, rinsing, and resources required. In this way, pigging makes cleaning easier and faster and speeds up changeovers so there’s less production downtime.

Pigging also enables the same line to be easily used for multiple products, which increases the capacity and flexibility of operations. If there is a minor change in product, colour or flavour, it is often possible to process the next product instantly after pigging. This can eliminate the need for flushing altogether.

Other key benefits of pigging are that it drastically improves productivity and boosts efficiency. This is through increased yields, minimised waste, faster CIP times,  reduced flushing, higher capacity and increased flexibility. This equates to higher profits.

Speak to the Experts

Thanks for reading our blog article about shared and dedicated pipelines in liquid processing.

HPS Product Recovery Solutions specialise in pigging and product recovery systems for the process industries, including food, beverages, cosmetics, personal care, household goods, paints, coatings, pet food and so on. With thousands of customers throughout the world, HPS has improved the productivity, efficiency, sustainability, and profits of a massive range of organisations with a diverse range of products.

For more information about improving your processing operations by using hygienic or sanitary pigging systems, liquid product recovery or transfer solutions, please contact HPS.

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