This case study looks at how Chinese food additives company, Brothers Ilong, implemented a top quality manufacturing system that meets all the strict hygiene standards set by the stringent Chinese legislators.
Brothers Ilong provide the Chinese dairy industry with specialty raw materials and blends for the manufacture of high quality products for both children and adults. When they invested to increase production volumes in 2011, they decided to buy the highest quality equipment. They chose the same equipment as that used by many international infant formula producers.
The Primary Need – With a backdrop of a number of scandals in the Chinese dairy industry, Brothers Illong put hygiene and cleanability top of the list when looking to invest in expanding their production capacity.
The Burden of Mixing & Cleaning – At the time of expansion, they had four static ribbon mixers of different capacities ranging from 500kg to 3000kg to match the order requirements and to try to keep the downtimes to a minimum. They used 6 operators per shift to keep all the mixers running and they tipped all pre-weighed materials, from a mezzanine floor, directly into the mixers, ingredient by ingredient. The mixing time was uncommonly long at 1 hour, with a poor flowing product taking longer at 1½ hours.
After mixing, a further 8 operators were required at the ground level to pack-off. During this time the mixers were idle. In addition, the 8 operators could only work on one mixer at a time, so the other 3 mixers had to wait their turn. This made it impossible to keep the mixers at a high OEE rate (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) and it was very complex to manage the production process as there were too many quality control points and the 14 operators were working in a busy, dusty environment.
The Matcon System – After a reference visit and full-scale testing at the Matcon Test Centre, using Brothers Ilong’s own ingredients, Matcon were granted the contract. The final solution involved creating 4 discrete ‘process modules’:
- Sack tipping with sieving and check weighing
- IBC Blending
- Packing system with a high accuracy auger filler
- IBC Cleaning to provide quick and safe cleanout at recipe changeover.
Reducing Manpower – Using a Matcon IBC Blender, batch sizes of up to 1600kg can be processed quickly. Because the product stays within the IBC and there is no product contact with the blender itself, changeovers are virtually instantaneous. At the moment Brothers Illong are running 2 batches an hour, but have the capacity to run 3-4 batches per hour off the single IBC Blender, even changing recipe at each time if required.
The amount of manpower required has been halved, with 3 people for filling, 1 at blending and 3 at packing. This team can now produce 20 tonnes in a single shift, meeting the same capacity of the previous system, whilst allowing for future growth. They can also perform the cleaning duties during their shift, whereas before they had to work overtime.
Small but Mighty – The Matcon IBC system is very compact in design, which means that Brothers Illong still have the ability to increase production volume three-fold by adding in extra packing lines and a second shift, whilst still running with just one IBC Blender. All the while, meeting the make to order approach.
High Standards of Hygiene – The Matcon IBC system is designed with hygiene in mind. The simple design of the IBC and the Cone Valve make for easy cleaning off-line. The packing lines and sack tipping units are simple to clean and can be supplied with change-out parts to make changeovers even quicker. The IBC Blender does not require any cleaning as there are no product contact parts.
Wet washing of the IBCs takes place off-line using the manual wash lance. The high pressure water jet sprays water around all the internal surfaces of the IBC, removing even the most stubborn contamination. This process is repeatable and validatable.
The Full Benefits – Brothers Illong now have the most hygienic yet flexible manufacturing plant in China. Production throughput has doubled, yet the number of operators has reduced by half.
This has resulted in the most efficient and hygienic dairy facility in China – a show-piece which satisfies both their customers and the stringent Chinese legislators.
Specific Benefits Include:
- Hygienic design ensures consumer safety
- Easy cleaning for rapid changeovers
- Cleaning off-line reduces line down-time
- Fast batch blending for improved efficiencies
- Flexible production due to decoupled system
- Increased capacity, reduced manpower for lower cost/kg product
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