In the past IBC Blending has not been considered as a viable alternative to conventional, static mixers within the food industry. The reason being that tumble blending alone, in many cases, has not proved adequate enough to produce a homogenous mix. This article explores how technology advancements have enabled this is to be addressed and demonstrates how a single blender can make such a difference.
Current Reality – The “industry standard” for mixing of powder is to use some kind of static hopper (conical, cylindrical or trough shaped) with a large rotating tool to provide the main mixing action. This mixing action is often further enhanced by applying a fast rotating agitator or intensifier to break up lumps and / or dispense a liquid or fat into the mix. In order to achieve a homogenous mix it is often required to “sequence” or “stage” the ingredients in the correct order, sometimes with time intervals between, thereby occupying an operator throughout the complete mixing cycle.
The actual mixing time (once all ingredients enter the hopper) is often very short – just a few minutes. But the filling (including staging), emptying and thereafter cleaning between recipes are all very time consuming operations, leading to poor efficiency and consequently OEE, with rates typically around 5-25%.
As demand for capacity and flexibility continue to increase, more factory space is required to accommodate more and more mixers.
The High Cost of Inventory – To make matters worse, the classic response to the poor OEE is often to mix more volume of a given recipe before changeover in order to reduce relative downtime for cleaning. This results in large amounts of stock which ties up capital as well as significant amounts of space. This stock is at risk of being wasted since the fashion for tastes changes very quickly, meaning a product that was in heavy demand 6 months ago may no longer be sellable, so has to be scrapped.
Eventually, additional floor space is required in order to cope with the increasing inventory – resulting in major capital expenditure for a new building and infrastructure. This ultimately puts the business under immense pressure to increase the turnover, perhaps at the expense of profitability.
IBC Blending can Save Millions – A static mixer as described will typically achieve 4-6 batches per shift including down time for cleaning every other batch. An IBC Blender, however, will achieve 3 batches per hour, independent of recipe changes.
The single IBC Blender can do the same job as five static mixers, thereby drastically reducing both the capital expenditure on equipment but also floor space required. Furthermore, because there is no longer an incentive to mix more than ordered, the WIP & Inventory will be reduced, saving hundreds of square metres of warehousing space. Now the new factory or warehouse which was deemed necessary before, is simply no longer required!
How Effective is an IBC Blender? – The IBC Blender is a simple, proven and robust technology which originated in the pharmaceutical industry, providing hundreds of companies the highest quality blends of free flowing powders.
However, historically it was not easy to handle sticky powders or liquids, which are common in the Food Industry. Matcon have developed an “Intensifier” to overcome this limitation. This has proved incredibly efficient and is already in successful operation in many locations around the world.
Achieving Homogeneity – Some of the smallest ingredient inclusions can be down to 0,01%, and with the Intensifier CV-values of 2 or less can typically be achieved.
It has also been identified that many of the traditional mixer staged blends can now be performed as a single run, particularly useful in the Bakery sector for mixing in the fats. This further improves throughput (OEE) as well as reducing complexity and risk of errors.
Whilst the Intensifier is considered to be a contact part, the changeover between recipes can still be very rapid as an additional Intensifier head can be supplied which means that there is always one in service, with cleaning taking place off-line.
Batch ranges – The IBC Blender is versatile too enabling a range of batch sizes to be blended on one piece of equipment. On the one hand, an IBC can be filled to between 25-75% of the air volume and on the other, a Blender can be supplied with adjustable clamps to fit a range of IBC heights.
Overall, Matcon is able to offer a range of blending capability from between 300L to 3100L.
For further information on how our IBC Blender might help you to reduce your operational costs please contact us on +612. 9892.4822 or visit www.matconibc.com.
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