Lean Flow Manufacturing with Parallel Processing can increase Efficiency by 300%

A modern Lean philosophy combined with state of the art technology can revolutionise profitability and the agility of manufacturing to quickly react to changes in market demands.

The markets for Sports Nutrition as well as Infant Nutrition are growing continuously and at a fast rate. Both share a challenge that with this demand comes increased complexity driven by diverse consumer tastes, an overall increase in the number of packaging SKUs, as well as the complexity of having to deal with allergens and the strictest of hygiene standards.

Producers of Sports Nutrition are finding that they simply can’t cope with increased demand. They need more & bigger processing equipment and more space in which to locate it all. Infant Nutrition manufacturers, on the other hand, are typically geared to produce very large volumes and have no such issues with increasing capacity. But due to the fact that recipe changeovers are difficult and time-consuming to make, this increasing complexity means that either lead times or warehouse space are increasing (there is a tendency towards the latter, since market demands must be fulfilled).

Most process systems currently used to produce these high value Nutritional products are linear – you start at one end with raw materials and out of the far end of the process comes the final product. The same approach, and often the same equipment, is used whether it is a 500kg or 10 ton production run of a particular recipe. The problem is that the process line will only be as effective as its weakest link.

There are typically vast arrays of processes that take place along the way, from raw material to finished product. Dispensary, mixing, sieving and packing, and in some cases, more complex processes such as granulation and drying must also be included. It is nearly impossible to have all these processes running totally synchronised, so as a result there is a lot of waiting time between one process and another. This results in an inadequate OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) rate both for individual equipment as well as the process line as a whole.
If this wasn’t enough to cope with, then the ever increasing number of recipe changes further destroys the effectiveness of this conventional way of processing, as there is so much down-time spent in cleaning between recipes, particularly where cross-contamination is a real risk. This means that large quantities of WIP/WIQ (work-in-progress/work-in-queue) are produced in an attempt to keep all the processes moving.

Lean Flow Manufacturing with Parallel Processing can increase Efficiency by 300%

A more modern and efficient way to work is to apply a parallel processing approach whereby a number of batches of different recipes run through the ‘process line’ all at the same time.
Does this sound alarming from a safety standpoint? It shouldn’t do if the appropriate technology and a well thought out concept are used.

Efficiency gains of up to 300% can sometimes be achieved, without having to use additional floor space. The secret lies in achieving a reliable and consistent ‘Takt Time’, with every process running efficiently, which eliminates the need for extensive WIP/bufferage to cover up bottlenecks. Processes are no longer constrained waiting for each other to be completed before moving to the next.

How can this be done?

Parallel Processing means splitting up the process steps (decoupling) so that Formulation, Blending, Packing and Cleaning can take place simultaneously. IBCs (Intermediate Bulk Containers) are used to transport materials throughout the production processes, which means that the processes are continuously fed giving good OEE rates. The closed nature of the Matcon IBC system means that there is no risk of cross-contamination, so allergens can more easily be handled safely.

Matcon has over 30 years’ experience of consultative process design: from defining the concepts to designing the systems, then supplying the final solution, all under one roof. A Matcon system offers a number of significant business benefits:

  • Reduced cost per kg of manufactured product
  • Manufacturing flexibility – producing to order
  • Decreased inventory, for improved cash utilisation
  • Better OEE from quick & independent changeovers

A staged approach to process improvements.

If all of this sounds like too much of an upheaval and too high-risk to make a wholesale change, then it is certainly possible, and entirely common, to take a ‘staged approach’ when implementing a Matcon system solution. Typical changes made by our customers have been to:

  • Decouple mixing from packing which can double the capacity of either/both pieces of equipment, especially where frequent cleaning is required.
  • Replace static mixers for premixing. High volume production, such as in Infant Nutrition, benefit operationally from pre-mixing micros and minors. Static mixers will have exceptionally poor OEE in this application, often involving double bag handling for both filling and emptying such mixers. With an IBC Blender the blending hopper gets transferred to the main mixer without any open handling.
  • Decouple raw material batching/dispensing from mixing. This typically increases available process time (and thereby efficiency) by some 50% or more. The bigger the batches, the greater the time-saving typically gets, as the time it takes for an operator to load the mixer is directly related to the volume of raw material required.

The Nutritional market is moving on, are you?

The large multinational Infant Nutrition producers have come to realise the benefits of using a Matcon System and have either already implemented or are in the process of making such a change.

As a typical example of the significance of Matcon’s contribution, please find below a testimonial from Peter Suess, Chief Engineer for Nestlé in Germany, Benelux and Nordics:

“At Nestlé we have extremely strict & tough hygiene criteria during the manufacture of all our products. Minimising the risk of any contamination or cross-contamination in our production system is, for us, paramount. We have recently incorporated Matcon’s IBC system for the storage of intermediate powders prior to mixing and packing, in several of our manufacturing sites around the world, due to its fully enclosed transfer system which enables us to almost eliminate any hygiene & contamination issues from this area of our system. We chose Matcon due their expertise and competitive pricing, but also appreciate their support during installation and later during the operation of their systems. Close monitoring by their staff after start-up has ensured optimum performance from all sites to date, which we are obviously delighted about. Matcon is a very reliable partner for us and we look forward to continue our excellent cooperation in our current operation and for our new developments together with them.“ – Peter Suess, Chief Engineer Nestlé Germany, Benelux & Nordics.

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