The food and beverage industries remain important contributors to the manufacturing and fastmoving consumer goods (FMCG) sectors, as well as the local economy. However, food and beverage manufacturers are some of the most highly regulated (and penalised) businesses – and rightly so, given the impeccable standards of process and product quality, and safety, that must be maintained to protect consumers and end-users.
Added to this, modern consumer tastes and corporate retail demand for new flavours, fashions and fads has created a demand for ever-greater quantity of product lines. This demand runs somewhat contrary to the operation of traditional dedicated process lines where there is one pipe-run for one product, says industrial equipment supplier Verder Pumps South Africa MD Darryl Macdougall.
Previously, if a company wanted to produce more lines of products, they needed to build more production lines, recommission an existing line or suffer downtime cleaning and turning around a line in operation. However, modern production facilities - particularly in food and beverage production - have moved from a dedicated production line for each product to an innovative multi-product line which could be processing several different food stuffs, liquids or slurries every day.
“This has placed a lean, flexible manufacturing process as the engine of a successful operation – and the process needs to be consistent and reliable to accommodate perishable ingredients, storage, short-lead times for retail clients and, of course, maintain a safe and hygienic production line. This process also needs to be repeatable, ensuring the quality of each batch, to maximise on outputs and minimise on waste and potential losses. As a result, production efficiencies and product quality remain key performance indicators for food and beverage processors,” notes Macdougall.
There are, however, challenges with the multi-product line approach that every production line manager will invariably face. For instance, deciding on how best to manage the transition of one product to another when using the same line for batch production. A potential hazard to a multi-product line approach is cross-contamination, which can result in spoiled product, shorter shelf-life, production downtime and risks to employees during the cleaning process.
Additionally, a multi-product line can increase the exposure risk to microbes, which present an ever-looming threat to food and beverage manufacturers. This has also been compounded by the current consumer trends in food, as the sector has seen an increase in favouring fresh, flavourful, easy-to-prepare foods, with little sugar, salt, and less to no preservatives added, which makes it difficult to keep microbes out of the food.
“With the above in mind, being able to produce high grade safe and quality food and drink products – with every batch – requires machines that are 100% reliable, meet today’s hygiene standards and are able to handle products with care. A tall order, but in reality – when the quality of the product can directly impact the safety, experience and buying behaviour of the customer, which directly impacts the bottom line – there can be no shortcuts.”
Directives from the European Hygienic Engineering Design Group (EHEDG) – which have been accepted and are widely applied across related industries in South Africa - are aimed at setting universal standards that are founded on science-based knowledge in the hygienic engineering and design of food and beverage production equipment and facilities. As an example, a core aim of the EHEDG standards is to prevent contamination of consumable products – and directly related to this, one of the major directives from EHEDG states that every part of the production line should be accessible for cleaning.
The cleanability requirements – including clean in place (CIP) and sterilisation in place (SIP) - to meet hygiene standards alone present a number of challenges for processors, and particularly those operating multi-product lines. With a modular design, however, there is a great opportunity to address many of the challenges presented by a multi-product line and the cleanability requirements.
For example, a modular design to the production line can allow processors to add, remove, change out or undertake maintenance to machines and equipment on a production line with minimal disruption, which also means less downtime.
Taking this a step further, and at the heart of maintaining the highest levels of hygiene standards means selecting fit-for-purpose hygienic pumping solutions that have been designed and built to eliminate any risk of contaminants during production. For example, throughout the production process, there are many areas where hygienic pumps with a modular design can be integrated. Such solutions allow for ready disassembly, cleanability and reassembly.
Additionally, when reviewing the production line, processors should consider speciality twin-screw pumps that were designed for reliable pumping - from low to high viscous, volatile or gaseous products – across multiple applications and fulfil the utmost hygienic and efficiency requirements according to the highest hygienic specifications such as EHEDG and 3A certified manufacturing processes.
“In the food and beverage industries, processes must be reliable, repeatable and error-free, and integrating the right equipment is critical to maintain this sustainably. We understand that navigating the technical obstacles of selecting the right pumping solutions for specific applications can be complex. Food and beverage processors therefore need to look to a trusted and reputable brand that can offer not only a wide range of pumping solutions, but solutions that are long-lasting, cost-effective and efficient – because they are 100% fit-for-purpose for the application,” concludes Macdougall.