The right specialty coating systems for animal feed will help to produce higher-quality end products while making the entire process more efficient. The wrong coating equipment during animal feed processing can introduce problems and inefficiencies. Which animal feed processing equipment works best depends on a number of factors, including the type of animal feed, type of liquid additives, surrounding processing conditions, and more.
Choosing Speciality Coating Systems for Animal Feed Processing
Liquid coating processes have become increasingly important in all types of animal feed processing, from pet food to poultry feed to aquatic feed and more. Liquid coatings often supply essential fatty acids, vitamins, and nutrients the animals need to develop healthy bodies, or to grow quickly. This generally involves a coating process over feed pellets.
Some of the challenges facing specialty coating systems include ensuring that the liquid coating is uniform across the pellet and that all pellets receive a coating. Different liquid coating systems have different ways of meeting these challenges.
Mist coating is a highly efficient specialty coating system in animal feed processing. Through this process, pellets are coated using atomization. Liquid falls on quickly-moving, rotating disk applicators and turns to mist. Pellets fall on all sides of the spinning disks and move through the mist. This results in an even coating as the pellets fall. Since the rotating disk does not require spray nozzles, like many other speciality coating systems do, mist coating can avoid clogs. This is especially helpful when working with heavy fats, oils, sugars or salts, which can collect on the ends of the spray nozzles and create clogs.
Spray Coating and Mixers
Spray coating uses mixers and spray nozzles to coat pellets. The mixers might use paddles or ribbons to mix the material or move it forward while the spray nozzles coat the material. The spray nozzles are unlikely to evenly coat the pellets by themselves, so this method relies on the mixing action to create an even coating.
If the mixer is insufficient—it doesn’t mix long enough, the mixer is overfilled, or the construction isn’t correct—the mixing action may be insufficient as well, which can result in an uneven coating. The spray nozzles can also become clogged with liquids that use heavy fats, oils, sugars or salts. These clogs won’t happen at an even rate, so fixing one clog won’t necessarily prevent another. The clogs can also create excessive backpressure, which can damage other parts of the liquid metering system.
Vacuum coating uses air pressure and a vacuum space to ensure liquid ingredients stick to dry pellets. This method helps liquid ingredients not only stick to the surface of the pellet, but also brings the liquid ingredients into the pores of the pellet. This can result in a more even and thorough coating. It’s also possible to distribute multiple layers of coating through this process. However, if the pellet will be damaged or oversaturated with too much liquid, this might not be an effective solution.
Vacuum coating starts by creating a vacuum space inside the coating equipment. One or more layers of liquid coating is then added to the dry pellets or other products. Then, when air enters the chamber again, the pressure brings the liquid coating into the pellet’s pores and causes it to stick to the surface. This process generally protects the pellets from crumbling, but it can reduce the “crunch” quality of the pellet and make it more elastic.
Understanding and recording the liquid ingredient characteristics, as well as the dry ingredient characteristics, and other parts of the liquid processing system will aid in the design of the optimal animal feed processing equipment. Talk to your equipment manufacturer about the liquid metering system, liquid system pump, measurement system, and other essential components. Careful consideration will help to prevent problems and keep your system working properly.
A hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) assessment is an essential part of food safety at every level. The Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) made HACCP assessments and plans more stringent for food manufacturers and processors, with the goal of reducing risk and improving food safety. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to make a HACCP plan specifically for food and animal feed manufacturers, and tips that can help save you time and reduce risks.
How to Make a HACCP Plan for Food and Animal Feed Manufacturers
The FDA defines HACCP as “a systematic approach to the identification, evaluation, and control of food safety hazards based on the following seven principles:
Principle 1: Conduct a hazard analysis.
Principle 2: Determine the critical control points (CCPs).
Principle 3: Establish critical limits.
Principle 4: Establish monitoring procedures.
Principle 5: Establish corrective actions.
Principle 6: Establish verification procedures.
Principle 7: Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures.”
This process is meant to control biological, chemical, and physical hazards across the food supply and production process. While this applies to all aspects of the supply chain, including “growing, harvesting, processing, manufacturing, distributing, and merchandising to preparing food for consumption,” in this blog post we’ll discuss how to make a HACCP plan for food and animal feed manufacturing only. Keep in mind that food safety protocols that apply to food for human consumption generally apply to animal feed as well, including feed for livestock as well as pets.
Each step in the HACCP plan should be clearly documented. Thorough documentation will create standard work at each step of the operation. This makes it easier to maintain a standard operating procedure and makes it easier to maintain quality regardless of changes in personnel.
Before you begin on the HACCP principles outlined by the FDA, a few preparation documents will help to make the process easier. These documents include the following:
A list of staff trained in HACCP and responsible for food safety.
Description of food, its distribution and use. This might also include the ingredients and packaging.
Flow diagram of the process. This will depend on your product and process. For a pet food manufacturer, this would include all steps from receiving and storage of raw materials, processing, mixing, coating, and packaging for shipment.
Verify the flow diagram: The HACCP team should review the flow diagram and other documentation and compare to the actual operation and facility to ensure it is correct.
HACCP Step 1: Hazard Analysis
With your preliminary documents in place, it will be easier to make a complete HACCP plan for your food manufacturing facility. This begins with hazard analysis. The process flow diagram is particularly useful here, as you can identify potential hazards at each step in the process. When it comes to HACCP analysis for food manufacturing, his might include any of the following:
Ingredient Storage: Ingredients should be tested for purity and quality to ensure they do not arrive contaminated. The storage units should also facilitate FIFO usage, and prevent any ingredients from sitting for long periods and accumulating bacteria causing foodborne illness. If refrigeration is required, alarms should be used to ensure temperatures stay consistent.
Mixing: During the mixing and coating processes, particularly for pet food, the quality of equipment and cleaning procedures are especially important. Equipment that does not use good manufacturing practices, including proper construction and welding, can rust or break down, introducing metal fragments into the mix. If the equipment is not cleaned properly, bacteria can build up. Finally, pesticides or sanitation chemicals should not be stored near the processing center, so they do not find their way into the mix.
Cooking: If foods are not cooked properly, bacteria can remain and multiply. Foods with high fat and oil content are especially susceptible, as fats and oils can create protective pockets around bacteria.
Product Storage: Just like ingredient storage, the food should be stored securely at the appropriate temperature. For dry pet food or animal feed, this might mean keeping the finishing product away from moisture or pests.
Distribution: Distributors should take care to maintain cleanliness, proper temperatures and safety, so the finished product arrives in good condition.
HACCP Step 2: Determine the Critical Control Points (CCPs)
The previous step is helpful for determining critical control points. Where hazards are areas where food can become unsafe, critical control points help to prevent hazards from occurring. This can include a number of things in food processing and manufacturing, many which were included in the hazard examples above.
HACCP Step 3: Establish Critical Limits
Critical limits set exact standards for when and how a hazard is controlled. This way, there are clear criteria for when a hazard is controlled or not. All critical control points should be matched to one or more critical limit criteria. If these are not set, there is no way to determine if the control is in place or not.
According to the FDA, “Critical limits may be based upon factors such as: temperature, time, physical dimensions, humidity, moisture level, water activity, pH, titratable acidity, salt concentration, available chlorine, viscosity, preservatives, or sensory information such as aroma and visual appearance.” For example, if cooking is necessary to kill bacteria, both temperature and time minimums and maximums should be noted.
HACCP Step 4: Establish Monitoring Procedures
Critical limits are only effective if they are monitored. This often means using sensors, timers, or visual inspections to ensure the control limits are being met. In some cases, microbiological testing may be required, but this is generally not an effective way to control hazards. It is more effective to the conditions which create or destroy microbes instead.
HACCP Step 5: Establish Corrective Actions
Even a very effective HACCP plan will miss some hazards. Corrective actions are important to prevent hazards when critical limits aren’t met. This helps to prevent contaminated food from reaching customers and prevent the contamination from happening again. The FDA outlines a series of actions to stop the spread of contaminated food and ingredients, and prevent deviation from occuring again. The outlined steps are:
1. Determine and correct the cause of non-compliance
2. Determine the disposition of non-compliant product
3. Record the corrective actions that have been taken.
HACCP Step 6: Establish Verification Procedures
For critical control points, limits, and corrective actions to be effective, HACCP staff must be able to verify that they really work. There are two parts to this step. The first requires that the processes being followed are scientifically validated and shown to accomplish their purpose. For example, if the product is cooked to eliminate bacteria, there must be evidence that the critical limits being applied (time and temperature) adequately destroy bacteria.
The second part of the verification process means showing that hazards are actually being controlled using the critical limits, monitoring and corrective actions described. By reviewing the HACCP plan and verifying that it is being correctly implemented in the facility, food manufacturers can eliminate the need for product testing. Since it is known that the control procedures and critical limits are scientifically validated, and it is known that they are being followed, it can be assumed that the resulting products are safe.
HACCP Step 7: Establish Record-Keeping and Documentation Procedures
The hazard analysis itself, and documentation of all the previous steps, are an important part of step 7. When the HACCP process and verification procedures are carefully documented, it is easy to show that the procedures are correctly applied and why they are applied in the first place.
HACCP records may include a number of different documents, such as:
Product information: ingredients, description, intended consumers and intended use.
Supplier information: name, contact information, supplier food safety compliance records and certifications.
Processing: food processing or manufacturing flow chart, critical limits,
Distribution: distributor’s contact information, certifications, locations for sale.
Training: all HACCP training records
Corrective actions: any deviations from the plan and corrective actions taken.
With this process and these documents in place, you can protect yourself from liability and protect consumers from harm. As you change, expand, or improve your process, such as automating some tasks, changing recipes, or upgrading equipment, it is important to reassess your HACCP plan. This will ensure that hazards are consistently controlled.
There are many factors affecting feedlot efficiency that operators cannot control. This makes the factors that operators can control even more important. Automation technology is one way that feedlot operators are finding ways to improve efficiency. With the right strategy and the right equipment, you can save time, reduce expenses and reduce losses.
5 Ways to Improve Feedlot Efficiency Through Automation
1. Saving Time with Automatic Mixing
Manual processes take time, especially when they have to be repeated daily or multiple times a day. Automating these processes as much as possible can save hours, and free workers to take on more important tasks.
When deciding which processes to automate and where the most significant benefits exist, consider the processes on either side of the task. Are workers idle while a task is being completed? If so, automating this task can improve efficiency. If the other processes require similar amounts of time, automating this process probably won’t significantly improve the overall system.
Common opportunities for feedlot automation are during feed mixing, formulating, distribution, and the cattle induction process. Consider adding a micro machine for formulating and mixing additives into feed, or using cloud-connected devices to increase efficiency and safety in induction stage.
Additives, including vitamins, minerals, ionophores, and antibiotics, can quickly add to expenses, especially if they’re inefficiently measured or improperly mixed. Getting the precise amount of these micro ingredients and reducing waste as much as possible can help to significantly reduce expenses in the long run.
The right micro machine can solve this problem with consistent mixing and accurate, pre-programmed weighing. Scales weigh ingredients quickly and exactly to get the right amount, and each ingredient is distributed automatically according to a pre-programmed recipe.
3. Reducing Costs with Buyer Flexibility
When investing in feedlot automation equipment, it’s tempting to reduce upfront costs using ingredient supplier contracts. However, exclusive contracts for expensive micro ingredients can quickly eat into feedlot efficiency gains. When considering equipment contracts for dairy and cattle micro ingredient systems, compare the supplier’s ingredient prices as well, and weigh it against the cost of a machine. Are prices significantly different? How much would you save with the option to shop around for vitamins, minerals and other additives?
Before entering a contract with an micro ingredient supplier, consider all your options, as well as your goals for the machine. Get a clear picture of the machine’s long-run benefits, and the supplier’s performance. If the extra cost of additives outweighs the value of the machine and process improvements, consider a cattle feed micro machine without a contract.
4. Reducing Errors With Lot Tracking
More information allows you to make better decisions, and more visibility allows you to solve problems. Lot tracking technology makes it easy to see the consistency, origin and destination of all feed in the lot. When making adjustments to feed or assessing problems like infection or low feed intake, complete visibility over the feed schedule allows you to make informed decisions. Cattle feed micro machines with lot tracking capabilities allow you to access this information in one place, and more easily make adjustments. This information also makes it easier to compare results year over year, and track expenses, yield, and growth more accurately.
5. Reducing Downtime and Maintenance
When considering system automation to increase feedlot efficiency, downtime and maintenance are also important factors. All systems will require a degree of regular maintenance and cleaning to stay operational. This process should not be overly complex, or it may eat into the speed and efficiency gained from introducing the machine in the first place.
To assess the maintenance schedule of automation systems before installing them, consider what the machine is made of, how it is constructed, and whether or not it uses proprietary parts. If certain parts of the machine can only be accessed by a repair technician, or some components can only be replaced by the supplier, downtime may be problematic, especially during weekends or holidays. A modular construction makes it easy to assess and repair problems, and off-the-shelf components allow you to take maintenance and repairs into your own hands.
Investing in automation requires consideration, but the right machines can significantly improve feedlot efficiency. Automating dangerous processes or processes introducing error can also help to eliminate other problems. Consider your options carefully and make an automation strategy before diving in, choosing the slowest, more inaccurate, or most dangerous tasks to automate first.
Finding the right cattle feed micro machine for your dry and liquid micro ingredient additives can save you time and money. However, it’s important to find a balance between price, ROI, maintenance costs, ease of use, and functionality. Understanding the challenges facing feedlots, APEC developed the Cattle Pro with flexibility, durability, and cost-savings in mind. The Cattle Pro enables feedlot owners to precisely add the best combination of antibiotics and nutrients for optimal quality.
8 Benefits of the Cattle Pro Micro Ingredient Scale
1. No Commitment, Better Prices
Many liquid and dry weighing machines for cattle come with an unspoken agreement; a long-term ingredient supplier’s contract. The Cattle Pro does not have fine print. The Cattle Pro micro machine is suitable for any of the typical micro ingredients used in a feedlot, and is programmable for any amounts you specify. You can continue to purchase from any suppliers, so you are free to shop around for the best price.
Our Cattle Pro Micro Ingredient System means you no longer need to sign a contract with your micro ingredient distributor. It allows you to reduce costs by shopping for the micro ingredients without being locked into a contract. The Cattle Pro Microingredient System is fully accepted and compliant with government regulations.
The Cattle Pro allows you to add dry and wet micro ingredients in exact amounts. The system delivers the ingredients as a slurry that is pumped directly to your feed mixer. This means no more time-consuming separate weighing and adding of nutrients and antibiotics. The Cattle Pro also weighs ingredients in a fraction of the time compared to manual weighing. You and your staff can save time, energy, and manpower.
3. Faster, Easier, Safer
Weighing and adding micro ingredients by hand not only takes time, energy and extra staff, but it also introduces error. A moment’s distraction means feed is not properly formulated and cattle are exposed to nutrient deficiencies and the possibility of disease. The Cattle Pro eliminates this uncertainty with a pre-programmed, precise weighing system and automatic delivery into the feed mix. Liquid and dry ingredients are weighed and added exactly, every time, in a few quick minutes.
4. Lot and Ingredient Tracking
For organization and quality assurance, it’s important to know where your ingredients come from and where they go. The Cattle Pro can conduct barcode tracking on ingredients automatically, so you can see exactly what nutrients, antibiotics and other additives went into the feed. Lot tracking takes this visibility a step further, showing you where the feed went, and when it was used. Every transaction is stamped with the exact time and date, so there is no guesswork involved.
5. Accurate Measurements Support ROI
Adding too many minerals or antibiotics means paying for extra you don’t need. Not adding enough means cattle don’t get the nutrients they need for optimal production or disease resistance. Exact feed measurements and mixing allow you to pinpoint the optimal amounts, and perfectly balance inputs and outputs.
6. Low Maintenance
Investing in an automated micro machine for cattle feed additives means weighing the costs against the benefits. Maintenance plays an important part here. The Cattle Pro is easy to clean and maintain, giving it a long life and minimal down-time. The flush hopper and conveyor can be separated from the machine, so it is easy to completely clean. The modular construction makes it easy to access any areas that require maintenance. Made from industrial-grade stainless steel with off-the-shelf components, it can easily be maintained.
7. Reduce Waste
The Cattle Pro automated cattle feed micro machine is completely enclosed. This keeps the additives contained and eliminates housekeeping problems from water mist escaping from the machine. The heavy duty construction and precision load sensors mean that you will have accurate results time after time. This also makes it more durable and less susceptible to jamming or environmental damage. Finally, the ingredient conveyor and water pump combination is designed for optimal efficiency, requiring less water than comparable models.
8. Start Right Away
Set-up is also an important consideration when investing in an automated cattle feed micro machine. It shouldn’t take a team of experts to get it up and running. The Cattle Pro is pre-wired and pre-plumbed, so the startup takes less time.
The Cattle Pro simply makes cattle feed mixing easier. When you save time, money, and benefit from consistent feed quality, you can focus on growing your business. Learn more about the Cattle Pro micro machine online or contact us for more information.
The increased use of super sacks in feed and pet food processing has saved operators hours in time, reduce costs, and helped to dramatically improve efficiency. A one-ton bulk bag (AKA super sack, flexible intermediate bulk container or FIBC) can take the place of forty fifty-pound bags. However, the growing popularity of super sack unloaders also introduces workplace hazards. If you are considering switching to bulk bags, make sure you have the right bulk bag unloader design, and the right super sack handling precautions in place.
Super Sack Handling Precautions in Receiving
Super sacks are highly durable, and built and tested to carry up to 1 or 2 tons of material, however they can be damaged by improper handling or misuse. A few precautions and clear handling instructions at the receiving and loading stage can prevent many injuries later on.
1. Inspect the bag
When you receive the super sack or bulk bag of materials, do a brief inspection to ensure the bag is not damaged. In particular, look at the seams and the handles. This not only helps to prevent injuries that could occur from falling or breaking bags, but will also help to prevent product loss and expenses.
Bulk bags should only be handled by a qualified forklift operator. To prevent the bag from tearing during loading and unloading, use a forklift with rounded or square tines, not sharp tines. Since most bulk bag injuries result from breaking handles, the operator should also take care during loading.
This procedure should be clear, and safety at this stage should be a priority. Instead of driving the forklift tines into the handles, the operator should manually place the handles onto the tines, drive forward, and then place the next set. Though this will take more time, it is an important measure to prevent damage to the handles and thereby also prevent injuries.
3. Alternative lifting mechanisms
Bulk bags are often shipped on a wooden pallet, so they can be lifted from the bottom. A lifting frame on the fork truck or attached to a hoist can then be used to attach the four bulk bag straps to the four hooks under the frame. Then the lifting frame can life the bag into position, or the fork truck can lift and set the bag by positioning it on top of the bulk bag unloading frame.
Super Sack Handling Precautions in Loading
4. Clear the area
Loading the bulk bag onto the discharge station is also a careful process, as this is where most injuries occur. When loading the bulk bag, no one should ever be underneath the bag at any time. This is especially important if you are using a hoist to lift the bag into position. The most common injuries occur when either the handles or the frame fails and the bag falls on a worker. This can kill or seriously injure personnel. To prevent this, the hoist should function without the need for a worker to guide or adjust the bag, and the area underneath the bag should be clearly marked.
5. Use a tried and tested frame
The frame supporting the bulk bag as it is loaded and discharged should also be strong and stable enough to support the system in the long-term. If the bulk bag often loads improperly and it is crooked or not properly supported, the weight will distribute unevenly on the frame, causing it to bend and eventually break.
Super Sack Handling Precautions in Discharge
6. Untie the bag, don’t cut it
When discharging the bulk bag into the system, there should be minimal contact between the bag and the operator. In some cases, a worker may cut the bulk bag spout with a knife to discharge it, however this introduces unnecessary risk. Instead, the bag and the spout should be untied and pulled into place.
7. Control dust
If the super sack materials are dry or they pose a dust fire risk, it is especially important to control fugitive dust during discharge. There are a number of ways to do this, and which is best will depend on your materials, facility, and the bulk bag frame design. You might use a spout seal, iris valve, or a ventilation system to control dust.
8. Control static
If dust does become a problem around your bulk bag unloader, a dust fire can occur even without an obvious trigger like a spark or arc. As the materials, especially powders, flow out of the bag, they create static charge. If a static spark reaches a dust cloud under the right conditions, it can explode. While mitigating dust, it is also important to ground the super sack unloader frame to prevent static buildup. By reducing the risks of both powder and static charge, you dramatically reduce the chances of dangerous powder explosions.
9. Eliminate pinch points
Finally, where the bulk bag spout and the valve or seal meet, make sure that workers are not exposed to pinch points or crushing. The care that you used to prevent dust fires can quickly be undone if workers can reach into spout-sealing systems or bag-elongating systems and injure themselves.
Super Sack Handling Precautions During Disposal
10. Don’t reuse the bag
In some cases, super sacks may be reused in other processes. While this is more environmentally friendly and can cut down on packaging costs, this method should be used with care. Reusing bulk bags can introduce cross-contamination, and it can damage the bag. Only reuse bags that are tested for this purpose, and only when cross-contamination isn’t an issue. Many suppliers offer recycling programs for bulk bags to make your operation more environmentally friendly without the risk from reusing the bags.
Super Sack Handling Precautions in Storage
11. Store bags securely
If you receive multiple bulk bags at one time, you should also exercise caution about storage. Improper storage, can damage the bag and cause it to fail, or the bag could be punctured and material can be lost. If bulk bags are stored on top of each other to save space, use a racking system designed for this purpose. Never stack super sacks on top of each other.
Considering workplace hazards when you install your bulk back system will prevent injuries from happening later on. With proper super sack handling precautions from the start, you can take advantage of reduced costs and increased efficiency, while maintaining a safe workplace.
In the previous post, we discussed common problems that can occur with the start of a micro-ingredient system, including ingredient bins and feeders. The latter half of the system is generally more complex, and more issues usually arise here. In this blog post we’ll cover micro-ingredient scales, conveyance and controls, and what you can do to design the most effective system.
7 Ingredient System Planning Pitfalls for Micro-Ingredient Scales, Conveyance and Controls
1. Miscalculated Scale Error
To find the right scale for your formula, you’ll need to to add all of the possible ingredients and the quantity of each. This will tell you the size of the scale that you need, but you also need to consider the margin of error. If the scale can accurately measure within +/-5 grams and the required accuracy of the formula is 1%, you won’t be able to measure 10 grams of a micro-ingredient, because the possible error will be 50%.
The scale resolution is also important to consider. The minimum increment a scale will display is generally one 10,000th (1/10,000) of the total scale capacity. So, a 100 kg scale would display in increments of .01 kg. If this isn’t suitable for your accuracy measurements or your feeder output, you may have to reconsider your scale capacity. Using the 100 kg scale example, if your feeder puts out more than .01 kg of material a second, and the control system can only time shut-off to within a second, the system will be inaccurate by this amount.
3. Incorrect Scale Hopper Design
The type of materials, the available height in the facility, and the downstream conveyance must all be considered to design the right scale hopper. Limited vertical space in some facilities can prevent the use of some types of scale hoppers, like a conical scale. Use of a roll-over tub with a slide gate may be a better choice then for facilities with lower ceilings. However, since a roll-over tub discharges material all at once, this will only work if the downstream conveyance or next process can accommodate all materials. If your materials are better suited to pneumatic conveying, like fine powders, then a conical scale hopper will transition into the pneumatic system easier. If you prefer to skip conveyance and discharge into the mixer, a conic scale hopper or roll-over tub will work.
4. Cycle Time Doesn’t Match Mixer Time
For the micro ingredient system to reach maximum efficiency, the cycle time of each ingredient—including the time it takes for the materials to fill, settle, and discharge—must align with the batch mixing time of all ingredients. If, for example, it takes 30 seconds to fill, measure and discharge each ingredient in a 10 ingredient mix, it will take 300 seconds total to weigh the material in the scale so the mixer could be waiting for the weighing process to complete. If the mixing time only takes 150 seconds, it will be idle half the time. To solve this problem and reach maximum efficiency, you might use two scales, each with 5 ingredients.
This will require some careful calculations, as the fastest cycle time time, average time, and slowest time will vary. The times for each ingredient will also vary by density and amount. Be sure to allow some room for timing variation.
5. Vibration Interference
Vibration can be used i in a micro ingredient system to prevent bridging, ratholing, and other no-flow conditions in bins and hoppers. It’s also desirable to keep the different parts of your system close together to prevent the need for extraneous conveyance. However, if scales are placed too close to vibrating equipment, it can cause fluctuation of the scale reading. If the scale readings are dampened to eliminate the fluctuating readout, the scales may appear to be working normally and showing normal readouts, but the process duct may be weighing incorrectly. In this case, interference through vibration may be to blame.
6. Conveyance Contamination
The most efficient type of conveyance is through gravity, however this is not always an option, especially for facilities with low vertical clearance. In these cases, you might use pneumatic, belt or drag conveyors. When using belt or drag conveyors, it’s important to prevent contamination from one batch to the next. Materials, powder or coatings that become stuck on the belt can not only damage the belt and cause it to stick or slide, but can also contaminate new material. Use scrapers or brushes to prevent material build-up on the conveyor. It may also be advisable to run a flush material through the conveyor to clean off the residual material.
7. Slow or Damaged Controls
The micro ingredient system cannot function properly without direction from the right controls. The control system, whether you are using a PLC or PC, should be able to sample each scale quickly and stop feeders without a long delay, otherwise overfilling will ruin the batch. The system should also be powerful enough to control all scales, feeders, mixers, metered liquids, and other functions with accuracy. Finally, the control system should be enclosed if dust, moisture, heat, vibration or other hazards are a concern. Often, a PC will be used outside the factory floor for extra processing and data storage power, and communicate with a more durable PLC directly controlling equipment.
With different ingredients and recipes there are different challenges for each part of the micro ingredient system. If you have questions about the needs and capabilities of your micro ingredient system or ingredient automation system, take a look at the Engineer’s Guide to Weighing and Batching. This guide addresses the issues from this and the previous blog post in more detail, as well as many others not discussed here.
In any industry, automation is based on goals: solving problems, minimizing risks, and reducing costs. The same is true for feed mill automation. There are a number of ways that feed mill automation can improve the end product and solve or reduce problems throughout the operation. Though some facilities may automate all processes at once, step-by-step automation is also a viable option. Feed mill automation can drive ROI in the following ways, and many of these benefits may occur simultaneously, depending on which process or processes you choose to automate.
7 Ways Feed Mill Automation Drives ROI
1. Reducing Labor Costs
Automation not only ensures that tasks are completed consistently, but also eliminates the need for manual operation. Repetitive tasks no longer require physical labor, and free up manpower for more sophisticated and important jobs. Automation can also protect workers from safety risks, either by removing them from dirty or dangerous environments, or by putting reliable safety controls in place.
Enhanced production is one of the most common factors driving ROI in feed mill automation. With the right design and maintenance, automation can streamline processes and remove the need for breaks and pauses. The right machines can also work at a faster rate.
3. Measureable Regulatory Compliance
Feed mill automation can simplify regulatory compliance for rules like the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), among others. Track and trace is an important part of FSMA compliance, but can be difficult to accurately implement without systematic controls. Tracking lot numbers manually not only introduces error, but takes up workers’ time and energy. Lot tracing can easily be automated, and it will greatly improve accuracy. With a reliable, automatic system in place tracking where your ingredients came from, what they went into, and where the product ultimately went, you can reduce liability and meet compliance requirements with minimal costs.
4. Consistent Testing
To prevent moisture, toxins and other substances from ruining ingredients and the finished product, proper sampling and testing is essential. With automated sampling and testing, you can gather uniform, accurate information about ingredients and products. Detecting excessive moisture in ingredients from the start will prevent product from being contaminated, and allow you to hold suppliers accountable for defects. Detecting aflatoxins and other harmful substances in ingredients also reduces liability, as well as product loss. With feed mill automation for testing and sampling combined with automated track and tracing, any problems with ingredients or products can be accurately recorded.
5. Reducing Batching Errors
Batching is one of the most common areas for feed mill automation, and often offers the highest initial ROI. By automating your batching and mixing processes, you can substantially reduce error and variation. When your recipe is programmatically controlled, corn, soy, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other additives are each exactly measured. With an easily re-programmable controller, you can even change the recipe without significant downtime.
6. Automatic Routing
Automation of the batching process is usually the first section of the feed mill to be automated, but the addition of downstream routing of material can enhance the payback of the system. If the system has to wait for the operator to setup the routing of material to the downstream packaging or load-out, then valuable production time can elapse while waiting for a route to be selected.
Through most zones, feed mill automation makes hazard analysis and critical control points easier to regulate and monitor. By gathering more data, more often, with less manpower required, you can get holistic, up-to-date information about your production line. You can also eliminate risks altogether by automating repetitive tasks with a high risk of human error. Automated regulation ensures that critical control points are monitored at the same time, in the same way, with no exceptions.
Before starting or continuing feed mill automation, plan and design your system carefully. Conduct ingredient testing to ensure that the system is suitable for your recipe, and be sure to factor any maintenance costs into your ROI calculations. With the right system automating the right process, you can realize a return quickly and eliminate risks at the same time.
Ribbon mixers in many industries are designed similarly from facility to facility with few variations. However, some design considerations can minimize the up front investment and maintenance, and maximize production and quality. The best way to get optimal efficiency from your ribbon mixer is to get the right design from the start. Depending on your materials, environment and overall mixing system, there may be more to consider than you think.
How to Optimize Your Ribbon Mixer
Compile Ingredients List
Your ingredient characteristics will play a role in several ribbon mixer design elements, and starting with this information will help your equipment manufacturer optimize the design. This way, you will have the size and features you need, without expensive extras. What characteristics you include will depend on whether your ingredients are solid, powder, liquid, or paste. For solids, it’s helpful to know any of the following that apply:
In some facilities, space may be a concern. This will impact the footprint and profile of your mixer, which in turn affects volume and production. If you require a large 8 or 10 ton ribbon mixer to meet production, be sure that this will not crowd out other equipment or create workplace hazards.
Calculate Total Production
How much you need to mix will help you determine the size and profile of the ribbon mixer design, or how many mixers you may need. This way, you aren’t investing in a larger mixer than you need, or one that doesn’t make sense with your total cycle time.
Determine Mixing Time
Your ingredients generally must move through the mixer completely three times to be adequately mixed. How long this takes depends on the ribbon mixer dimensions, as well as the ingredient characteristics. To be considered adequately mixed, you’ll need a coefficient of variation of 10 or less. Testing the mixer and the system with your ingredients beforehand will prevent excessive variation, while providing the ideal cycle time.
Record Weighing Time
Minimizing mixing time can yield efficiency gains, but not if the mixer sits idle while ingredients are measured. How long it takes to weigh and discharge ingredients will give you a guideline for the ideal mixing time. If your weighing time and mixing times are close to the same, you can minimize idle time for each process.
Accurate Agitator Profile Design
To get a good mix, you’ll need to fill the ribbon mixer to its swept volume. This means the agitator profile determines, in part, how much the machine can mix in one cycle. The mixer profile should not exceed 2.5 times the diameter of the agitator. The design of the agitator itself, including the ribbon thickness and shaft, may also be a factor, as a heavier agitator will require more energy to move and will have more shear. A simpler agitator design can reduce the initial investment if it’s suitable for the ingredients and facility.
Determine Ribbon Mixer Profile
With the previous information, you can determine the optimal ribbon mixer profile. Longer mixers will be able to mix more volume, but it will take longer, though this won’t be a problem if the cycle times aligns with the weighing time. For lower mixing time and more volume, you’ll need to scale up the ribbon mixer profile proportionately.
Number of Ribbon Mixers
In some cases, it may be more economical to use two ribbon mixers instead of one that is double the size. This way, a problem with one mixer will only reduce production instead of stopping it.
Liquid Coating Considerations
If your ingredients require a liquid coating, you may wish to apply it during the mixing stage. Keep in mind that some liquid coatings may not be evenly applied at this stage, or they liquid may not be suitable for spray nozzles. If the liquid coating can be applied during mixer, be sure to factor in any additional adhesion that may occur. If material stick to each other or to the mixer, extra maintenance may be required, which can eat into ROI.
Ribbon mixers are generally gentle and impose little shear on ingredients, however it can be an important consideration with some shear sensitive materials. Consider any solid ingredients as well as liquid coatings; are they likely to break apart or separate? Do the ingredients require more shear to break up clumps? Most mixer manufacturers are happy to do testing in order to determine the best configuration for your product.
Most ribbon mixers operate at around 20 RPMs, though the horsepower it requires will depend on the size of the mixer and the characteristics of the ingredients. Make sure you don’t overestimate your motor and overspend, or underestimate your motor and reduce power to your ribbon mixer.
Install Proper Discharge Gate
The discharge gate on your ribbon mixer(s) will depend on your cycle time, downstream process and your materials. Drop bottom discharge gates will discharge quickly, but they can be harder to seal and allow powders to escape. This can be a challenge for very fine ingredients. Slide gates will discharge more slowly, but will seal more tightly. Multiple slide gates can provide a tight seal with faster discharge.
The type of gear reducer used in your ribbon mixer motor can impose unnecessary maintenance costs. A shaft reducer in lieu of a jack shaft or foot mount eliminates the need for an oil bath on the sprocket.
Some ribbon mixers are straightforward, and the mixer design varies little over time and throughout the industry. Others are more complex, and considering all the elements can help you improve the design. With the right ribbon mixer design from the start, your mixer will continue to work quietly in the background, with optimal efficiency and no problems.
The right super sack unloader system allows you to measure and process materials quickly and cost-effectively, with very little waste, error or manpower required. Unloading materials may seem like a straightforward process, however the wrong bulk bag discharge system can cause product defects, ingredient loss, and pose workplace safety hazards. The ingredients you’re using as well as the design of your system and the volume processed will all play a role in choosing a safe, effective, durable super sack unloader.
5 Super Sack Unloader Problems and Solutions
1. Design for Space
The first thing to consider with your super sack unloader is the design, which will depend on how you transport the bulk bags, and the design of your facility. Your bulk bag unloader design may be any of the following:
Forklift: If you are transporting the bag from the top using a forklift, this will most likely be the easiest and simplest option. This allows a forklift operator to easily load the bag into the frame from the top, with no other steps required.
Dedicated Hoist: In some cases a clear path may not be available for a forklift. A dedicated hoist design allows you to secure the bag to support arms and lift, then push it into place. With this design, it is important to motorize the lifting and pushing mechanism to put the bag in place.
Bottom Lift: Facilities with low clearance, such as those retrofitting from individual bag unloading, may use a bottom lift mechanism. With this design, a forklift operator can move the super sack and support frame from the bottom and lift it into place with only about half the height needed.
Keep in mind that staff should never be below the bags at any point while loading the bag, as this presents a serious workplace hazard. Though bulk bag failures are uncommon, they do occur.
2. Preventing Bag Deformation
As the ingredients flow out of the bulk bag, it will begin to lose its shape and ingredients will flow slowly, or even stop. There are several ways to stop flow problems, and which you choose will depend on the ingredients you are using and the design of the super sack unloader.
Raise the Bag: With vertical clearance available, you can lift the bulk bag support arms as the bag unloads, increasing the flow angle.
Retractable Arms: If the arms supporting the super sack are spring-loaded, they will retract as the bag loses tension. This maintains the flow angle.
Paddles: Pneumatic paddles at the bottom of the bag can push the ingredients up as the bag discharges. For ingredients with low flow, or for sticky materials prone to clumping, paddles and other flow aid devices are useful.
3. Accounting for Material Characteristics
The characteristics of your materials are also important to consider when choosing your super sack unloader. Some materials are more susceptible to flow problems or segregation, which can cause other problems in the process. How the material flows, its moisture content, whether it is prone to static charge, clumping or flushing, and other characteristics will decide what type of special features your bag unloader may need to be effective.
Flushing: Dry, light, free-flowing materials may have a tendency to flush, continuing to flow after shut-off. Pay special attention to the valve or gate below the bag to prevent flushing.
Dust: Dry, light materials also tend to produce dust. A ventilation or vacuum system may be required around the bulk bag unloader to prevent dust build-up and workplace safety hazards. When the bag is empty, dust can be trapped inside, so it is also important to tie the empty bag before removing it.
Clumping: Adhesive materials may form clumps within the bag, or the bag may become solid if it is compressed. In some cases, a bag liner preventing moisture can stop clumping. Pneumatic rams can break up solid blocks, or paddles can break apart clumps.
Static: Very fine materials as well as some plastic resins can become statically charged as they flow, especially in dry conditions. This can cause materials to stick to the sides of the bag or feeder and decrease the feeder capacity. The static charge can also pose a risk to scales, load cells or system controls. Make sure the super sack unloader frame is grounded to prevent static build-up.
Moisture: Some materials may need protection against moisture to prevent spoiling or clumping. A bag liner can prevent this, but the bulk bag unloader frame should also secure the bag liner to prevent it from becoming lodged in the feeder.
4. The Right Discharge System
To accurately discharge ingredients, you’ll need to choose the right discharge system using either loss-in-weight or volumetric measurement. Which method you choose will depend on the level of accuracy you require.
Loss-in-weight: With load cells mounted underneath the bulk bag base or frame you can measure discharge through the weight of the bag. This is suitable for ingredients in large amounts, but more accurate scales will be required for ingredients discharged at 40 lbs or less with 1% accuracy, based on a one-ton bulk bag.
Gain-in-Weight: For more accurate measurements, gain-in-weight measurement may be preferred. In this case, the scale be sized for the actual amount being weighed, so the accuracy can be adjusted to your needs.
5. Meeting Sanitation Requirements
If your materials must meet food grade or other USDA or FDA standards, you’ll need to make sure the super sack unloader and the bag itself are suitable. A bag liner is useful here to protect the materials inside from moisture, damage or contamination. In this case, the frame around the bag should secure both the bag and the liner, or the liner may collapse and enter the feeder. The frame, as well as any surface the materials come into contact with should be made from stainless steel to allow for easy sanitation.
With the right bulk bag unloader system, you can process materials quickly, safely, and efficiently. The best way to make sure your system works effectively with your materials, as well as your downstream and upstream processes, is to design and test it properly. Your equipment supplier can help you address these issues and make each part of your system efficient.
Producing high-quality finished products from dry solids starts with getting the right mix. Mixers are not one-size-fits-all, and your batch mixing system must be designed with your ingredients, facility, capacity, and other considerations in mind. Without the right mixer, segregation problems, dead zones, an low mixing activity can cause harm to your product. Go through this list of batch mixing system design considerations when working with horizontal ribbon mixers or other dry solids mixers and make sure your mixer works at optimal efficiency.
18 Batch Mixing System Design Considerations for the Best Dry Solids Mix
Individual Batch Mixer Design Considerations
1. Capacity: One of the most important batch mixing system considerations for dry goods is capacity. When working with a ribbon or paddle mixer, the total capacity cannot exceed swept volume (space occupied by the ribbon mixer). Over and under filling can increase the variation in the mix and may also increase the mix time.
2. Time: Many batch mixing systems for dry solids use horizontal ribbon mixers because of their ability to fully mix ingredients in one to two minutes. However, the ideal cycle time for your batch mixing system will depend on the upstream and downstream processes, and the output you wish to achieve. Changing the capacity, profile, or number of mixers in your batch mixing system can help you coordinate timing between processes so all the systems can run simultaneously, maximizing utilization.
3. Mixing Cycles: A rule of thumb for horizontal batch mixers is that the ingredients should move from end to end at least three times. The actual required mix time can vary depending on the ingredients. Not enough circulation will give you an incomplete mix, too much circulation can cause unnecessary breakage or fines generation. Your particular mix should be checked to make sure that you have a complete mix.
4. Mixer Profile: Since ingredients in a horizontal ribbon mixer or paddle mixer move horizontally through the mixer, a longer mixer will lengthen the cycle time. In general, the diameter to length ratio should be between two and two and a half. You’ll need to consider the available footprint and desired production rates to determine the size of the mixer.
5. Motor Horsepower: Ingredient density and capacity will affect the horsepower required for the mixer to run. If the weight is the same, the horsepower requirements will also be the same. However, a low-density mixture might completely fill the mixer but impose only half the weight, while a high-density mixture at full capacity will weigh much more. Choose your motor in your batch mixing system carefully so your mixer has enough power, but isn’t pulling unnecessary energy.
6. Friability: Horizontal ribbon mixers generally impose a low degree of force on ingredients, but especially friable ingredients can still break apart during mixing. When working with especially friable ingredients in your batch mixing system, paddle mixers may be preferred for a gentler mixing action. The angle of the paddles will also lessen the force of the mixer.
7. Heat and Shear: Ingredients with high shear sensitivity will be subject to heat from the friction of the mixer. If these ingredients have high fat or sugar content, as well as high shear sensitivity, they may melt and stick to the mixer. Sticking ingredients will not only affect the quality of the mix and efficiency of the batch mixing system, but it will also damage the mixer over time. A non-stick coating or stainless steel polish can prevent sticking due to shear sensitivity.
8. Material Bulk Density: To properly calculate capacity, you will need to know the bulk density of all ingredients you’re currently using or expect to use in the future. Keep in mind that low-density ingredients like wheat middlings will take up more space than the same weight of another, denser ingredient like soybean meal.
Maintenance and Safety
9. Ribbon Maintenance: Mixer ribbons can last the lifetime of the mixer, but materials that are abrasive will cause a ribbon to wear down faster. Check the mixer ribbon clearance and thickness at regular intervals. Replace a ribbon before it becomes thin enough to break or the clearances between the ribbon and trough become too large. This will avoid unexpected downtime in your batch mixing system.
10. Motor Maintenance: If you are using a chain and sprocket mechanism to reduce RPMs, you will need to regularly adjust the tension and check the oil bath lubrication system. Using a shaft mount reducer can eliminate the need for this extra maintenance.
11. Safety: If adding ingredients manually to the batch mixing system, the input should be blocked with a bolted grate. Unblocked inputs or removable grates put workers at risk and expose businesses to unnecessary liability. Cultivate a culture of safety and encourage workers to report any maintenance issues or hazards.
Overall Batch Mixing System Considerations
12. Discharge Gate: Several discharge gate options are available depending on your ingredients and downstream processes. A drop bottom gate will release the entire mixture at one time, which is ideal for moving the ingredients fast. However, drop bottom gates must be tightly sealed and seals must be regularly checked to prevent leaks. Slide gates require less stringent seals and hold adjustment better, but they won’t discharge as quickly. Butterfly valves can move product quickly and will require less maintenance, but they can create dead zones over the valve.
13. Downstream Processes: Even if your horizontal ribbon mixer or another batch mixer is completely effective, material segregation can occur at any point in the process. Place your mixer as close to extrusion, pelleting, packaging, or another finishing process as possible to limit the opportunities for material segregation to occur. When working with very fine ingredients, make sure powder flow control problems upstream around a hopper or feeder aren’t affecting the batch mixing system.
14. Number of Mixers: Two small mixers may be a better option than one big one. This depends on physical space available and whether a surge hopper is possible in the system. If two mixers are used, then a mixer problem will decrease the output by fifty percent instead of shutting you down
Testing and Verification
15. Testing: Ask your manufacturer about an on-site ingredient test with your mixer to make sure there are no problems and address any concerns. Test the ingredients at the end to verify the entire process, and immediately after mixing to verify the mixer itself. You may wish to use chemical analysis to test for particular ingredient distribution or micro tracers to test without a lab.
16. Dead Zones: dead zones can form if the mixer is improperly filled (too much or not enough), and can sometimes form in the upper corner of the mixer. Test these areas to ensure dead zones aren’t disrupting the mix.
17. Ribbon Testing: As the ribbon wears down, it will require more time to completely mix all ingredients. If your coefficient of variation has steadily deteriorated, a worn-down ribbon may be the cause. Test your product regularly to avoid this problem.
18. Multiple Formulas: If your batch mixing system is dedicated to a single formula, you’re less likely to run into surprises or problems. However, if multiple different mixtures move through the system, you’ll need to separately calculate bulk density, shear sensitivity, friability and other aspects. A horizontal ribbon mixer or batch mixing system that works optimally for one recipe might not work for another. The solution may be as simple as increasing the mix time for some formulas or decreasing or increasing the batch weight to optimally fill the mixer.
The right batch mixing system design and the right dry solids mixer can reduce downtime, increase efficiency, and eliminate costly maintenance expenses. When designing a batch mixing system, work with your manufacturer to find the right size, volume, power, and design for your materials, facility and process.
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