6 Questions to ask a Manufacturing Subcontractor

Welding

Working with a manufacturing subcontractor can help you meet demand during production spikes, shorten production lead times, and even expand into new industries. Finding the right manufacturing subcontractor means finding a business partner that you can rely on, while the wrong subcontractor can cost you. When looking for a manufacturing subcontractor, consider the following.

6 Questions to Ask a Manufacturing Subcontractor

1. Who Are Your Previous Clients?

This is one of the most important questions to ask a manufacturing subcontractor. Ask for a client list and contact their previous clients. Ask the previous client about their experience working with the subcontractor; were the products delivered on time? Was the quality up-to-par? Did they have any concerns about the subcontractor undermining their contract? Answers to all of these questions can help you steer clear of subcontractors that can’t deliver—or, worse, take your contracts for themselves.

2. What Industries Do You Work In?

If you are fulfilling a contract for a food manufacturer, working with a subcontractor who manufactures equipment for chemical processors might not be a good fit. Look for a manufacturing subcontractor that works in industries similar to yours. This way, they will be aware of good manufacturing practices (GMP), safety procedures, regulations or common pitfalls that can affect finished products in the industry. For example, a manufacturer working primarily with chemical processors probably won’t have a high level of experience with GMP in food processing, which could result in faulty components.

3. What Machines Do You Have?

The right machine can save hours of time and thousands of dollars, while producing a better result. Ask a manufacturing subcontractor what equipment they have, and how this might impact your project. The latest equipment does not always mean the highest level of quality, but this is a good place to start when looking for a manufacturing subcontractor who can handle detail, complexity, large production runs or large-scale products.

Depending on the scope or complexity of your project, it may also be important to know how broad the manufacturing subcontractor’s experience is. Are they familiar with electrical and mechanical systems? Do they know the codes and regulations associated with each? Can they demonstrate their performance with each?

4. How Many Similar Projects Have You Delivered?

While every manufacturer has to start somewhere, you probably don’t want your project to be a subcontractor’s first. Ask a subcontractor about similar jobs that they’ve delivered. This will not only give you an indication of their overall experience, but also the experience of their staff. If you are working with complex welding or machining, this may be especially important.

A manufacturing subcontractor experienced with your products or industry may also be able to help you cut costs and avoid problems. For example, laser cutting may be faster, but adds heat to the process, while water jet is slower, it may be a better option if heating the metal is a concern.

5. What Is Your Expected Turnaround Time?

A subcontractor can help you reduce production time, but only if they can deliver their work on time. Ask about their turnaround times, and any complications or delays they predict could change it. Make sure you have enough time to complete your project, even if your subcontractor overestimates their speed.

6. What Does Your Process Look Like?

Ask about a subcontractors production process in detail. Consider preliminary processes like design, set-up and product testing. Ask about the manufacturer’s engineering staff and compatibility with CAD files. If your engineers can work with your subcontractor’s engineers, your design process will run much smoother.

Testing and quality control are also important considerations. If you are able to test or inspect your product or component before a full run, you’re likely to save time and money. If you are not happy with the deliverables, or if there are a number of mistakes, ask about how the subcontractor would remedy this. Or, if you need to make changes to your original design, how quickly can these be implemented? Manufacturing subcontractors integrating their CAD design with computer aided manufacturing will be able to make changes more easily.

Knowing the right questions to ask a manufacturing subcontractor can help you find a reliable, ethical business partner. With the right subcontractor, you’ll have the flexibility to take on more projects, while still focusing on what you’re best at.

Scaling Your Manufacturing Operation: Purchasing and Hiring vs. Outsourcing

Welding

If you find yourself taking on more jobs than usual, expanding into new industries, or facing long lead times due to an increase in demand, you may wonder if it’s time to scale your manufacturing operation, and how to go about it. Should you expand your facility, workforce and equipment, or focus on outsourcing or licensing? Any of these can be viable options, with the right considerations.

Scaling Your Manufacturing Operations: Purchasing and Hiring vs. Outsourcing

Equipment Costs

As you consider how to scale your manufacturing operation, you may repeatedly run into an equipment bottleneck. Perhaps you don’t have the machinery necessary for a particular job, or you’ve had to make due with equipment that takes much longer to complete the job. You can add the new machine to your operation, or you can outsource to a manufacturing partner. The following considerations can help:

  • Your Facility: Do you have the space and electrical output to safely run the machine? If not, outsourcing is a better option until you’re ready to scale your operations to a bigger facility.
  • Talent: If you add the machine, will someone be able to use it effectively, or will you have to add new staff? If you don’t currently have an operator, your machine will be unused until you find one, or it may be misused by an inexperienced operator.
  • Safety Requirements: Do you have the right safety equipment and protocols in place to run this machine? Consider personal protective equipment as well as equipment like dust management systems or fire suppression equipment.
  • Use: If you add this machine, how often will it be used? If contracts requiring these machines are infrequent, you’ll save money and reduce risk by outsourcing. However, if you’re frequently slowing down operations or losing business because of lacking equipment, this may be a good time to scale your own operation.
  • ROI: How long will it take for a machine to pay for itself? Does this make sense with the level of demand you have? Be careful to forecast accurately using the sales data that you have.

Training and Expertise

Many manufacturers are experiencing a skills shortage. Deloitte estimates there will be over 2 million manufacturing jobs unfilled between 2018 and 2028. Before scaling your operations, assess whether or not you will be able to find the workers that you need. As you consider how to grow your staff, or whether this will present a significant obstacle, consider the following options:

  • Employment programs: Are employment programs, such as job skills training or retraining programs, available to you? Could you form a partnership with these organizations and attract new talent?
  • Apprenticeships: Do you have talented staff that could effectively train others? In this case, an apprenticeship program may be highly effective in obtaining new workers.
  • Temp workers: Could you grow your workforce slowly using temp workers in the interim?
  • Competitive payment: Do you offer competitive wages, a positive work environment, and are you located in a desirable location? Consider all of these aspects, especially if you are recruiting workers from distant locations or looking for experienced workers, when advertising your job openings.

If these strategies aren’t viable for you and you’ve previously struggled to grow your workforce, outsourcing your manufacturing can help you scale your operations in the meantime. Ask your manufacturing partners about their staff, and the skills and experience that they bring to the table.

Safety Procedures

Though workplace injuries and deaths in manufacturing have declined in recent years, manufacturing is still an industry with high occupational injury and death rates. When considering scaling your manufacturing operation, it’s important to consider if you can do so safely. If not, outsourcing with another manufacturer is undeniably the better choice. OSHA fines are costly enough, but losing a worker to preventable hazards is far more costly.

When considering whether or not you can safely expand your operations, consider the following:

  • Slips and Falls: slip and fall accidents are among the top causes of workplace injuries and deaths. This encompasses everything from catwalks without handrails to faulty ladders, slippery surfaces to stray electrical cords, or a lack of fall protection equipment when working from heights. If expanding your operation means introducing slip, trip, or fall hazards, it’s important to take great care in preventing these.
  • Electrocution: When working with high-powered equipment, electrocution is a possibility. Ensure that a new machine is installed by a professional and regularly inspect electrical cords and outlets for damage. Be sure that your facility is securely grounded, especially in areas with sandy soils.
  • Dust Fires and Explosion: Some dust and dirt is inevitable, and usually not a problem. However, if you are working with processes that frequently produce lots of dust, a dust containment unit is essential, not only for workers’ respiratory health, but also to prevent deadly fires and explosions. If dust is a problem at your operation currently, do not scale up operations until this problem is addressed.

Flexibility

Working with a manufacturing subcontractor can give you flexibility; you can expand operations when demand is high, and scale back during low periods. Permanently scaling your own operation generally means committing to a set production amount. If this production level isn’t met, it can mean losing money and overextending your resources.

If you are frequently getting more contracts than you can handle, it may be time to expand your operations. However, if any of the following are true, you may benefit more from outsourcing your manufacturing instead.

  • Demand swings: Seasonal demand or sudden demand spikes can make it seem like business is booming. However, scaling up operations to meet infrequent demand can leave machines and staff idle and losing money. Increasing production with a manufacturing partner as needed will give you more flexibility.
  • Unique jobs: If you sometimes need a machine that you don’t have or you’re facing a complex project, you’ll benefit more from outsourcing rather than buying expensive new equipment and training new workers. Until or unless this becomes a regular requirement for your operation, you’ll avoid risk by outsourcing.
  • Unique markets: Working in new industries with new clients often means leveraging relationships with materials or components suppliers. Work with an experienced manufacturer as you enter these markets, though make sure you have clear partnership agreements that protect your new business.

Ask these questions as you consider scaling up your operations. Remember that it’s possible to slowly scale up as you expand your workforce or facility, and work with an outsourced manufacturer in the meantime.

How Outsourced Manufacturing Can Shorten Your Production Times

Welding

If you’re looking at a tight turnaround time and a big project, you may be wondering how to shorten production times. An outsourced manufacturing partner may be able to help. Outsourced manufacturing can help you tackle large, complex projects faster, or work through unique obstacles as you enter new industries, and ultimately shorten production times.

How Outsourced Manufacturing Can Shorten Your Production Times

Producing More Units

In some cases, the sheer number of units may be more than you can produce alone. Some products or projects experience a high level of demand volatility or seasonal demand spikes, which can be difficult to forecast. If you find yourself in the middle of a project requiring more units in a faster time frame than you can deliver, outsourced manufacturing can help you make up the difference.

There are a number of ways to go about this. You might outsource one part of the project, such as a particular process that presents a time-consuming bottleneck at your shop. This allows you to continue producing more units faster at your own facility, assuming your outsourced manufacturing partner can also keep up. Or, you might outsource a number of starting or finishing processes. Contrastingly, you might subcontract complete production for a specific number of units that exceed your production capacity. This strategy can be risky, however, as it may introduce competitors to your clients.

Reducing Complexity

A job that is particularly complex can create long production times. This might come down to a single process that requires particular experience, attention, and care, or even requires a specific machine. In this case, instead of trying to add a specialized machine on short notice, or make due with those that you have, it’s better to outsource this work.

Machines that are made for the job can complete the process in a fraction of the time, and often do a better job. This allows you to focus on your strengths and avoid over-extending your resources or staff. You can also significantly increase production times by outsourcing a particularly complex part of the fabrication process. If you know that a new contract will require particularly complex, elaborate, or detailed work with a machine that you don’t have on hand, such as laser cutting, waterjet cutting, CNC machining, large-scale powder coating or other custom fabrication processes, outsource these manufacturing tasks to complete the contract faster.

Expanding Expertise

A new, inexperienced welder or machinist can get a difficult job done, but it will probably take them longer than an experienced one. Working with a manufacturing subcontractor can give you access to individuals with more skills and experience. This gives you time to grow your workforce accordingly, or fill in skills gaps as needed.

With some estimates showing a jobs skills deficit of 2 million workers in manufacturing by 2028, this is becoming a more and more common reason to outsource manufacturing. While outsourced manufacturing can help to fill skills gaps presented by uniquely complex contracts, this may not be a long-term solution. If you foresee needs for experienced welders, machinists and other fabricators occurring often in your future contracts, a manufacturing partner can help you fill in the gaps and shorten production times while you work on training or attracting new talent. Consider working with nearby colleges or job skills training programs to bring in new talent, or presenting more competitive job offers for experienced workers.

Accessing Materials

Different manufacturers bring different types of knowledge, expertise and business relationships to the table. If you’ve recently obtained a contract in an industry that you don’t have much experience in, it may take time to grow the supplier relationships you need to obtain the right raw materials or components. An outsourced manufacturer with prior experience in the industry may already have these contacts, and can help you jump into the industry faster.

For example, if you are newly working with a chemical company, you may need access to materials or components that are resistant to corrosion, fire, or explosion. For food contracts, you’ll need to work with food-safe metals or coatings that resist adhesion. Your contract may require that components be resistant to cracking or warping under stress, or produce low electromagnetic interference for sensitive instruments. Working with an outsourced manufacturer can help you shorten production times by satisfying these specific requirements using existing relationships.

If you are considering outsourcing manufacturing to shorten production times, choosing your manufacturing partner carefully. Ask about their experience, staff, machines, and their own production or lead times. With the right manufacturing contractor, you can expand your operations and shorten production times without overextending your resources or taking on more risk

Process Improvements to Increase Efficiency in Pet Food Processing

process verification in manufacturing

Increasing efficiency can mean many things. It might mean decreasing waste, lowering costs, improving speed, or increasing overall production. There are many ways to go about this. These improvements can also be difficult to compare or analyze. In this blog post, we’ll discuss a few of the most readily available process improvements specifically in pet food processing. These improvements can help to decrease waste, improve process speed, and improve overall efficiency at your pet food processing facility.

Process Improvements to Increase Efficiency in Pet Food Processing

Optimizing Liquid Coating Systems

Liquid coating systems present a number of challenges to pet food processing facility managers, as well as opportunities for improving efficiency. Pet food facilities working with liquid coatings that are high in fat content, like many dry pet food processing plants, often struggle with clogs and pressure backups. Liquid coating nozzles can easily become clogged in these situations, requiring frequent cleaning, maintenance and replacements. Overall, this requires downtime and eats into production time. Pressure backups also reduce the equipment’s lifespan. When clogged nozzles do not coat products evenly, this can also result in product defects and losses.

Comparing Liquid Coating Equipment

Finding the right liquid coating process and equipment can increase the efficiency of this process dramatically. Your coating system must be designed to suit your liquid coating product, as well as the surrounding processes. The liquid coating must also have enough time and opportunity to evenly coat the product and properly absorb.

Considering alternative liquid coating solutions can help to optimize coating quality, reduce maintenance, and even speed up the process. Even making slight alterations to the mixing process, such as reducing screw conveyor flights or introducing pitched paddles can increase the mixing action and improve the uniformity of the coating. If the spray nozzles are consistently causing problems, consider a system that bypasses spray nozzles, such as a spinning disk atomizing system.

Automated Micro Ingredient Systems

Some pet food formulas require the addition of micro ingredients, such as vitamins and minerals. A reliable system for adding micro ingredients can help to reduce waste, improve organization, reduce process time, and improve tracing. Adding ingredients by hand introduces the opportunity for waste and error. Automated micro ingredient systems allow you to measure ingredients quickly and exactly. With the right micro ingredient systems and tracking system integration, you can also save time on FSMA-required lot tracking.

Scale Calibration

An important aspect of an efficient micro ingredient system is accurate weighing devices. When weighing small amounts of ingredients, accuracy is essential. Be aware of effects that can make your load cells inaccurate, such as temperature changes, load cell creep, interference, or a lack of calibration. Keep in mind that small mistakes in measurements can add up; a minor weighing error with as little as .5% overuse ultimately means wasting .5% of the total product purchased.

FSMA rules require that pet food processing facilities track and trace ingredients, just like food for human consumption. Automated ingredient systems can help trace ingredients from the start of the process until the finished product. A fully integrated system can keep necessary documentation and also work with your labeling system.

Process Improvement Assessments

Go through process improvements step by step, and compare all the costs and expenses equally. Remember to include not only upfront investment costs on one side of the equation, but also maintenance, training, or installation. On the other side, include all the benefits you’ll receive, such as process speed improvements, reduced waste, decreased downtime, and lowered maintenance costs long term. Take a look at the process improvements and efficiency upgrades that present the biggest opportunities first. Equipment or processes that are causing waste and delays should be examined first, as these will present the biggest opportunities for improvement.

With the right systems, equipment upgrades and process speed coordination, you can optimize the most essential aspects of your pet food processing facility. Assess each process first to find where opportunities exist. Prioritize each improvement, and take them on step-by-step, as opportunities become available.

Engineering Liquid Systems by Liquid Ingredient Characteristics

liquid coating systems design

The right liquid system can make food processing and production easy and efficient, while the wrong one can cause downtime, expensive maintenance and frustration. The optimal design of a liquid system is highly dependent on the characteristics of the liquid. Liquid systems that are designed with ingredient characteristics in mind perform better and last longer. If you are upgrading, altering or installing a new liquid system, understanding all of the characteristics of the liquid can help to prevent problems.

Engineering Liquid Systems: 6 Liquid Ingredients Characteristics You Should Know

The best source of information for these liquid characteristics is your liquid ingredient supplier. Your supplier may not have all of this information, and some of it may not be relevant, depending on the ingredients you are working with. Obviously, working with common ingredients such as a brine solution will require less consideration than uncommon ingredients, like a liquid adhesive. Still, even many common ingredients can cause problems with liquid systems over time if their characteristics are not well understood. Talk with your liquid systems manufacturer about the following during the design phase.

1. PH: Acidic vs Basic

The pH scale measures how basic or acidic an ingredient is. Liquids with a pH near 7 are neutral, and this won’t be an important consideration for liquids with a neutral pH. However, liquids that are highly acidic, with a pH close to 0, or highly basic, with a pH close to 14, can present problems. Strong acids or bases should be stored in containers that will not corrode or react with the liquids. These can also be very hazardous to workers, and safety precautions should be clearly displayed around storage containers or liquid systems carrying these substances.

2. Process Temperature

Temperature can change liquids in seemingly subtle ways. When working with large volumes over long periods of time, these subtle changes can have big effects. Colder temperatures can make liquids thicker and more difficult for pumps and flow meters to work with. Warmer temperatures can have the opposite effect, making the liquids move faster and potentially metering too much. This is particularly important for liquids with a high oil or fat content, such as those containing palm oil or fish oil. Fats and oils can change density by as much as a percent for every 25 degrees F change in temperature.

3. Solution vs Suspension

A solution is a homogenous mixture with no visible particles, while a suspension is not fully dissolved and has small particles present. Suspended abrasive solids can wear away pipes over time, even if they are made from stainless steel. Wear-resistant coatings can help to reduce maintenance in these cases. If the suspension in the liquid system is used in food, it is also important to consider good manufacturing practices, so the small solids do not become lodged in tight spaces and become havens for bacteria.

4. Chemical Interactions

Chemical interactions can create dangerous reactions or simply ruin the substance. The most common chemical interactions to be aware of are those involved with water or air. Cyanoacrylate, for example, will become solid almost immediately if it touches water. It is also important to consider humidity in these reactions, as high humidity conditions can trigger reactions with water. Another chemical reaction to consider are those with common cleaning chemicals, such as bleach or ammonia. If liquid systems are cleaned with these chemicals, it is important to know how the ingredients may react with them. Finally, copper alloys causes fats to oxidize, so ingredients with high fat content should not be used with systems containing copper.

5. Viscosity

Viscosity can be considered a measure of a liquid’s “thickness” or how easily it flows. This metric is particularly important for the pump and flow meters on the liquid system. Some pumps will clog and wear down easily when working with thick liquids. A sine pump is ideal for thick liquids with suspended solids, particularly for foods such as pie fillings, jams and salad dressing. These types of pumps are gentle and predictable, allowing thick liquids and suspensions to flow without damage to the recipe or the pump itself.

6. Food Grade Applications

Liquid systems used in food processing must be held to a higher standard than others. As previously mentioned, food-grade liquid systems must be completely sealed to prevent particles from accumulating in small spaces. This includes welded joints and screws as well as hermetically sealed weighing devices. Liquid systems involved in food processing must also be easy to clean, either through clean-in-place processes or through disassembly.

There are many considerations when it comes to designing liquid systems. In our next blog posts, we’ll discuss liquid system pumps and meters in more detail, and how to choose these mechanisms based on liquid characteristics.

7 Tips to Maintain GMP for Food Safety in Manufacturing

Good manufacturing practices (GMP) help to reduce risk and prevent illness and injury throughout the supply chain. CFR Title 21 Part 110 lays out GMP for food safety in manufacturing, covering a range of activities from packaging to processing to storage and more. In some areas, the document provides explicit instructions about GMP. Other areas are less clear. In this blog post, we’ll discuss GMP in food manufacturing equipment design, as well as the facility design, to get a better picture of risks that are especially common or easy to overlook.

7 Tips to Maintain GMP for Food Safety in Manufacturing

1. Proper Welding Practices

Whether you are working with liquids, powders, or bulk solids, proper welding practices are essential for all equipment. Sanitary design requires that there be no hiding places were moisture, dust, and particles carrying foodborne illness pathogens could accumulate. This means sealing any cracks or hollow areas. Some of these are obvious, while others are easy to miss. The following are just a few examples.

  • Cracks between welded joints
  • Dents on horizontal surfaces
  • Threaded screws or attached parts
  • Concave handles or edges
  • Burrs or sharps
  • Stress cracks on hot surfaces

GMP for food safety also require the right welding techniques and materials. For example, the wrong welding technique on stainless steel can compromise the oxide layer that keeps it from rusting, or create tiny fractures that will ultimately cause the metal to rust or corrode. Welding together dissimilar metals is another problem which can cause cracks and corrosion. To avoid these problems when ordering food processing equipment, take a close look at the manufacturer’s existing systems, or talk to a previous customer.

2. Hermetic Sealing

As previously mentioned, there can be no hollow areas where moisture or particles can accumulate. But this applies to more than welded joints and drilled holes. This principle also applies to other attached components, including electrical components. Electrical components with delicate inner workings must be hermetically sealed. This prevents moistures and particles from building up inside, and it also allows the equipment to be thoroughly washed without damaging the electronics. One example of this is the hermetically sealed load cell. If the load cell is not properly sealed, it can quickly become inaccurate and it can be a harborage for bacteria.

3. Remove Attached Components for Cleaning

Some machines can be cleaned with a thorough spray or even CIP procedures, but others require some disassembly. Components such as mixing paddles and chopping blades which are attached using bolts or threaded screws must be properly removed from the machine before cleaning. The process for this should be clearly laid out, and all components should have a safe place to sit while they move through the cleaning process. This will ensure that the components are all cleaned properly, but it will also help to prevent losses of small screws or other parts.

4. Use the Right Cleaning Process

The ingredients that you work with as well as your equipment design will help to determine the type of cleaning solution and processes you need. The cleaning solution and process must be able to cut through residue and destroy bacteria without damaging machines. For this to work,

  • Remove stuck-on residue. A dirty surface cannot be sanitized, so stuck-on materials must be removed first. This might require a large, rough-bristle brush for stuck solids, or a finer scrubbing brush for thinner, stickier substances like sugars or oils. It might also require hot water, soap, or detergent to cut through the material.
  • Rinse: All equipment must be properly rinsed to remove stuck-on materials and soap. If this is not rinsed off, the next sanitation stage will not be as effective.
  • Sanitize: In the final stage, heat, steam or chemical sanitation eliminates microbes.

If you are working with corrosive cleaning agents, it is important to make sure they do not damage stainless steel finishes or possible weak spots, such as welded joints. It is also important to closely monitor the temperature and pH of the cleaning solution. At temperatures over 115°F, many liquid cleaning agents become a corrosive, harmful gases. At the wrong pH, other chemicals will not clean properly, or they may become more corrosive. Other liquids or gases may be ideal for cleaning, but contact or inhalation can be hazardous to people. It is important to make proper cleaning protocols clear and make sure all safety equipment, such as gloves or masks, are in full working order.

5. Properly Storing Harmful Materials

Cleaning agents, pesticides, machine lubricants, fuels, and other chemicals are necessary to keep the plant running smoothly. However, if these substances find their way into the product line, the results can be deadly. GMP for food safety requires that these toxic substances be stored separately from any ingredients or finished products. It should be nearly impossible for these substances to accidentally enter the product line, and very difficult to do so deliberately without attracting attention.

6. Check and Verify

Even when the system appears to be working well, you can only know for sure if you check. GMP in food safety requires regular checks to ensure that sanitation and safety are actually working. This process can seem redundant, but skipping it introduces real danger. All of the time and effort you’ve already put in to GMP will be wasted unless you’re sure that its working. Monitor the system and conduct inspections to ensure the system is working properly.

Verification processes will depend on your facility. This might mean checking chemical concentrations and pH of washing water or verifying system pressure. It might mean conducting microbial inspections, swabbing and test cultures. A simple visual test or checklist might be in order, or some combination of these things.

7. Strict Processes

Even GMP with perfect planning are useless unless they are properly carried out. A strict and detailed process helps to ensure that the procedures are actually working according to plan. Use detailed cleaning instructions and checklists to maintain consistency. Be sure to clearly mark cleaning tools, so they are not cross-contaminated (for example, using a floor scrubber for mixing paddles). Finally, make sure that employees understand why these processes are important. Employees who understand food safety risks and the purpose of a given task are less likely to skip processes that might otherwise be considered redundant or pointless. Finally, these processes should also be well-documented.

GMP in food safety has helped to reduce the spread of foodborne illness and make facilities safer for everyone. Considering food safety GMP as you design a new facility or make upgrades to an existing one can help to make everyday processes faster and easier.

Batch Process Control: No Programming Required

batch process control

For many operators, batch process controls are a black box—it’s unclear what’s inside them, how they’re programmed, or how exactly they control the rest of the system. This presents problems for both operators and engineers. Making even a small change or upgrade requires a service call, or someone on staff with programming knowledge. To service multiple systems or brands using custom languages, engineers need a library of programming knowledge on top of mechanical expertise. Many operators and engineers wonder why batch process controls can’t be accessible, as well as functional and durable. Is it possible to control and change the system with the functionality and integrity of a PLC, without an extra layer of complexity?

Batch Process Control Simplified

No Programming Required

It’s a common scenario: you want to update your process, change a recipe, or replace a machine to improve your product or process. Your field service tech or your own engineers are buried in ladder logic or proprietary programming. Making one process improvement shouldn’t take this long or cost this much.

Instead of learning your machine’s language, the computer should learn your language. The Batch Box integrated batch controller does it. BatchBox allows technicians or operators to install, program and reprogram the entire batch mixing, weighing and measuring process with word-based commands. A simple interview process removes the layer of complexity that makes batch process control programming so inaccessible. The BatchBox controller asks you about your system in plain English, then takes care of the programming for you.

Program or reprogram your automated process system with no programming required.

Learn more about BatchBox

Complete System Control

Process visibility is a common problem for many manufacturers. Scale instruments control dosing and measurement, but can’t control metered liquids or mixing. PLCs can coordinate more parts of the system, but can’t communicate the results with operators. When it comes to comprehensive batch process management, there’s always a roadblock.

Upstream and downstream process visibility and control is essential. If one process isn’t correct, every subsequent process will also be off. The BatchBox solves this problem with complete system control built in. Mixers, metered liquids, feeders, scales, motors, alarms and every other part of the process are all connected and controlled from one secure, but accessible device.

Gather System Data

Simply controlling and coordinating ingredients and mixing is no longer enough. Optimizing your product and your process requires data: volume, time, maintenance, accuracy, quality and defects. However, an archive and database aren’t built in to the brains of most systems, leaving operators without any knowledge of their batch process system day-to-day.

The BatchBox is programmed to gather and archive batch process control data. From production volume to no-flow conditions, maintenance time, measuring accuracy, product defects and more, you have a full record of what your system is doing. If something goes wrong, you know what, when, and why. In the long-term, you have the tools to uncover problems and optimize your system.

Change Your Recipe At Any Time

Some recipes are tried and true, and stay the same for years at a time. But most of the time recipes change slightly; flavorings, vitamin mixes, colorants, and dozens of other changes. In order to accommodate all the ingredients and recipes that are required, you need a database, but traditional PLC’s do not have enough memory storage to accomplish this. Using an industrial computer in conjunction with a PLC rack of I/O gives you the best of both worlds. A system that is hardened for rough industrial environments, and a PC that is capable of storing all of the recipe and ingredient information.

Everything Off-The-Shelf

When upgrading your system controls, replacing a faulty board or making other periodic fixes, operators, technicians and engineers encounter a common problem; the parts or information they need is only in one place. This means accepting one price, one timeline and one configuration, no questions asked.

All control systems inevitably require some maintenance or repairs, but you do have options about how to make those repairs. The BatchBox is built with all off-the-shelf components, so you can make repairs or replacements at any time. This also gives you more freedom to shop around or select a dealer with the fastest lead times.

Value Added

Previously, PLCs and scale instruments have been black boxes, with only a few experts knowing what is in them or how they work. However, batch process controls do not have to be a mystery or a point of frustration. BatchBox is value-added technology giving end users simplicity and functionality, and giving distributors a competitive value proposition.

BatchBox is designed to work with the most popular existing equipment and scale instruments, including Mettler-Toledo, Cardinal, Hardy, Rice Lake, and many more. Designed with both end-users and distributors in mind, BatchBox allows anyone to become an expert on their batch process systems, with no extra training or tools required. Take a look at the spec sheet to learn more about BatchBox for your system or your customers today.