Improving efficiency in 2019 is a top priority for many feed mill and pet food processors. Automating processes or upgrading existing automation is often the way to maximize efficiency gains, but it can be difficult to know where to start. We’ve made a list of the best automation upgrades for feed and pet food processors to help you prioritize your improvements.
7 Automation Upgrades for Feed and Pet Food Processors in 2019
1. Process Time Optimization
The most efficient feed or pet food process automation aligns all process times, including filling, weighing, discharging and mixing, for all ingredients. While exact timing is difficult given high-speed and low-speed estimates, and other variance, machines should not be sitting idle for long periods. There are many ways that you can improve the process time of the bottleneck machine in order to meet the timing of the upstream or downstream processes.
If your mixer is idle, consider dividing ingredients into two or more weighing and filling stations, using a different faster weighing mechanism, or using a larger feeder for faster filling. If your scales or hoppers are idle, optimize your ribbon mixer by; dividing mixing between two or more mixers, using a larger mixer, using a drop-gate for immediate discharge, or using a larger motor to speed up mixing.
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2. Scale System Improvements
It is possible, with the right scale and weighing strategy, to speed up this process without sacrificing accuracy. A variety of different weighing systems exist, with versatile features to suit your facility and your ingredients. With a mass-flow continuous weighing system, you can measure your ingredients accurately without actually creating any pause in the system. By using roll-over tubs, slide gates or butterfly valves, you can eliminate delays in the discharge phase. If you’re using conveyors due to facility height restrictions, you can weigh and measure materials while moving them. If your scale system is holding up the rest of your process, consider this feed and pet food processing automation improvement first.
3. Ribbon Mixer
If you haven’t looked at your mixer in several years, this can be a viable upgrade to improve plant efficiency. With low shear, fast mixing times, and a streamlined design, ribbon mixers eliminate many mixing problems, like dead zones and overmixing, that other mixers create. When you upgrade with a ribbon mixer, you can reduce mixing times and improve total output, but this may require altering downstream processes to match the new mixing time. A ribbon mixer can also reduce maintenance costs and downtime.
Appling uniform liquid coatings to pet food and other animal feed is a challenge that many processors are not sure how to address. Materials often stick together during coating, they aren’t coated evenly, the spray nozzles require too much maintenance, or the process simply takes too long. Upgrading your liquid coating system to a mistcoater can solve coating problems and speed up your process. Instead of using spray nozzles which easily clog and only coat materials on one side, the mistcoater atomizes liquids using spinning disks and coats material evenly as it falls through the mist.
5. Micro Ingredient Automation
Hand-adding small amounts of ingredients is a temporary solution that can quickly become a permanent part of the feed or pet food processing system. This is also an inefficient and inexact technique that can quickly introduce errors, workplace hazards, complicate lot tracking, and disrupt the recipe. Automating this process will ensure uniformity and remove delays or hazards posed by hand-adding. Upgrade to a micro ingredient automation system and your micro ingredients will be a seamless addition to your overall recipe.
6. Reprogrammable Controls
When mixing times change, micro ingredients are added, or processes change, your computer or PLC is the one to control those changes. Often, that means rewriting the logic using the manufacturer’s proprietary code, often requiring a visit from a technician. If a number of automation upgrades are on the horizon, you can save time with a reprogrammable logic controller with a user-friendly interface.
7. Super Sack Unloader
If your daily ingredient usage exceeds 250 kg, whether for major or minor ingredients, upgrade to a super sack unloader instead of individual bags. This will not only decrease packaging and materials costs, but it will also improve efficiency and reduce workplace hazards with the proper super sack unloader design.
As you consider the best process automation improvements at your feed or pet food processing plant, start with the processes that take the most time, introduce the most error, or repeatedly create downtime and maintenance costs. You’ll see the greatest benefits from correcting these issues first, and this will pave the way for achieving optimal system production later on.