New Bürkert BDM – building relationships key to success

Luke Houlihan has spent most of his working life around wine and wineries and up until recently had his own boutique brand vineyard producing vintages out of the Yarra Valley.

With a Bachelor in of Applied Science in Wine Science, it made sense when a position became available to become part of the team at process, automation and control specialists Bürkert’s Australian operation. He jumped on board in a heartbeat and he couldn’t be happier.

“There’s such a huge amount to get my teeth into,” he said. “There is massive scope for me and Bürkert to cover off, so I have a lot to look forward to. We are already getting traction from a large international wine group and the momentum is just starting. The next five years is going to be extremely exciting.”

One of the key focuses for Houlihan is to help winemakers, brewers and distillers streamline their production using innovative process and automation equipment. Houlihan said the industry is traditional, but it is about balancing the art of winemaking with the science of winemaking.

“It’s about maintaining that natural, organic way of winemaking with new processes that will help improve product,” he said. “By maintaining or improving quality, you end up with a better proposition for your customers, in the sense you are offering best value for money in terms of your product. It is in a winemaker’s interest to look at those things. And I think the industry is at a stage where they are in a real consolidation phase. There are a lot of medium-sized and upwards wineries that are ready to recapitalise. They’ve paid down their debt on infrastructure and are in a position where they can put some more money into improving their processes.”

What makes Houlihan stand out from other BDMs is that he has on-the-ground experience in making wine so is well aware of some of the pitfalls that can occur in the process. He knows how important it is to have reliable equipment that won’t fail at a critical stage – something that Bürkert has in abundance.

“A key for us is also being able to offer for example, a simple valve that is good for five million cycles,” he said. “They can put it into place and forget about it. It’s not going to pack up mid-vintage and cause grief because their cooling system has gone down because they’ve put in a cheap valve. The unseen thing is about offering a value proposition to a winemaker and saying ‘Spend a little bit extra now. Put this valve in and forget about it. It’s not going to cause you grief.’

“Mid vintage there are times when you’re running around seven days a week, working 20-15 hour days. If something packs up, you don’t want to try getting hold of a plumber at 11 o’clock at night to sort it out. It is a pain and is not what you want to be doing.”

It has been a baptism by fire of sorts for Houlihan as he came on board in May, right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant he couldn’t get out and meet clients. However, that is about to change.

“I’m really keen to get out and look at the different control systems that are in place at the different installations. It is much easier to talk about those applications when you can see them in situ rather than on a PDF file, which is how I’m seeing a lot of things at the moment,” he said.

In 2012 Houlihan took a new role in the wine industry with a company that provided technical support and wine supplies, such as yeast and wine additives, as well as filtration equipment. In that role, he developed a strong technical understanding of water treatment for various industries including brewing and distilling. Having offered such technical and sales support in the past, Houlihan knows a lot of people in the industry and has the expertise to help.

“I especially love the integration with network technologies to do jobs remotely,” he said. “I love that stuff. There’s such a huge amount for me to do.”

Houlihan also believes in a holistic approach when it comes to helping clients out. He thinks it is important to develop a long-term relationship and strategy with a client, as opposed to fixing an issue and then moving on. And he has his own reputation to think about, too.

“My goal is to partner with companies,” he said. “Most of my friends are in the wine industry, I couldn’t on face value go to a friend and say ‘buy this valve, you’re helping me out’. I’m not going to burn my friendships over dodgy products. Being able to represent a company that is the Mercedes of process control is really exciting. You’re putting your reputation behind a really strong product. We look at their processes and rather than going into a winery and saying, ‘Right, here’s this valve.’ Or, ‘Buy this or that.’ We’re looking at asking the questions; ‘Where are you guys going? What do you want to achieve and how do you want to get there?’”

Bürkert puts a lot of effort into refining and developing equipment that will suit the customer’s needs. Houlihan sees himself building on the networks and relationships he has already to talk to winemakers, brewers and distillers and help them develop strategies that will help their business grow.

“They need to have a blueprint in place so that when they are going forward, they are putting infrastructure in that will support where they want to be in another five to 10 years,” he said.

“At the end of the day we’re here to help make beverage manufacturers lives easier,” he said. “We are focusing on increasing and improving their production processes and reducing overall costs of production as well as simplifying production, too. We are also looking at ways automation and control can help improve their processes. It’s also about making them more sustainable environmentally, too. Reducing wastage in areas like energy costs, excess compressors – there’s a whole range of ongoing savings with the right fit out. In summing up it’s about Bürkert making their lives easier in partnering with them for the long haul.”

Gas provider helps businesses diversify during COVID-19

Change is something that can be embraced, or seen as an unnecessary disruption that can cause anxiety. But what happens if that disruption is unexpected and takes away, literally, your whole market share.

COVID-19 has had a negative impact on a lot of industries and businesses. And while food and beverage have generally come out of it okay from a consumer point of view with regard to supply and demand (pasta anybody?), there are certain sectors that have suffered considerably. Imagine you are a caterer who specialises in weddings, or a major supplier to airlines. One way to try and make up the deficit is to diversify.

And quite a few companies have, according to food-grade gas supplier Air Liquide’s Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) specialist Remi Saget. Like a lot of companies hit by COVID-19, Air Liquide has seen a downturn in some of its areas of business, but there has also been interest in other aspects.

Some impacted food manufacturers have decided to expand offerings and started looking at other markets, whether it is online with home deliveries or via retailers. Supplying food products to such channels helps tremendously when shelf life is extended, which is possible using MAP. And in order for MAP to work, you need a good gas supply, which is where Air Liquide comes into its own.

Saget said there has been an increase in queries from SME manufacturers about how they can get longer shelf life for their food. Indeed, supermarket chains and independent grocers need products to stay on the shelf for longer than a day or two, often making it part of their requirements.

“We have had an upturn in requests,” said Saget. “We have seen more demand for food-grade gas, especially for ready meals. For some companies this is already their business, but many restaurant chains and catering companies had to change quickly to the same business model that would allow for home deliveries, selling at supermarkets, or selling online.”

In order for a company to be able to pack ready-to-eat meals, it needs to have a packaging machine that is capable of getting the meal prepared for being sold in store.

“It’s not a difficult transition to make if you have the correct packaging machine,” said Saget. “Obviously, you need to have one that has a gas flushing capability. You cannot gas flush manually.

“Packaging machines come in all sizes. Even your local butcher has a bench-top vacuum machines that could gas flush, or be retrofitted to do so.”

He said that gas is the last piece of the puzzle. Ultimately, manufacturers need to have the food right, then the packaging machine, the plastic tray and film, and then the gas. For ready meals, Air Liquide recommends a mixture called Aligal 15, which is made up of 50 per cent food-grade nitrogen and 50 per cent food-grade CO2. But this ratio may be adapted on a case-by-case basis.

“How it works is that the machine takes all the air out. It is the oxygen that will spoil the food eventually,” he said. “Then you add the gas. It takes a few seconds. The gas is food-grade, it is not chemical or anything like that. It’s considered a processing gas, so it is not an ingredient or a preservative and does not need to be on the label.”

Saget is confident that while some of these companies have had to look for new markets out of necessity, he doubts they’ll stop producing gas-flushed food products once the industry gets back to normal.

“It’s probably going to be the case for most companies that have gone into the ready meal business that they will stay in there once things have gone back to normal,” he said. “They have been doing it for a few months now and they realise that it is working well, and it would allow them to have an extra stream of revenue. People are used to buying online, so they can easily keep their online shop open and keep delivering to people.”

One such firm is catering company Harvest By Darren Taylor, which saw the bottom fall out of its business, with 100 per cent cancellations of weddings and other events it had been booked to supply food prior to COVID-19.

“They also operate a bakery and make great pies and croissants for cafes across NSW,” said Saget. “The sale of bakery products they did went down by 95 per cent. They had to rethink their business model.

“The good thing was for founder Darren Taylor, he could start pretty much right away thanks to a machine he purchased earlier.

“I helped him with the right gas mix according to his food. We did some tests together to make sure the gas was flowing okay. Now he is selling online and is also selling to independent supermarkets across NSW. He also sells to a big chain of butchers where his packed dishes are available in the open fridge next to the counter where you buy your meat. He is very happy.”

Taylor said he got an opportunity to get into the ready meals market in late 2019 and was planning on getting started halfway through 2020, but due to the effects of COVID-19, he decided to enter the market sooner.

The majority of outlets require prolonged shelf life to avoid dealing with products that are past their use-by date. This is especially true for ready meals, where they are packed in air, and they usually stay fresh for only a few days. A preservative-free conservation method like MAP helps.
“We got a packaging machine in Melbourne, and we looked at all the ways of extending the shelf life of the product and we decided to go with the MAP method,” said Taylor.

“We went with MAP because of the look of the product, it keeps the integrity of the product and it is very safe and reliable. After ordering the machine and getting it in, we did a whole lot of tests. We developed a product that we thought would suit that application.”

Taylor was very pleased with the service from Air Liquide in terms of getting it all set up.
“Remi and his team were amazing,” he said. “Remi was extraordinary. He came in at the very beginning and we got the machine working in a way we were happy with it. Remi helped us with our gas levels, our oxygen levels, etcetera. ”

The beauty to the system, according to Taylor, is that he cooks the food, trays it up straight away, puts it in the blaster until it comes down to 1˚C, and then packs it.

“It’s as good as you can get in terms of packaging. The film, the tray and the label – which is stuck on – are all microwave-oven proof. It has zero additives or preservatives,” he said. “By using MAP, you don’t have to put any chemicals in it.”

With the eyes on the future, Taylor and his food manufacturing business emerges from the COVID-19 crisis better positioned to face ever-changing market demands. The fact that he was able to swiftly adapt his operations is a reminder that tight partnerships with suppliers goes a long way when help is required to come out of a dark time, pandemic or not.

Changes in consumer behaviour surrounding protein and produce

New research from Mintel, the experts in what consumers want and why, reveals how the global pandemic presents significant challenges and opportunities for animal proteins, meat alternatives and produce.

In this report, you will read:

– Consumers will adapt a “less but better” approach to animal proteins;
– Plants will play an important role as a source of protein
– Will there still be a place for simple luxuries and self-care in the forthcoming recession environment?
– Double down on health and wellness positioning
– Embrace a more holistic definition of sustainability

For the report, click here.

Plant-based steak created using 3D printing technology

Redefine Meat has unveiled the world’s first Alt-Steak plant-based products, with market testing at select high-end restaurants to start later this year. Created using Redefine Meat’s patent-pending 3D meat printing technology, the company’s Alt-Steak products have the texture, flavour and appearance of beef steak and can be produced in the volume and cost to enable large-scale market launch.

Working with leading butchers, chefs, food technologists and the close collaboration of taste expert, Givaudan, Redefine Meat has digitally mapped more than 70 sensorial parameters into its Alt-Steak products, including premium beef cuts’ texture, juiciness, fat distribution and mouthfeel. Layer by layer, the company’s proprietary industrial-scale 3D food printers create the Alt-Steak products using Redefine Meat’s Alt-Muscle, Alt-Fat, and Alt-Blood plant-based formulations. By printing with multiple materials, Redefine Meat can create sustainable, high-protein, no-cholesterol steaks that look, cook, and taste like beef.

“Since day one of the company, we have been working on creating a tasty and affordable plant-based alternative to steaks, one of the most cherished food products and the driver of the entire meat industry,” says Eshchar Ben-Shitrit, CEO and co-founder of Redefine Meat. “To enable mass adoption, we knew that creating an alternative meat product that was both high in quality and nutritional composition would require new technologies and production processes never seen before in the food industry. Today’s announcement marks the start of a new era in alternative meat – the Alt-Steak era – driven by production processes that will accelerate the development of a wide range of alt-meat whole muscle products and create a sustainable alternative to raising and eating animals.”

“The importance of using precision 3D printing technology to achieve texture, color and flavor—and the combinations between them—cannot be overstated. By using separate formulations for muscle, fat and blood, we can focus on each individual aspect of creating the perfect Alt-Steak product. This is unique to our 3D printing technology and lets us achieve unprecedented control of what happens inside the matrix of alt-meat. Collaborating with an industry-leader like Givaudan has led to the creation of an Alt-Steak product that is not only healthy and sustainable, but also offers the satisfying flavours, textures and aromas of eating actual meat,” said Ben-Shitrit

Redefine Meat’s Alt-Steak products will be put to the test at a limited number of leading chef restaurants later this year. Incorporating feedback from high-level chefs and butchers, the company will then ramp up production of its 3D meat printers and alt-meat formulations ahead of market distribution in 2020.

Manufacturer can offer bespoke solutions for food industry

For more than 40 years, Victorian-based Enmin has been building custom vibratory and material handling solutions for a myriad of applications and environments.

The company’s knowledge and expertise in this area has seen their list of customers grow to include most of Australia’s leading food industry manufacturers.

Enmin’s range of product handling and vibratory equipment includes the Mi-CON modular conveyor – a hygienically designed full wash-down system to offer multiple standardised components – plus a range of hopper feeders and screeners, spiral conveyors, conditioning conveyors and more.

“All our products are designed and constructed first and foremost to meet the rigorous requirements of the food and pharmaceutical industries such as maximum hygiene, ease of cleaning and the reliability essential to meet the demands of continuous 24/7 operation,” said Enmin general manager, Anthony Gallaher.

Over the years, the company has earned an enviable reputation for designing and building equipment to the highest standards using the finest materials  to provide complete reliability and longevity.

Supporting other local manufacturers is a priority for Enmin and the company currently purchases 304 stainless steel, various steel and plastic machined parts, castings, coils and electrical components as well as outsourcing their laser cutting, all domestically.

Gallaher sees several benefits to customers of purchasing Enmin’s locally made equipment. These include the ability to offer individual design and customisation, expert local advice, consistency of supply and outstanding back-up and support.

In many cases Enmin is the only Australian company manufacturing specific material handling components.“We are the only company manufacturing electromagnetic drives in Australia and our many years in application experience will ensure the right drive is nominated for the tray requirements and process,” he said.

“Our equipment is designed to provide years of trouble-free operation with minimal moving parts, next to no on-going maintenance and, best of all, low energy consumption. All this ensures a reliable, low-cost method of product handling,” said Gallaher.

“Customisation is an important part of our business; depending on a customer’s requirement we can recommend either standard equipment components or design bespoke equipment,” Mr Gallaher added.

“A recent example was a requirement for a hopper feeder where the depositing system dictated a height that would be unergonomic for the production line staff to easily and safely access the storage hopper. Using our design expertise and state-of-the-art software, we designed a mobile unit with retractable operator steps. When not required, these steps can be folded out of the way quickly and with very little effort thanks to pressurised struts on each side,” Gallaher said.

“Another benefit of being a local manufacturer is being able to see first-hand a customer’s existing production line set-up to ensure our equipment will integrate seamlessly with other components already in place. We can ensure that mechanical components fit with minimal or no modifications and electrical interfaces are all talking to each other,” Gallaher said.

“There are many pieces of non-branded equipment brought in from overseas and these often need replacement parts; this is where our knowledge and expertise also comes into play to ensure that the right part is specified,” Gallaher went on to say.

“And of course, being a local manufacturer means we are only a quick phone call away to immediately respond to any customer query or provide service and parts support throughout Australia,” he added.

Enmin also invests heavily in R&D to provide Australian manufacturers with the latest developments in materials handling solutions and improve production efficiencies.

An example of this is Enmin’s design and development of a range of modular components. “The key benefit of modular components is that it eliminates equipment redundancy and expands with the customer’s business. It can be added to, extended and modified in the years ahead as a company’s production needs evolve,” said Gallaher.

“Whilst lower cost equipment from overseas may initially seem an attractive proposition, it is ultimately false economy. In the long term delivery turnaround, the ability to work closely with us during every phase of the project combined with the quality, reliability and opportunity to easily add to or modify years later as production needs change, far outweighs any price difference. In terms of return on investment, there is simply no comparison,” said Gallaher.

Enmin also has a range of Industrial vibrators to suit any industry that handles bulk material. The range is designed to suit Australia’s environment and covers a multitude of applications such as mining, quarrying and agriculture.

Sensors designed for rugged food and beverage environments

With its new compact series of VEGABAR pressure sensors and VEGAPOINT level switches, VEGA has now advanced to full-range supplier for all applications in food production. These instruments are aimed at standard applications in automation – and designed to meet the latest requirements of the industry.

The quality demands on food are higher today than ever before with it becoming a matter of course to be able to choose freely from a variety of foods every day. Products are being manufactured more according to individual tastes, which makes faster batch changes necessary. Consumers trust that everything is safe and hygienic at all times – and rarely think about the extensive network of safety measures that make it possible. Intelligent system design is one of them. It supports the reliability, efficiency and hygiene of manufacturing processes – with the help of hi-tech sensors and their reliable measured values.

On the basis of the modular plics instrument series, level and pressure instrumentation from VEGA has been making a contribution to safety and efficiency in the food industry for many decades. The compatible design and standardised adjustment concept create flexible application possibilities and allow individual configuration − from selection of the right measuring principle, to installation and setup, to service. Operators benefit from fast product changes, continuous plant availability and process reliability.

New standard sensors with a focus on hygiene
Just like other sectors, the food industry does not seek extreme solutions, but, in many areas, just simple optimisation and efficiency improvement. Here, less is usually more. VEGA has expanded its product range to include a compact instrument series. It proves that automation can be both simple and highly efficient without sacrificing dependability, hygiene or accuracy.

Standard applications, in particular, can be automated economically with the new compact pressure sensors and level switches. Integration into the system, as well as adjustment, are easy to carry out. In this performance class, multi-device connection options are also available, which supports the continuous improvement of production facilities. The focus here is on compactness, flexibility, safety and optimised hygiene.

The new VEGABAR and VEGAPOINT instrument series are the answer to the growing demand for simple sensors with optimised variants that support increasingly efficient food production. This requires more standardised products that are as easy as possible to use but still cover all the basic hygiene requirements. It also calls for better networked products with easy connectivity to existing control systems and mobile devices.

Standardisation gives birth to efficiency
A uniform standard extends through all areas of application. This applies especially to the fully hygienic adapter system, which is designed to be compatible with the new sensors and capacitive level switches as well as the existing VEGASWING vibrating level switches.

Not only can it be flexibly selected according to individual needs, but also adapted to local requirements and – if necessary – quickly exchanged. All the new instruments are built to withstand intense clean in place(CIP) processes. And not least due to their hygienic design and surface finish, they comply with all standards and approvals of the industry.

The acid test of CIP cleaning
Time is becoming an increasingly important factor in food production processes, and hygienic production in particular requires a lot of it. CIP cleaning is one of the most necessary but time-consuming process steps. The potential for savings here lies in cleaning and sterilising systems more quickly, through consistent hygiene standards and system design. However, this assumes that the cleaning process can be fully relied upon once completed. And this in turn requires components whose geometry does not allow microorganisms to collect in dead spaces and which are also capable of withstanding the cleaning and sterilisation processes themselves.

Processes and media that demand a lot from the materials of the measuring instruments are, for example, substances with a high fat content as well as aromatics. The consequential aggressive cleaning agents required also make correspondingly high chemical resistance necessary. The VEGABAR and VEGAPOINT instruments are resistant to both demands. The pressure sensors and level switches can tolerate high temperatures without loss of function, and even cope with the combination of both high temperature and long exposure times.

Hygienic design down to the last detail
What does “Hygienic by Design” mean? In real terms it can be seen even in the smallest components of the new sensor series. All surfaces of VEGABAR 29 and 39 sensors that come into contact with the product are made of stainless steel and feature optimal surface roughness values. What is more, VEGABAR 28 and 38 are available with high-strength ceramic versions and VEGAPOINT sensors in high-resistant PEEK material.

All materials are approved and tested according to FDA and EC 1935/2004. The design of the instruments is certified according to the European EHEDG Directive and the North American 3-A Sanitary Standards. Both standards prescribe the use of corrosion-resistant materials only and the components are also designed in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practices regulations so that all micro-organisms are reliably removed by cleaning and cannot multiply on surfaces or in gaps.

Visible all around: illuminated 360-degree switching status display
Sensors are often used in very large spacious areas or in tight spaces. The effort involved in reading a sensor quickly becomes considerable when a hygiene barrier has to be overcome. However, it is crucial to be able to see sensor readings quickly and easily, so that operators can react as quickly as possible, especially in the event of a fault.

To ensure that the status of a process can be recognised at a glance from as far away as possible and from any direction, the development of the new sensors focused on simple handling – and the fast and easy readability that comes along with it. Thanks to the round, 360-degree display, all switching states can be visually detected from any direction. The colour of the illuminated ring, which can be freely selected from 256 different colours, remains visible even in daylight. This allows the operator to choose the colour that is best visible in that particular environment, and it is up to the operator to choose the colour that best suits their needs and offers maximum additional safety and distinguishability in critical situations. It immediately shows the user if measurement is taking place, if the sensor is switching, or if there is a possible malfunction in the process.

Fit for the future with IO-Link
In their maintenance decisions, plant operators rely on status data, which forms the basis for optimal planning of shutdown times. Almost all system builders now implement intelligent sensors with IO technology for this, as it offers universal advantages when it comes to data availability. Not only can these be quickly and cost-effectively installed using standard three-core cable, but, with IO-Link, sensors can also be replaced without the risk of errors. The system can be put into operation faster with the standard protocol, which reduces production downtime.

The option of having all sensor parameters written automatically into the new instrument by the IO-Link master, or the controller during a replacement, also makes for additional efficiency. Fast format or recipe changes, which are typical in the food industry, can be carried out quickly and centrally in this way. The bottom line is that using IO-Link saves time while reducing the potential for errors to zero. This ensures higher product quality, more optimal utilisation of the machines and increased process speed.

Wireless transmission of measured values
Both the VEGABAR and VEGAPOINT instrument series can be easily read out and configured with a smartphone or tablet. Especially in environments such as clean rooms, where physical access involves a lot of effort, it means setup and operation become faster and easier. In combination with the VEGA Tools app, which has already won an App Award, the sensor data enquiry over shorter distances in these areas also becomes convenient.

Future-oriented automation from a single source
Hygienic design, system availability, modularisation and networking are the decisive factors for greater efficiency in food processes and for standing out in the face of growing competition. With its decades of experience, VEGA offers level and pressure measurement technology for the automation and monitoring of future-oriented production systems. It has sensors optimised for operating under extreme conditions and meeting strict requirements on system safety and flexibility.

Because of the increasing requirement for standard applications and open control platforms, VEGA has added these compact pressure sensors and level switches into its portfolio to help meet this. The new instruments are tailored to these standard applications that nevertheless involve high quality.

The universal adapter system of these compact devices provides the flexibility needed to keep inputs and costs at a minimum level through optimised spare parts stock-keeping. This provides process fittings that can be selected “off the shelf” and adapted directly to individual requirements.

There is also a great deal of sensor intelligence on board – the standard IO-Link protocol ensures especially simple, intelligent communication. The wireless communication provides easy and fast access and setup.

This means that the instruments have a multi-layer communication platform that enables seamless data transfer and simple integration into control systems. They are prepared for the production processes of the future – and are already making their contribution to the implementation of Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 won’t be marked by the number of shiny toys you own

With my background in automation, engineering and energy infrastructure spanning over two decades, there is a current trend I see that having a larger impact on global manufacturing than any other advancements in the last 40 years. The industrial sector finds itself entering an exciting new phase of evolution, an evolution marked by the unlimited potential of smart manufacturing technologies enabled by IoT and supporting government and industry initiatives such as Industry 4.0.

In fact, a recent report commissioned by two of Australia’s leading Industry Growth Centres has calculated that the economic impact of Industry 4.0 will create 80,000 new jobs and more than $74 billion in economic value.

At this year’s TechEd Conference, our customers and partners had the benefit of seeing the power of Industry 4.0 in full effect. TechEd is Rockwell Automation’s annual automation conference, bringing together the top minds in the industry to demonstrate cutting-edge technology that will dramatically reshape Australia’s public, commercial and industrial sectors.

The event gave a fascinating insight into Rockwell’s view of the next decade and the role automation will play in evolving the manufacturing space. But amidst all this excitement, I couldn’t help but notice an ongoing misconception surrounding Industry 4.0 and successful business digitisation.

Despite a clear interest and even experimentation with emerging technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) diagnostics and Virtual Reality (VR) training, we’re still not seeing the level of full-scale roll outs of IoT technologies in the industrial sector that we see in other parts of the world.

A culprit for this is that the local market has a strong tendency to move towards the shiniest object, examples like AR or VR, without evaluating its necessity to the business or how to effectively implement such a technology. In many instances, solutions with clear use cases such as deploying analytics addressing predictive maintenance and asset management productivity improvement, that bring with them obvious immediate value are clear missed opportunities. They don’t have the same appeal as the cool toys like AR and VR and hence don’t get the same focus and funding

The reality is that you need to know the use case you’re trying to solve for a product deployment to be effective. Recent research from LNS Research suggested 16 per cent of global businesses have gone into deployed systems whereas a substantially higher number of business are stuck at a pilot implementation stage. This is backed up by the World Economic Forum who believe most businesses are stuck in “pilot purgatory”. The interest is there, but nobodies committing to rolling out across their business because they haven’t clearly quantified the return on investment.

As an example, If you have a workplace defined by low incident rates and a knowledgeable workforce, there’s potentially not a lot of benefit in investing in a fully equipped virtual training environment. Industry 4.0 should be dictated by need, not the number of shiny toys you own. In my experience many struggle with what the true payback is. What the return of investment is. There are so many avenues to take, business leaders can easily find themselves jumping between what’s here now and what will emerge over the next four to five years with no rhyme or reason.

It can be difficult to quantify the return on investment and get the funding required, and that’s why I think the short-term benefit is likely in proven existing use cases that can now be deployed more quickly and cost effectively with better outcomes by using newer IoT platforms and solutions. Analytics examples such as preventative maintenance and asset optimisation solutions that help remove bottlenecks in your production addressing low hanging fruit that likely doesn’t need a lot of capital investment are prime examples of easy to justify investments

This is also not to say Australia is a laggard. In many industries including food and beverage as well as mining, Australia has a strong leadership position in the adoption of emerging technologies In my experience, some of the best practices and technology adoption can be found at a local level.

The key is simply to walk and not run into the many solutions and products attached to industry 4.0. Think about what the business problem is before you rush headfirst into trying the cool new toys available. Develop the stakeholder trust and technical ecosystem with quick wins around proven use cases, do the basics well and build the business from within that.

Chicken Plucker re-design helps processing plant save money and time

When the BSC Engineering Solutions team found that a chicken processing customer in South Australia was ordering as many as 32 new chicken pluckers per week, they knew something wasn’t right.

BSC’s major accounts executive, Andrew Fant, has been assisting the chicken processing customer for over 20 years on all matters related to bearings and power transmissions. He and his team closely monitor and keep a record of every piece of equipment that the customer orders as part of their practice to improve the component reliability.

“The customer was getting only one to three months’ life out of each plucker. Costing them on average $7,000 per overhaul, this was a huge burden. So we suggested looking at ways to improve the equipment’s reliability and extend its life,” says Fant.

The processing plant operates 900 chicken pluckers that work 24/7 to process thousands of chicken per day. The motivation for the BSC engineering team was to design pluckers that would last longer, so the customer could save money due to fewer shutdowns due to repairs having to be conducted.

One of the problems that the team identified when they started to analyse the problem was that the parts used for the OEM pluckers were not machined to the right tolerance.

“We changed the design of the aluminum casings with help from a local manufacturer to gain better control of the machining tolerances. We also used our knowledge of bearings, housings and sealing arrangements to improve the design of the bearing,” explains Fant.

“BSC’s extensive knowledge in bearings, housings and sealing arrangements comes from our years of experience in design and manufacture of these components,” he adds.

Helping the South Australian BSC team on the project was Anthony O’Keefe, BSC’s Engineering Manager who is based in Melbourne.

O’Keefe says one of the challenges with the re-design was to make sure that the bearing is protected from contamination. To gain an understanding of how pluckers
work, he describes the production line process.

“After the chickens are beheaded and washed with hot water, their feathers are removed using the plucker. The plucker contains a series of rubber fingers that are mounted onto the plucker bearings. These rubber fingers rotate around the plucker and remove the feathers,” he explains.

“You can imagine that this is a very messy process and there’s a high risk for the contaminants so sealing off the units was critical in the design,” he explains.

Another point to keep in mind was to design an assembly that could withstand the out-of-balance nature of the plucker’s movements.

“Because the plucker’s rotation is unbalanced, the load is distributed unevenly and this was something we had to consider while designing the new plucker assembly,” says O’Keefe.

While the BSC team was conducting trials on the new plucker bearing design, the customer also noticed and rectified an issue with a belt exerting unnecessarily high loads on the bearings.

The result of design improvements by the BSC engineering team and the reduced load on the bearings resulted in the customer only ordering 16 new pluckers over the past four months. Compared to the previous rate of 32 orders per week, the improvement is significant.

“By working with the customer, we were able to combine our knowledge of the components with their knowledge of the application to come up with a design that has resulted in huge savings for the customer. This solution has already been rolled out to another chicken processing plant in Victoria and has the potential for many more.” says O’Keefe.

Apart from being suppliers and technical consultants for their customer, the BSC team also manages the plant’s consignment stock to make sure the client has sufficient stock of critical components.

“A few years ago, we would get after-hours calls from our customer at least four to five times a month. By going down the path of managing the customer’s stocks directly, we now rarely get any urgent calls. A BSC staff member is based on the site and makes sure that the store remains well-stocked,” says Fant.

“We have a close working relationship with our customer and they can discuss any problems that they might have with their equipment and our team will work on improving the reliability of the equipment,”
he adds.

Read more articles like this at: www.lets-roll.com.au

Keeping F&B manufacturers on track with Diamond precision

When conveying material, it is often necessary to attach additional conveyor belt products, such as a scraper or flaps, or extend flighting between a pair of parallel chains. In food and beverage (F&B) systems, these can be necessary to ensure the product flows to the right area in the process. And in order to attach these products to a system, often a roller chain attachment will be implemented.

When used in pairs, attachments need to be exactly in the same position on both chains (called a matched pair) to avoid potential problems developing, particularly in plants that have taken advantage of robotics. For example, if a beverage company is bottling items and then placing them into a filling line, the robotic systems will need to depend upon the accuracy of the roller chain attachments to avoid making a mistake. If the attachment is even slightly out of place, it can lead to the bottles crushing the packaging or cause the bottles to break, leading to potential occupational health and safety issues. Not only that, but the financial impacts of such a situation can be significant and require a shutdown in order to rectify.

This is why the Diamond Chain Company, operating through CBC Australia, offers available length matching on its wide range of high-performing attachments.

A Class I match assures that the longest and shortest chain in a given set will not vary in overall length by more than 600 microns per metre. Using an ANSI #80 chain as an example, the length of two 118 pitch long chains with a Class I match would not vary by more than 1.5 millimetres.

Class II matches are much more stringent, and are suitable for operations where increased accuracy is necessary or when there is a longer distance between the pair of chains. A Class II match will assure that the longest and shortest chain in a given set will not vary in overall length by more than 167 microns per metre. Using the same example as above, the lengths of two chains 118 pitches long will not vary in overall length by more than half a millimetre. Class II matching can be quite difficult to achieve and requires some unique procedures.

Diamond has more than 100 different attachments within its range, for a number of popular dimensions. Troy Markland, Product Manager at CBC Australia, says this is a conservative estimate, as the company is able to provide custom solutions to handle the thousands of different options required.

“CBC will work closely with customers in Australia, helping them to identify what equipment is required, the length of chain needed and the type of chain itself as part of the order process,” he explains.

“We have an extremely close working relationship with Diamond as the exclusive distributor in Australia. We relay not only the product information but other key details such as availability schedules, to help our customers plan their maintenance.”

CBC’s staff are also trained by Diamond to help customers get the most out of the company’s products across a number of industries.

For the F&B sector, Diamond uses U.S Food and Drug Administration-approved materials and H1 food-grade lubricants approved for incidental contact to protect the chain’s structure and strength while providing food safety. Materials and lubricants are selected to meet the specific needs for sanitation, processing, cooking and sterilisation. CBC staff work with customers to determine exactly which chain would work best for each application.

In addition, CBC also provides local support and training. In particular, Markland says CBC can perform periodic measurement to minimise the impact of elongation.

“A roller chain, like most equipment, will suffer from wear over time. As a result, the chain will begin to elongate and eventually need to be replaced,” he says.

“Periodic measurement means we can detect potential issues before they become a problem and help customers develop a maintenance plan so any work can be scheduled – not during a breakdown.”

Markland adds that CBC prides itself on its quality support, both in person and online. Customers are able to go to the Diamond Chain Company website and access a series of case studies, frequently asked questions, and ask dedicated engineers for help to solve any problems, while CBC can provide local expertise.

Read more articles like this at: www.lets-roll.com.au

                                                   

LOCTITE rubber repair resin cuts curing times

Plastics and rubber play an important role in getting food and food products to our plates. Rubber conveyor belts and rubber/plastic lined chutes, hoppers and grinding mills are all part of the farm produce’s journey from farm to processing plants and to the trucks for transport.

When a rubber conveyor belt gets damaged, whether from wearing out against abrasive grains or an accidental impact, the race to get it fixed starts immediately to make sure minimum time is lost in downtime.

As a key distributor of adhesive products in the Australian market, CBC has had years of experience advising end users about the repair and maintenance of their conveyor belts.

Michael Rowe, CBC’s Product Manager for Adhesives and Sealants, says when a section of the conveyor belt gets damaged, more often than not repairing it is a wiser decision than replacing all or even parts of it.

“If you look at the overall cost of full replacement of a conveyor belt, it can be quite costly. Another option is to repair or replace the damaged section,” he explains.

Traditional methods of repairing conveyor belts vary from hot splicing to mechanical fastening using steel clamps. But, according to Mark Casotti, Henkel’s state manager for Western Australia, each of these methods have limitations, including being time- and labor-intensive.

“The hot patch repair requires heavy equipment and specialised people. Moreover, the repair can create protrusions on the surface of the belt which later create problems with cleaning,” Casotti says.

“Mechanical fastening also has certain shortcomings. The steel bolts can get corroded over time. The technique also puts excessive loads on the bolted section of the belt, where it can get torn again under tension. The belt is also not completely sealed, which means you can lose products through the hole in the belt,” he explains.

However, it’s also possible to use rubber repair PU resin, such as LOCTITE PC 7350, which is easy to apply, cures fast at room temperature and is resistant to chemicals and abrasion.

“By repairing the gouges on the conveyor belt using the right repair product, you can get the operation back on track with minimum time loss and at far less costs,” Says Rowe.

Casotti says the LOCTITE PC 7350 was introduced by Henkel a few years ago to offer better adhesion to rubber, faster curing and better flexibility compared to its predecessors.

“As the conveyor belt bends around the pulley, the repair product should be flexible enough to withstand the forces in the belt. The LOCTITE PC 7350 cures within just two hours to tolerate those forces,” he explains.

“The LOCTITE PC 7350 also comes in easy-to-mix cartridges, making it easy even for non-specialised persons to apply the adhesive on the damage area,” he adds. “It only requires a few simple steps, as long as the correct process is adhered to.”

CBC has a long-standing relationship with Henkel that goes back to over 40 years. Rowe says the CBC and Henkel teams work closely together to offer the best repair and maintenance solutions to customers.

“The CBC sales and engineering team have a deep understanding of the customers’ requirements and we work with the Henkel team to bring customers the best repair solutions,” he says.

While the primary market is operators of conveyor belts, Casotti explains that the PU resin repair product can also be used in other applications.

“Apart from conveyor belts, the same product can be used to repair rubber parts on liners in mills, hoppers, chutes and feeder bowls,” he says.

In a recent example, Casotti says, the LOCTITE PC 7350 was used to repair HDPE liners inside a grain chute.

“The large HDPE sheet was damaged in a small area. Rather than having to deal with the cost and labour time of replacing the whole sheet, the customer was looking for a solution to just repair the damaged area. With the use of the correct primer for surface preparation and the use of LOCTITE PC 7350, they could fill the gouge and have it cured within two hours and go back into operation,” he explains.

Read more articles like this at: www.lets-roll.com.au

                                               

Poultry producer gets a set-and-forget lubrication solution

When a food processing and packaging customer within the poultry industry sought the expertise of CBC Australia to set up a new lubrication store solution for their facility, the CBC team collaborated with Alemlube and CRC Industries to meet and exceed the customer’s requirements.

CBC Australia Sales Representative, Debra Fitzpatrick, says their customer was required to meet stringent government regulations for food safety standards and environment protection.

“Understanding these requirements, we worked with our trusted partners, Alemlube and CRC Industries, to offer a set-and-forget solution that made regulatory compliance much easier for our customer,” she says.

The new lubrication store was equipped with the help of oil containers, lids, pumps and hoses provided by Alemlube, as well as a whole range of food grade oils, sealants and greases from CRC Industries. Adding a CRC SmartWasher also provided additional safety to the plant.

“CRC Industries offers a wide range of NFS H1 approved lubrication products. All of CRC’s food grade lubricants comply with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) requirements so the customer can be assured of the highest degree of safety,” says Fitzpatrick.

Cross contamination was another concern for the plant. The lubricants needed to be categorised and stored properly to avoid the risk of someone using a non-food-rated product in the food manufacturing process.

Fitzpatrick says using the Alemlube iCan range of products overcame this risk completely.

“The Alemlube products are designed to make the maintenance and upkeep of equipment easier. The lids are color coded to avoid any confusion and minimise the risk of cross contamination. The quick fill ports also help avoid foreign particle ingress during refilling,” she explains.

To further simplify the quality assurance audit processes, CBC also recommended that the customer gets on board with CRC’s Greenlight Food Safety Program.

Iain Faber, National Channel Manager at CRC Industries, says the CRC Greenlight Program incorporates extensive training with the staff in maintenance and quality assurance departments to help them achieve a high level of regulatory compliance within their plant.

“As part of the Greenlight Program, CRC offers on-site training to maintenance for use and storage of food grade lubricants and cleaners to ensure NSF certification compliance. CRC also provides the customer with an audit compliance folder, which contains TDS, SDS, Allergen certification and global NSF certification,” he says.

“As well as this, the SDS certificate is printed on the underside of the label on CRC’s Food Grade aerosols. They also come complete with the CRC Permalock straw which is a locked in straw and spray actuator that reduces the risk of contamination.”

“Moreover, CRC helps customers with product swap outs based on their technical requirements and aligns the program with the customers’ current on-site audit and inspection programs. We also offer on-going support to technical staff, chemists and field support staff via online or on-site visits.”

Representatives from CRC Industries met with the technical team at the poultry plant to take them through the required trainings and demonstrations.

The CBC team also recommended adding a CRC SmartWasher to the lubrication store as an environmentally friendly parts washing solution.

“The CRC SmartWasher has a compact design and uses the Ozzy Juice cleaning/degreasing solution for washing parts as an environmentally-friendly alternative to solvent and aqueous-based parts washers.  The Ozzy Juice is also NSF compliant as well as certified AsureQuality” says Faber.

“The SmartWasher Bioremediating Parts Washing system is both self-cleaning and safe for the user. Through the process of bioremediating, the SmartWasher constantly maintains the cleanliness of the Ozzy Juice cleaning/degreasing solution without the need for hauling away of used fluid,” he adds.

CBC’s Food and Beverage Business Development Specialist, Matthew Byrnes, says the successful delivery of the required products, as well as the subsequent recommendations by CBC for additional services to the customer, came at the back of a long-standing relationship between CBC and their customer.

“Our customers trust us to meet their operational needs for quality parts and services and we deliver that by understanding their needs – sometimes even before they arise – and always being ready with the most suitable solution,” he says.

“We have built up this reputation over many years of service to the industry and working with reliable partners. When customers ask for certain products, we don’t just deliver that particular product to them. We look at their overall process and see what can be further added to help them achieve their objectives,” he concludes.

Read more articles like this at: www.lets-roll.com.au

Compressing the right information for customers

The food industry needs to operate efficiently to ensure quick delivery of produce, so it is as fresh as possible for customers. To meet this standard, reliable air compressors with a proven track record of success are required.

Air compressor faults take time to repair and that downtime also threatens required delivery objectives, especially for fresh produce going to market.

It is for this reason David Malthouse, BSC Product Specialist, says the company only works with leading air compressor manufacturers.

He says the BSC teams’ product knowledge combined with proven products, enables BSC customers to get the best outcome for their processing plants.

One such air compressor manufacturer is Peerless. Troy Jamieson, Peerless National Sales and Marketing Representative says every machine the company supplies comes with a recommended service guidance.

“At each factory we also run and test everything so that when we supply the product to BSC we know we have tested it for a good two to three hours or more,” Jamieson says.

He says in the food industry it is really important to have both the right compressor and the right filtration.

“Air compressors can start delivering air from 1 litre to 6500+ litres, that is why it is very critical we talk to the consumer about what their air requirements are and how that can be best serviced,” Jamieson explains.

This is where BSC and Peerless’ close relationship becomes a critical factor in customer service.

“We work very closely with our partners in the market. They might contact us and say they have a consumer and they want to get advice from the manufacturer. In these circumstances we try and work as a unit to ensure we are quoting the right compressor for the right application,” Jamieson asserts.

David Malthouse at BSC agrees, saying the company use staff knowledge to ensure customers end up with the best suited product.

“Our team have the practical knowledge and expertise to make educated industry relevant recommendations for air compressors, and a vast array of other products, to benefit customers,” Malthouse enthuses.

BSC can supply air compressors to suit various food and manufacturing plant applications from their range of branches throughout Australia.

“BSC can offer customers same day delivery, based on their location, in order to get any processing plant up and running as soon as possible,” Malthouse says.

When purchasing an air compressor, the BSC team are there to support and advise the customer for any application.

“We can calculate and recommend the correct size and volume of air required to service a site. We can also interchange and identify the difference between compressor brands, so the customer is supplied the right one,” Malthouse adds.

“We also recommend service agents for all brands and can offer engineering support through our own engineering section.”

One BSC customer is a major Australian horticulture company, Costa Group, and in May of 2019 they approached BSC in the search of a new air compressor requirement for its Monarto mushroom farm site expansion.

The compressor was required for two new Evolable machines, capable of labelling 240 punnets of mushrooms every minute. In addition to labellers, the compressor also needed to provide air to Costa’s Ishida machine, indexing conveyor and bucket elevator.

The team at BSC Lonsdale, which service the Monarto site turned to Peerless to relay the customer’s needs.

Costa, Peerless and BSC then worked together to determine a suitable screw compressor unit to best suit the Monarto site.

This was the Peerless HQ10/8, capable of delivering 1200LPM or air at 116PSI (8BAR) which can be fully regulated down to the desired PSI settings. It was also fitted with an oil separator and flow meter.

Costa initially had concerns around the oil separator and filtration on the Peerless HQ10/8, which Peerless quickly confirmed exceeds the requirements of the AS/ NZS1715 with regards to particle removal and oil carryover.

After negotiation with pricing and delivery, Costa were satisfied with the end result and proceeded with the order.

Finding the right solution for customers like Costa is what Malthouse likes most about his job.

“The best part of my job is the people,” he says. “My drive is to help all the people I deal with and do my best to solve any issues they have locating required products, to service their efficiency needs.”

Read more articles like this at: www.lets-roll.com.au

                                                 

Volt belt leads the charge in ATEX environments

The explosive nature of grain and flour dusts is well-documented, with some of the worst industrial accidents in the world caused by explosions from dust clouds. Research published in the United States additionally reveals that 50% of all explosions from combustible dusts in the 20th century occurred in grain silos and flour mills1.

Dusts from wheat are particularly dangerous, as the source of heat required to ignite them is minor. Not only are accidents relating to static electricity common, and can cost businesses millions of dollars in equipment and production losses, they also pose significant risks to workers.

This is why it is so important that the componentry on food and beverage (F&B) applications that involve the handling of grain and flour, are designed to dissipate static electricity. Just as recently as May 2018, a flour mill in New South Wales experienced an explosion that left one worker injured and a whole section of the mill seriously damaged2.

Moreover, safety codes for the avoidance of hazards due to static electricity are vital and are constantly updated in industrial environments3. The international standard ISO 9563:2015 defines the requirements for antistatic synchronous belts in the workplace, specifically for new belts intended to be used in an explosive atmosphere or in situations where there is a fire risk4.

According to Steve Hittmann, who is the National Product Manager for Mechanical Drive Systems and Belt Drives at CBC Australia, the electrical resistance of synchronous belts used in F&B applications that handle grain or flour in their processing, cannot be understated.

“Components like roller chains simply cannot be used in these environments. A roller chain is metal to metal and produces sparks. But even a standard timing or V-belt will produce static electricity,” he explains. “Combustible dust in any food and beverage plant that involves baking or the handling of grain is a real hazard. And while there are a number of synchronous belts available for power transmission in these applications, the industry-leading Gates Poly Chain Carbon Volt belt is by far the safest on the market.”

Importantly, Hittmann points out that the ISO 9563:2015 is limited to new belts only. Despite this, the Gates Poly Chain Carbon Volt belt holds to the standard over the entire lifespan of a belt.

“Antistatic power transmission belts should not just be meeting this standard when they are new. That poses a significant risk to any ATEX (ATmosphere EXplosible) environment,” Hittmann states. “To ensure the highest level of safety, their capacity to safely dissipate static electricity should meet those ISO 9563:2015 requirements over the lifetime of the belt.”

Iain Street, the Business Development Manager of Power Transmission for Gates Australia in NSW, concurs with Hittmann’s statement. He further acknowledges that the Poly Chain Carbon Volt belt is the only belt to actually meet this level of safety.

“The Gates Poly Chain Carbon Volt belt is the only belt on the market that meets the ISO 9563:2015 standard over its complete lifespan,” he explains.

“Industry standards don’t define the used belt conductivity, and typical rubber belt conductivity declines rapidly with use. The safety risks of this in volatile environments – such as those common to F&B applications that involve the handling of grain or flour – are very significant.”

The Gates Poly Chain Carbon Volt features patented static-conductive fibers that safely transfer static electricity to carbon tensile cords – away from the driven side of the application. According to Street, this makes it the “safest and strongest option for applications in ATEX environments.”

“No other rubber or polyurethane belt can match it,” he further asserts. “As part of the world-recognised, industry-leading Poly Chain belt system, the Carbon Volt also offers the advantage of higher horsepower, reduced drive size and lowered component costs.”

As a national distributor of Gates Australia, CBC also work together with the Gates engineering team to ensure that Volt belts are properly installed and working at their optimum.

“It’s a partnership through and through,” explains Hittmann. “We’ll consult with Gates engineers on the correct design and tensioning of the Volt belts, using the Gates DesignFlex Pro software. We’re also committed to the safety of our customers in their workplace, so making sure these are set up right is of utmost importance.”

Read more articles like this at: www.lets-roll.com.au

                                                   

References:

  1. Cause and prevention of dust explosions in grain elevators and flour mills
  2. Manildra Australian flour mill restarts operations after explosion
  3. Accidents and Losses Caused by Electrostatic Discharge
  4. ISO 9563:2015
  5. Gates Australia Poly Chain Carbon Volt belt brochure

Bürkert partners with breweries who are ready to expand

If there is one thing that a brewery needs it is reliable field devices when it comes to measurement and control systems. Making beer is a fine art, and that is something that is not lost on fluid control system specialist Bürkert.

At a recent installation in Germany, Bürkert’s products were installed to help with the automation of a brewery. It was an interesting case study on how modernising a brewery can not only help streamline processes, but also provides an insight on what it takes to upgrade plant and machinery.

Based in the German state of Bavaria, the pilot brewery of Weihenstephan’s research centre for brewery and food quality has existed in one form or another for centuries. In its current state, automated flowmeters, process control valves, solenoid valves, pneumatic actuators and “smart” valve islands make manual adjustments of plant and machinery unnecessary. This not only saves time, but also enables monitoring of the recipes developed or tested here possible at any time. The control system is kept so simple that the master brewer can create, operate and modify recipes from a PC using an Excel spreadsheet.

Where beer is reinvented every day
The pilot brewery enables the creation of pilot brews for all kinds of beer, fermented malt drinks and mixtures. Pilot brews are prepared both in the name of research and on the basis of orders, ultimately resulting in drinks for consumption. This process starts with the mashing, brewing and fermentation processes through to the testing of suitable yeasts, microorganisms, ripening processes and filtration capabilities.

The desire for greater process quality
The pilot brewery has an output of 50 litres of wort and a capacity of nine fermentation tanks capable of holding 60 litres each. Beyond that, the brewhouse and the lautering process of the “mini brewery” are no different from those of a larger facility.

Until now, most things were adjusted manually. This applied to the control valves in the water intake for mashing and sparging, through to the control valves for the lautered wort and to the pump used to drain the wort tank or to adjust the height of the rake arms. There was no scaling here and the rake motor always ran at the same speed.

To achieve a better basis for future research work, those responsible at the research centre decided it was time to modernise the plant automation. However, the decision-makers felt it was important to be able to intervene in the system at any time, even after its modernisation.

The small brewery picked a competent partner that has developed multibrauplus, an automation solution specifically tailored to small and medium-sized breweries. Based on a Simatic S7 from Siemens and graphical visualisation, all the functions – from malt storage bins to fermentation cellar – could be automated. Despite this, the brewers were still left with sufficient leeway to take decisions, since Excel was deliberately chosen as the dialogue medium with the process control system.

The “programming” activities are limited to filling out a standard text list, which was then interpreted by the process control. The monitors, calculations and control functions included in the commands were managed by the process control alone.

From control valve to flowmeter
However, process control alone does not make automation possible; since automatic control valves, flowmeters and pneumatic actuators are required to automate existing manual valves. As a fluidic system expert, Bürkert, supplied and installed the required hardware for the fluidic systems, handled the installation of the wiring and hoses, and supported start-up.

The range of applied fluidic components covered the process control valve used for the steam needed to heat the mashing and wort tank, the temperature controller on the wort cooler, various flowmeters and a valve island mounted in the control cabinet that is used to control all of the valves installed in the process. The height of the rake arms of the lauter tun was also adjusted automatically using a solenoid valve. The existing flap valves were overhauled and equipped with pneumatic actuators. Furthermore, there was also a brewing water storage tank in which the water could be precisely blended using a modular blending unit.

Valve island as an automation system
The entire pneumatic system was controlled by a valve island. This was directly installed and shipped in a stainless steel, hygienically designed control cabinet with the stainless-steel control AirLINE Quick base plate to save space.

The stainless-steel control cabinet was well suited to the small pilot brewery. All of the valves also had a P-channel shut-off mechanism, which meant they could be switched out even while the machine was in operation without shutting it down.

A worthwhile investment
For the pilot brewery, the investment in cutting-edge automation technology has paid off. A high degree of reproducibility and traceability was simple with this solution, as data acquisition was integrated into the control system. Product-specific information could be displayed graphically along with other measured values. Thanks to the partnership, the system was prepared for start-up quickly and easily.

With Australian breweries sprouting up at a rate of almost one every two months, it is important to know that these types of upgrades are also available for small- to medium-sized Australian breweries. Bürkert’s Pacific sales manager, Tom Kirby, has been with the company for 16 years and he said the company is geared up to help breweries upgrade. And he knows it’s not just about the field devices supplied.

“We try and design a support and an automation package that caters for a small to large applications or requirements,” he said. “The key for an individual brewery is to directly align our solution to their particular business model that is, using their longer-term vision to define what their requirements should be, while still maintaining their unique identity and their own personal craftsmanship.”

Plant reliability helps provide uniformity and consistency for each and every batch.
“What needs to be taken into consideration is the dedication to their brand, their brew and varieties that they are trying to produce, making sure you get the same consistency in taste – batch after batch,” said Kirby. “I also think it is a situation where it comes down to the marketability of the product. You want to be able to show that what you are doing with your product is a bit special.”

Kirby is also clear on how he sees the relationship between his company and potential clients.

“Bürkert is solution orientated, with those businesses ready to automate their processes,” he said. “Bürkert’s approach is to look beyond a single project with a client. It is partnership for us. We believe in a joint venture approach in identifying the correct solution needed, customised to each application. That’s what makes Bürkert unique.”

The dangers of going dark: Why a strong marketing presence now is key to increasing market share post-COVID

Prime Creative Media continues its Engine Room series, offering complimentary resources to companies to help navigate the COVID-19 crisis.

John Murphy, CEO Prime Creative Media, offers this guide on the dangers of ‘going dark’ in times of crisis, and how to drive a strategy to maintain or even increase market share as the economy recovers.

International malt producer saves money with anaerobic digestion

In Australia, Muntons is best known for its range of home beer-making kits, made from UK malting barley to emulate classic beer styles from around the world.

However, the company is also a producer of a range of malt products for food manufacturers around the world. Muntons also believes in sustainable production. Since early 2016, the company has operated a novel closed-loop system, which turns some 80,000 tonnes of liquid malt waste into a high-quality biofertiliser at its production plant in Suffolk, England.

The basis of the system is a $9.4m, 499kW on-site anaerobic digestion (AD) plant that generates 25 per cent of the site’s electricity and turns 80,000 tonnes of liquid malt waste a year into quality organic digestate fertiliser, which is used by the company’s network of growers. In turn, they produce some of the 250,000 tons of barley needed to make 180,000 tonnes of Muntons’ malt each year. In the process, the company has saved more than 800 tonnes of CO2 emissions and saved more than $5.95m in electricity and waste disposal costs.

Muntons, which has sustainability at its core, first became interested in AD after analysis showed that 60 per cent of the carbon footprint of its supply chain came from the artificial fertiliser used by its barley growers. The company realised that if a proportion of the liquid waste it produces every year could be treated through AD, it could produce a high-quality, organic biofertiliser for its farmers to use instead therefore closing the loop between farm and fork and reducing its carbon footprint.

The new treatment removed the need for these journeys, and also captured nutrients such as phosphate, which were previously lost when treated effluent was discharged to the river. The digestate product is high in organic matter and acts as a soil conditioner and improver. It also has a longer period when it can be applied to the land than the liquid waste that was previously produced.

Ensuring digestate quality
Unlike conventional AD plants, Muntons’ plant uses a combination of both anaerobic and aerobic processes to treat its digestate, meaning that for technical reasons the resulting sludge cannot be certified as meeting the UK standards for compost and digestate. These standards, known as PAS110, provide a guarantee to users that the digestate product meets certain quality parameters and mean that it is exempt from further waste legislation, so that it can be applied to fields as a fertiliser. However, the process includes a pasteurisation step and the resulting material is treated in accordance with the requirements of the PAS110 standard for anaerobic digestate, based on conventional Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) principles. This helps to assure local farmers that the final biofertiliser contains no ergot or plant pathogens contaminants.

According to, Muntons’ site and waste water supervisor, Paul Mead, a pasteurisation system from HRS Heat Exchangers was a crucial part of the entire process.

“We want our biofertiliser to compete in the agricultural market with the likes of PAS110 digestate and other biosolids that have undergone pasteurisation. Even though we are considered low risk and all our feedstock is from traceable, food-grade grains, we felt that pasteurising our material is the best way to help us get End of Waste Certification. It also reassures local farmers that we will not contaminate their land with ergot or plant pathogens.”

Muntons commissioned a 3-Tank Batch Sludge Pasteuriser System with Energy Recovery from HRS Heat Exchangers to treat the anaerobic and aerobic wastes. Almost 200m3 (53,000 gallons) of high liquid waste, with a high chemical oxygen demand (COD), is treated each day and as well as the CO2 savings, the project has saved Muntons more than $5.95m in energy and disposal costs to date.

The digestate was blended with low COD effluent before being treated with Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) in Muntons’ existing activated sludge plant. This stabilised the digestate and removed further COD, nitrates and phosphorus, prior to the effluent being discharged to local waterways in accordance with an Environment Agency permit. The remaining sludge was then pasteurised in the HRS 3 Tank unit and used as biofertiliser.

Although the material cannot be certified to PAS110, it has been granted End of Waste Certification by the UK Environment Agency, meaning that it can be used as a biofertiliser.

The benefits of pasteurisation
The HRS system works on a three tank principle; while one tank is being filled, the second tank holds the sludge at 70°C, at the same time as the third tank is being emptied (each process lasts one hour). Waste cooling water from the CHP engine is used to heat the sludge in corrugated tube-in-tube heat exchangers, which is more efficient than heating an entire tank of digestate.

HRS has also incorporated an energy recovery section into the process to make it more efficient – energy is transferred from the hotter (pasteurised) sludge to the colder (unpasteurised) sludge, reducing energy consumption by up to 70 per cent compared to conventional systems and using heat, which would otherwise be wasted. It also has the advantage of being able to run at a half flow rate, should the volume of digestate stock reduce, and the equipment’s monitoring features ensure that every batch of digestate can be traced back to the feedstock from which it was produced

Once pasteurised, the biofertiliser can be de-watered if required; it can be supplied for application either as a liquid for soil injection, or a solid for muck spreading. Analysis by Muntons has shown that their biofertiliser is higher in nitrogen, potash and sulphur than most other available biosolids, as well as being a good source of phosphate and magnesium.

The biofertiliser is used on local land from which the company sources its malting barley, but the company is also keen to stimulate the wider biofertiliser market. Muntons is also working with the University of Lincoln on a project to document the composition and effectiveness of the biofertiliser. This has initially demonstrated that lettuces grown with Muntons’ biofertiliser demonstrate quality and growth benefits over artificial fertilisers of similar nutrient concentration.

A further collaboration with University College London revealed that the digestate yields a type of bacteria that produces an antibiotic that kills multi-drug resistant E. coli bacteria.

“For Muntons this whole project has been about maximising efficiency. Although they have an abundance of heat, they still wanted to recapture what they could, and our heat exchangers provide 40 per cent heat regeneration,” said Matt Hale, international sales and marketing director at HRS. “Our system also allows the tanks to run at half flow rates if necessary, meaning they can still carry on pasteurising without having to wait to build up a stock of digestate. Working with a company like Muntons to deliver a truly revolutionary waste treatment plant shows exactly what is possible in terms of implementing the circular economy. The results that the biofertiliser is providing in trials and in the field show just what a valuable resource it is; this success could be repeated elsewhere around the world.”

How to make your assets earn money for you

What would you do if you were a food or beverage manufacturer or processor and you were told you could save your company thousands of dollars in energy bills every year? Most companies would sign up straight away. But what if part of the condition was that at some point in time throughout the year, certain pieces of plant or machinery were switched off. Pretty risky, right? Not so according to Andrew Sutherland from Enel X, a company that specialises in helping businesses – including those in the food and beverage sector – optimise their energy needs.

Sutherland, who is a consultant for Enel X, works with businesses to strategically reduce their energy demand, based on a signal of electricity grid need or shortage, and to monetise this activity. He said that persuading a company to switch off equipment is probably the hardest sell. But, what if there was no risk involved at all? That, said Sutherland, is the key.

“The trickiest part is going into a business and convincing them we can automate a process that will save them energy and money – even earn them money – by turning off a machine and that it will have no impact on their operations,” said Sutherland. “They have to get their head around the idea that we are going to turn off certain parts of their process at a certain point in time. It is only a handful of hours every year.

“I was explaining the concept recently to an abattoir owner and he said, ‘I have 800 staff. I can’t be turning off equipment’. I explained to him that it wasn’t about switching off all of the equipment. It’s about certain assets being turned off at the right point in time.”

Flexibility
Enel X is a subsidiary of Italy-based Enel Group, which is one of the 100 largest companies in the world with revenue in excess of $126bn in 2018. The company sees a gap in the market where companies can not only save money on their energy consumption, but can contribute to the national grid and even
earn money.

Sutherland said that the company comes to the market with a different point of view to a lot of others in the same space. Enel X helps organisations to reduce costs without the need for investment in new infrastructure, by making equipment more efficient. It has expertise and history working with businesses to identify elements of their existing infrastructure and assets or processes that can help deliver a cost reduction if they are used in a slightly different way.

“We work with businesses to identify what they have, what they could have, and then roll those assets and processes into flexibility or demand response programs that help them lower costs. Importantly, the equipment used fully serves its operational purposes, and further benefit is extracted based on what the equipment can provide to the grid,” he said.

For example, Sutherland talks of a business in Victoria that specialises in cold storage. It houses food and beverage products. What Enel X did was help the company manage its assets in a way that it could curtail the energy load of the refrigeration units at a strategic point in time. This not only saved power, but helped that customer earn revenue from the market to help support the grid and the broader community.

“We installed a meter, which is a technical solution that we set up onsite. It recorded when there were disturbances in the grid as a whole,” said Sutherland. “When that occurred, we sent a signal for only the assets they nominated to make a response that provided value to the grid and therefore earned the customer revenue. For this particular customer, he estimated that year-on-year over three years he saved about 10 per cent on his power bill.”

Companies are surprised how much money they can save, according to Sutherland. Demand response, or power flexibility, has been in Australia for many years, however to many it is a new concept. The market is constantly evolving and transforming, with new opportunities for businesses to take part in the market from a demand point of view.

“We are at the forefront of the changes in the rules. We are an advocate for many changes as well,” said Sutherland. “Our history as a global organisation means we know how valuable power flexibility is. As an organisation worldwide, we have enough power flexibility in our portfolio that can manage the state of Victoria on any normal day. Our expertise is with flexibility and demand response. We are the world’s largest operator in this space and we are also the largest aggregator of load to our market operator in  Australia.”

While it makes business sense to use the service – after all what business doesn’t want to save money – Sutherland also points out that not only is the solution practical, it might also soon prove to be a necessity in some parts of the country.

“In the past four months there has been a series of issues that have had an effect on the grid,” he said. “We’ve had outages with generators in Victoria where two generators were out of action for the majority of 2019, which caused a lot of concern about the reliability of the grid. There have been outages between Victoria and Tasmania with the Bass link. In the past couple of weeks there were a few events between Victoria and South Australia, which has needed assets like ours. Using our service, businesses that offered their flexibility are be paid for making a contribution to the support of our grid. That helps our whole community.”

Sutherland believes that, at the moment, the national power grid finds itself at a critical juncture where there is not enough wind and solar power available to cover any shortfalls in power supply, while battery storage is still too expensive. He also believes Australia hasn’t hit a critical mass to help the transition. The country has hit a point where the grid now needs flexible assets and flexibility that will help advance the transition.

“The drivers in the community are for decarbonisation and climate change,” he said. “People in that frame of mind support the use of flexibility because it advances the situation we want. When we don’t have enough wind or solar, we need flexibility at that point in time to keep the grid stable and to ensure that we are not stifling more investment.”

Sutherland can’t reiterate enough that it’s not about turning off the equipment all the time, it has got to be strategic and it has got to be low impact if at all.

Enel X has proprietary software that helps the customer maximise the outcomes to the market. There is software around the trading and dispatch notices but ultimately it is an automated process that combines hardware at the site and software on Enel X’s end.

“We use a combination of hardware and software,” he said. “We need to install certain meters that will sense all the disturbances in the grid and then give a signal to the site.”

He also points out that there is an underutilised power supply available that a lot of big multinationals in the food and beverage industry have and, again, they could earn money from them – standby generators.

“There are a lot of businesses out there who have realised that the reliability of the grid is not as good as it once was so they have made investments in standby generators,” he said. “These investments are substantial for an asset that sits there largely dormant waiting for the power to go out. What we do is we turn those assets into an active market participant. That asset helps to support the grid in terms of need and in price.

“A back-up generator has an invaluable role. For example, in South Australia when they had the outages in 2016, a lot of the businesses did have generators but they were not adequately maintained and many were not available at the time that the customer actually needed it. By taking part in the power flexibility programmes, they are actively used. It is not a dormant asset.”

Sutherland cites an example of a bakery he has been working with. If it loses power they have a huge amount of waste that will happen; the company will have idle staff, and can only get a certain amount of product out the door if they run on their generator.

“It is an asset that is there, but it is underutilised and it is not properly configured for the site,” said Sutherland. “We are working with that business via a grant and funding with the SA government, to help them get to a situation where the sustainability of their operations is maximised. If there is an outage, they will be able to get all the product through the process and out the door. They therefore minimise waste, which is great for the environment – all the conversion of the resources, all the labour is not idle. Generators play a critical role because the grid, in its simplest form, is no longer reliable as it once was.”

Sutherland expects that their offering might take a little bit of time for some companies to comprehend. However, once they get the details sorted out, it is win-win situation.

“We do not expose the customer to any form of market risk,” said Sutherland. “We incentivise them, and the government incentivises them, and we need their flexibility. We are going to do it in a controlled way so that all of your operations are not affected in any way.”

A new way of thinking about food waste

It all changed in the 1950s. That’s the point in time where TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky said the attitude towards packaging changed. Szaky is the Hungarian born, Canadian-raised, United States-residing, evangelical-like champion of Loop, an enterprise that is set on reusing products instead of recycling them. The headline act at the Future of Reuse event at Barangaroo in Sydney in March, Szaky shared his views on the history of rubbish, what we need to do with our rubbish, and where the Loop system has a place in the circular economy.

Why did Szaky narrow it down to the 1950s as being the tipping point? Because that was when packaging disposability met head on with a new era in insatiable consumerism.

“Before the 1950s garbage didn’t exist; it was a by-product but nature knew what to do with it,” he said. “A 100 years ago, every chair in this room that we are sitting on would have been made of wood. You could throw them in the forest and the forest would have thanked you. The carpet would have been cotton and the forest would have been just fine breaking it down. Today, most things in this room will be garbage eventually, but if we threw it into a forest, it would hate us for it.

“Then the 1950s roll around. Disposability brought around unparalleled convenience and affordability, which elevated people out of poverty, allowed folks to not be in the kitchen for two hours at a time. It offered huge and profound benefits for society.”

But, according to Szaky, a strange thing happened – the packaging the product comes in became the property of the consumer.

“And is there any disposable package you want to own when it is empty?” he said. “Take coffee cups. Once you finish your coffee you own the coffee cup. Isn’t that weird? If I took it from you when it was empty you would have no problem relinquishing ownership.”

So it has become a mindset. And one of the truism of any packaging waste – waste in general, according to Szaky – is that there has always been negative connotations attached with it. With other contentious subjects, such as climate change or the use of palm oil, there has been debate over the merits of palm oil in products, or whether climate change is a naturally occurring event or the result of man-made pollutants. With waste, there has been no debate, it has always been a negative.

Szaky believes that in the past two years it’s hit a point where it’s moved from a problem to a crisis.

“Three or four years ago I would have had to explain a photo of empty plastics bottles in an ocean to some people and what it represented. Now I don’t have to anymore,” he said. “I think it has tipped over because it such an easy topic to have an emotional perspective on. You could argue that sometimes that emotion is misguided. I don’t think plastic is evil. Plastic is just a material – whether it is an alloy, a fibre or polymer – but it is how we use these materials that is the real question we should be asking ourselves.”

One answer is to recycle, which is something that Australians have  embraced over the past decade. Yet, consumers realise that there is only so much landfill to go around, while there is also many applications that recycled material can be put to use. But is it enough to take those empty soft drink cans, or those soft plastic lolly wraps and put them to better use? Yes, but there is a problem arising, according to Szaky, and he gave the example of the city of Philadelphia in the US as to what is happening now.

“In 2013, the city was paid $67 per tonne for its recyclables – like PET bottles and aluminium cans,” he said. “Today, they have to pay $105 per tonne to get them recycled. Now the city is debating whether they should have recycling in the city at all. It’s a fair point because it’s now a big expense for tax payers – it’s gone from a revenue to a cost.”

TerraCycle has been at the forefront of recycling and has come up with many innovative ideas to make sure that landfills are kept empty, oceans free of plastics and other waste, as well as making sure that people are informed of the many ecological options when getting rid of waste. The company works with retailers to reinforce to the public that they have eco-friendly policies, and also help them not only keep market share, but increase it.

“We do aerosol recycling with Unilever through DM, which is a big pharmacy in Germany,” he said. “The message is you can bring in aerosols to be recycled – such as the propellent, aluminium and plastic – and turn them into bicycles for kids in need. But what is DM getting? Foot traffic – half a million extra consumers that would not have shopped at their store (according to them) and Unilever gets a huge display in the store all year round, which drives profit dollars.”

While TerraCycle started out as a recycling company – and continues to be so – it has started a new program called Loop, which is designed to take sustainability one step further. While Szaky embraces products that are made out of recycled materials – especially those that have been partially constructed from recovered ocean waste – his main plank is reuse. And this is what Loop is all about. So how does it work?

Take Häagan Daz ice cream for example. Instead of buying a tub of ice-cream in the usual cardboard/wax packaging, it will be available in a stainless-steel container. Once the ice-cream is finished, it’s ready to be picked up, returned to the Loop station, washed, and then returned to the brand for reuse.

In order to take the business to the next step, Loop has partnered in Australia with Woolworths, who is providing the online platform for the service.

“It begins with an online platform so users learn as much as they can,” said Szaky. “When the Woolie’s platform launches, customers will be able to access 200 Loop products on their website in home care, personal care, packaged food and beverages – where there are big waste issues. Once the consumer selects the items they want, you pay a one-time, refundable deposit for the tote bag, then Woolworths will deliver the products. And here’s the cool part – you’ll get a return bag and you put all your returned Loop products back in the bag – just like garbage. We do that on purpose so you feel like you are throwing something away. No cleaning, no sorting, just throwing it into a bin. It just so happens that the contents of the bin are reusable. During the next delivery, Woolies will pick it up for you from your home.”

One of the issues that is not lost on Szaky is trying to get consumers on board. This is why the company has tried to make it as easy as possible for those who are embracing the concept.

“Those bags of reusable garbage end up back at a Loop centre that we’re setting up, and will partner with DHL and Ecolab. They will be cleaning the containers and we will sort them out – a bit like a MERF. We store them, clean them and send them back to the manufacturers to be refilled. This is important, because every actor has normalised the process and they do as little as possible.”

The brands pay for it, but the idea is that they save money on not having to buy packaging. The manufacturer is filling units with only the difference being that the product will arrive in a slightly different form from its current configuration and will be more durable. Szaky said it is the same concept as normal shopping – take something that is bulk, put it in package, then on pallets and send it to a retailer. The retailer puts it on the shelf, the consumer buys it, but instead of throwing it in a recycling or rubbish bin they put it in reusable bag.

But will consumers take to the idea? Yet another thing to have to think about during the day – throw the food wrapping in the bin? Recycle it in the bin outside? Put it in the soft plastic pile to be recycled at Coles? Now, a reusable bag? Szaky is confident it will take off, not least because the brands have hit a nerve with consumers with something they didn’t see coming.

“Take the original Axe deodorant container, which has recyclability issues for a variety of reasons. It has a low cost, but that cost is in the whole price of the deodorant, which is ironic because you don’t want to own it once it is empty,” Szaky said. “The company designed a new deodorant exclusively for Loop, and it’s incredibly beautiful, stainless steel, which is not just design beauty but aesthetic beauty. It’s more expensive to make, no doubt about it. But what goes into the price of your deodorant is the depreciation of the container and the cost of cleaning, which allows the deodorant to be the same price as the disposable version.”

And while the design of these new products has had a huge impact on the psyche of the consumer and their willingness to embrace the new concept, there are also practical considerations about the design that make them different from its disposable counterpart.

Take the aforementioned Häagan Daz ice cream for example. According to Szaky, most Americans eat ice cream in their bedroom, with the average serving being a punnet. And the number one complaint of eating a tub of ice cream in bed is how messy it is.

“Condensation on the cardboard packaging is annoying, but the number one complaint is that their hand gets cold,” said Szaky. “Another complaint is that because your hand is warming the pack it melts from the outside so you have a bowl of ice cream floating in ice cream soup.

“Whereas a new container for ice cream designed for the Häagan Daz range solves this problem because it has two layers of stainless steel – the outside is warm, while the inside is -18˚C and melts from the top down not from the outside in,” said Szaky. “Even the inside is concave so you don’t have a concave angle at the bottom, which means consumers can scoop out every last little bit of ice cream.”

And what has been the overall reaction to Loop being instigated? At the time of writing, its roll out is being ramped up all over the world, including Australia. In the US, the world’s biggest supermarket chain, Kroger, is setting up Loop facilities at some of its west coast stores, while Walgreen is doing the same on the US east coast.

“In France it will happen in July while in Japan it will be October,” said Szaky. “And the most important part is that you can return the empty container to anywhere you want. You don’t have to remember where you purchased the item. You can buy your ice cream at retailer one and return it to retailer two, and then at retailer two you can buy your coffee and a reusable container and return it to retailer three and so on and so forth.”

If a brand wants to come on board with the Loop concept, there are a few rules that have to be taken into consideration, one being that the packaging/container that the product comes in must be usable at least 10 times. Another is that is that it must be cleanable to the standards in their category. Also, once its life has come to an end, the container/packaging must be recyclable unto itself.

“Loops fundamental role is not to be a product or a retailer but to be a platform for reuse,” Szaky said. “One of these ice-cream containers goes through a big reuse cycle, and then at some point it can be recycled. But the steel, for example, in the Häagan Daz ice-cream container will always be an ice cream container. That allows the materials to stay in a closed-loop fashion. We at TerraCycle call it a down cycle – it moves it into one lower category.

“Take paper. It goes from beautiful white paper to toilet paper or newspaper. If you look at plastic it goes from a water bottle to shampoo bottle to a frisbee or park bench.”

When all is said and done, Szaky sees it as a win-win-win-win situation. It is a win for TerraCycle, it is win for the consumer, it is a win for the environment, and it is a win for the brand.

“The reality is, if you put purpose into the product you can take down your marketing because mainstream media and social media will do more for you than marketing would. You can keep the price of the product the same if you spend the marketing dollars to fund the new polymer. And it ends up doing really well. A product acts like it is completely disposable but is actually reusable. And it also moves package from being a cost to an asset.”

Eloments covers all bases with Unleashed software

Starting a new company is risky – and the food and beverage industry is no exception. It pays to have done your research and development into the product you are hoping to sell.

If that isn’t hard enough, then adding in specific conditions to how the food is made produces a new set of challenges.

When Julie Hirsch and Nicole Lamond started tea company Eloments, they didn’t just want to make it different in terms of what it delivered in taste and health benefits; they also wanted to make sure that the ingredients for its range of patented vitamin- and mineral-infused teas were sourced ethically and via fair trade agreements.

“Tea is a beautiful, healthy beverage and we know that a lot of people like tea, enjoy tea, and love it for its health benefits as well as the taste,” said CEO Lamond. “It seemed like a perfect medium to add vitamins and minerals to. So, we developed Eloments, which contains nine essential vitamins in every cup.”

“We would often talk about how hard it was to focus on our health as busy professional women,” said COO Hirsch. “Sure, vitamin supplements were there, but we often forget to take them and didn’t like swallowing tablets. When we were looking at the fact that five per cent of Aussies aren’t eating enough fruit and veg for their general health, we thought we could combine our love of fair trading with our love of healthy products and put natural vitamins in a fair trade cup of tea.”

Lamond and Hirsch found it a challenge to blend the tea leaves with the natural nutrients so they could be put into teabags. They spent two years on research and development and came up with a patent-pending process on how to do it.

“We had a lot of fun blending. We partnered with members of fair trade collectives around the world to source some truly beautiful fair trade-certified ingredients,” said Hirsch. “We sourced vanilla from Madagascar, Egyptian mint and fantastic cardamom, cloves and cinnamon from Sri Lanka.”

With these range of self-imposed conditions for making sure the ingredients were sourced ethically, as well as making sure they were giving the consumer a refreshing and healthy experience, both Lamond and Hirsch knew the logistics of keeping track of all the different aspects of their business was going to be tricky. Enter Unleashed inventory software.

“When we launched the product we did a trial manufacturing run and then realised we needed a very good inventory management system,” said Hirsch. “One that could manage organic and fair trade inventory for us, such as batch numbers, multiple locations and multiple warehouses etc.”

Hirsch said the company didn’t have the time to trial any products but did do their homework on what sort of inventory system they wanted.

“We did quite a bit of research and Unleashed was the best option for us,” she said. “We started using Unleashed from the beginning. It’s a very powerful program. Once you have it set up and working well, it is easy to use.”

And what are the features that Hirsch and Lamond like best? There are a few that have piqued their interest and made life easier.

“From the sales perspective I find it absolutely fantastic for reporting sales figures,” said Lamond. “From that end of it, it is so adaptable and has a lot of great filters, so you can pull any information you want. I really like the interface too. In fact, the ease of use and the reporting are probably the two biggest things I like about it.”

Hirsch agreed, and added that, because of the way the company does business, this function is a necessity.

“Our sales are very complex,” she said. “There are seven territories around the world. We sell into Australia and the UK – both larger retailers and smaller retailers – so we need a lot of flexibility in being able to do different sales reports and sales templates for our various customers.”

Another reason Hirsch and Lamond decided to use Unleashed when they launched the business was that they knew that the business was going to take off quickly and they needed to be able to scale to demand immediately.

“We’ve been selling for about 14 months now, and we’ve got shelf spacing on more than 2,500 stores around the world,” said Hirsch. “If we had started out with an inventory management system with limited capabilities, we would have had to change it six months in. It was great how we started out straight away without having to swap it out.

“Because we are organic and fair trade certified, we have to be able to trace our product’s journey every step of the way. We need a package that has the ability to do that and Unleashed certainly does.”

Eloments’ raapid expansion means it has moved into overseas markets quickly. Again, Unleashed has helped them navigate the sometimes ever-changing landscape of exchange rates and foreign currencies.

“One thing we utilised with Unleashed was the foreign currency feature,” said Lamond. “We are buying in multiple different currencies and we’re selling in multiple different currencies, so having a programme that can support that is important.”

Hirsch explained further.

“Especially as a small Australian business, we don’t have lots of support, so it is really important and helps make the business possible,” she said. “And we can put in those different currencies and track sales and purchases directly to the Unleashed system.

“We partner with the Fair Trade Collective in Sri Lanka for most of our teas and spices. We purchase them in US dollars, Australian dollars and the UK pound. Having the flexibility to manage that in one system it makes it possible for us to run our business.”

Overall, Hirsch and Lamond are very happy with the software. Lamond has a final piece of advice.

“When you are assessing software, I would say make sure it does what you need and make sure the system you choose can meet your needs,” she said. “Unleashed ticks our boxes and is easy to use. Because when you are running a business, you don’t want to be sitting there working out how to use a piece of software. These days, software should be intuitive enough so you can mostly work out how it functions just by using it.”

Is that hissing noise the sound of money going up in smoke?

One thing that never fails to amaze Greg Gillespie is the amount of times he walks into a manufacturing or processing plant and hears hissing. It immediately tells him that they are running an air compressor or a bank of air compressors. It also tells him that the company is throwing money down the drain. That hissing sound is either one, or a series of leaks, coming from the compressed air system.

Gillespie, who is the national sales manager for air compressor manufacturer ELGi, said that in some cases companies are literally throwing thousands of dollars down the drain every year. Not only that, but when he hears that tell-tale sign of hissing, he knows that doesn’t include the ones he can’t hear.

“I’ve walked into a lot of different places – and to be fair my ear is tuned for it – and I immediately hear all the air leaks,” he said. “And I’ll say to the person on site, ‘you’ve got a few air leaks’. They generally reply, ‘no we don’t’. They don’t hear them because it is background noise to them.”

What he encourages people to do is stay back for five minutes after the work day when everything is quiet. He’s confident that they will then hear the noise.

“And the thing is, if you can hear an air leak, it’s a large one. There will be quite a few air leaks you’ll never hear without ultrasonic equipment, especially if they are inside a piece of equipment,” he said.

Gillespie said the culprits in these leaks are usually the same range of suspects – hose clamp connections, seals failing, and worn fittings. And he’s not saying that maintenance managers have to fix them all at once. He knows that, especially in the some of the bigger food and beverage manufacturing and process plants, it can be a big job. A maintenance plan is needed and such a plan is not something whereby a leak is fixed once and then forgotten about. It will depend on the size of the factory and plant and how many compressors are working. He acknowledges it would be a big task to do it all in one go, so maintenance managers would set about a plan to go and rectify the leaks starting with the biggest one first. Then they would just do a constant, weekly check. But what is the cost?

“If someone has an air audit done then they start to realise that ‘holy heck, we’re leaking thousands of dollar per annum’,” he said. “The more plant and machinery you have in place, the more the leaks are going to cost your bottom line.

“If you have a small place with a 2.2kW compressor, then that cost isn’t going to be that high. But if it is a larger factory with 100kW of installed compressor power, then it will cost a lot.

“I know of a place that has three 55kW machines. One of those 55kW machines pretty much services air leaks. If they fixed their air leaks they can turn one of their compressors off. Do the maths of 55kW of power running all day. They operate 24/7 – not at full capacity – but they are aware of it. I’m sure if you put all the numbers down in front of the people running the place, suddenly it wouldn’t be too hard to fix.”

Education is also a key ingredient. A lot of places he visits think the air is free. Quite often Gillespie will see people “sweeping” the floor with an air gun. It’s convenient, it’s quick, but it does come at a cost.

“Some think it is quicker doing it that way because it reduces the labour cost involved,” he said. “I routinely see people cleaning down their areas using air. It’s not a safe practice to do it.”

But what causes the leaks in the first place? The leak itself is being caused by faulty equipment, but what caused that equipment to become faulty in the first place? Gillespie believes that not only does the factory need the right air compressor for the right job, but it is also the type of air distribution network that is being used that can be a problem. This includes not only the size of the pipe that is distributing the air, but what it is made out of, too.

“I talk to people about becoming efficient, which starts with the right compressor and the right distribution network,” he said. “That is where things like the pipe size, pipe type (poly, aluminium, copper) and how you articulate it comes into play.”

A good distribution system will be one that will be less likely to leak over time – what sort of pipe and the distance over which it is set up are important considerations to limit pressure losses.

“The type of pipe is important because with some piping temperature changes can cause it to expand and contract, and start to bend and twist, so I much prefer people investing in rigid pipe,” said Gillespie. “Depending on the type of rigid pipe system you go for – if you go for something like a braised copper, or stainless steel or even aluminium/copper pipe with fittings – these are going to be less leaks than some other methods.”

If it is the wrong size pipe it will put unnecessary load on the compressor under pressure, which can induce something called artificial demand. This can be magnified if there are multiple compressors in the system, which can be very costly, he said. Gillespie also pointed out that there are also lots of government grants that can help companies become more energy efficient. They change on a regular basis. At the moment there is grant that finished recently that was available for companies that were replacing existing equipment with more efficient equipment with variable speed drives.

“I helped a customer do that and they got nearly 50 per cent of the price of the compressor rebated,” he said. “There is another grant available at the moment which is up to $5,000 rebate for people to put permanent monitoring equipment in to their plant so they can monitor the efficiencies of their compressed air system. Compressed air systems account for about 30 per cent of all industrial power.”

As part of the government’s push to increase energy savings and reduce emissions, they are encouraging industry to work in a more economical way and an area to do that is air compressors, said Gillespie. A lot of people think these things revolve around lighting and solar power. However, quite often there are grants going around to make more efficient compressed air systems.

For the bigger companies that are setting up a new system or refurbishing an older system, Gillespie said putting some budget aside for a monitoring system is also a good idea.
“I have a company I’m dealing with at the moment and they are going to need about 300kW of power. It’s going to be a couple of hundred thousand dollars’ worth of equipment and I’m putting monitoring equipment in my quote – $6,000 worth. To me, it would be absolutely crazy not to do it. The advantages are a no brainer on a system that size.”

Gillespie also cautions against overthinking too much about what to do. An air audit is a simple thing to do and that will give a clearer indication of what a company’s needs are and how they can be remedied.

“I would try not to oversell it because sometimes you can take somebody down that rabbit hole and they can become overwhelmed because they have been inundated with the information and data,” he said.

“You have to find that balance. There are instances where you might spend $10,000 to modify pipework and save yourself $1,000. There’s no payback.”

There are lots of things going on with flow and thermodynamics, you could easily make someone’s head spin.

“At the end of the day, a well-designed and maintained compressed air system is going to be more efficient. And that will save money every day of operation.”