Handling bulk ingredients

When it comes to bulk storing ingredients, manufacturers must be able to integrate a system into their production areas seamlessly and efficiently. Celia Johnson speaks to Matcon Pacific business development director David Newell.

Q. What are the main trends in ingredients handling?

A. The method of preparing a batch, which normally involves the decanting of numer­ous 25kg bags and manually scooping minor ingredients, is usually very labour intensive.

Therefore, automating the formulation of the ingredients to prevent operator error and provide batch traceability is a significant trend.

There is also a trend away from decanti­ng raw materials from bags and towards receiving the pre-mixed ingredients in bulk from the supplier, which not only makes the plant more efficient but reduces the manu­facturing cost per kilogram.

Q. What are the main challenges associated with handling and storing ingredients?

A. Reducing dust contamination in the pro­duction area is a major concern and challenge when it comes to handling and storing ingre­dients.

The use of traditional bulk storage sys­tems, such as bulk bags, is the main cause of the problem.

The bags are often left sitting on the floor of a warehouse, become contaminated with dirt from the floor and are then taken into the production area for processing, placing the product at risk of contamination.

Suppliers of bulk storage systems are also challenged to provide manufacturers with systems that can easily be integrated into the production area while also providing inter-company transportation of pre-mixed products.

The bulk storage system needs to ensure the ingredients or premixed products are dis­charged efficiently in a contained way, without traditional flow problems such as segregation of a pre-mixed batch, bridging or rat-holing.

Q. How are these challenges being over­come?

A. Ingredients manufacturers may choose to incorporate a closed-system approach, com­bining a typical packaging system such as a CHEP or TNT container with a compatible hopper design that can be discharged or dosed into the production mixer.

Similarly, an Intermediate Bulk Container system (IBC) could be used for this purpose.

Once the container or IBC has been dis­charged it can be cleaned off-line or trans­ported back to be filled.

Q. What are the latest innovations and equip­ment that will benefit manufacturers?

A. Operator errors in ingredient preparation can be prevented and product recalls low­ered with an automated or semi-automated approach to ingredient formulation.

By using an IBC to discharge the product automatically, not only is the loading of the mixer simplified but the availability of the mixer for mixing more batches is increased, as compared with manual loading.

The IBC is loaded onto a discharge station above the mixer and will discharge the for­mulated batch in a controlled and hygienic manner.

The discharge station incorporates a pneu­matic actuator and an internal vibration to provide guaranteed discharge of even the most difficult flowing products.

The Matcon Flexi-Batch recipe formula­tion system is a way of formulating the batch to a known recipe by using a moving batch container located under the ingredients.

The ingredients can easily be changed or increased according to the production demands.

The Variable-Lift Matcon Discharge Hop­per provides a high accuracy dosing of the ingredient, typically down to 50g in a 100kg batch, while being a single machine cuts down on cleaning time.

Matcon’s IBCs are manufactured from FDA-approved polyethylene material and incorporate cone valve technology.

RVO supplies Matcon equipment in Aus­tralia.

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