Facility Operations: Staying Productive and Competitive in the Food Industry

Facility Operations: Staying Productive and Competitive in the Food Industry

The Mt. Olive Pickle Co. maximizes uptime and minimizes labor with a self-cleaning filter system.

As the largest privately held U.S. pickle company in an industry that’s undergone widespread consolidation, the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. understands it must operate more efficiently than the competition while producing product of the highest quality for consumers. The company packs more than 90 million jars of pickles, relishes and peppers annually for distribution in more than 45 states. One required process is running fresh pack product through a brine wash solution sprayed by nozzles at a salt bath.

To keep the spray nozzles from clogging with bits of product debris washed off in the process, the brine wash solution must be filtered before each reuse. However, traditional filter bags had distinct drawbacks.

“Depending on the product running, filter bags on each production line had to be changed about once an hour, during which time production had to stop for about five minutes,” says Steve Whitman, production manager for Mt. Olive.

Furthermore, filtering efficiency could vary depending on how full the bags were, leading to potential spray nozzle blockage and line shutdown. To determine when to change filter bags, workers had to spend time and attention monitoring pressure gauges. “As the outlet pressure gauge dropped and the inlet pressure gauge increased, workers knew they needed to get in there and change their bag out,” says Whitman. Cleaning the strainers and changing out the filter bags by hand was a wet, messy job, and purchasing, storing, handling, and disposing of the bags added to production costs.

Based on the recommendation of its salt bath supplier and its own research, Mt. Olive turned to the self-cleaning Eco filter system from Russell Finex (www.russellfinex.com) of Pineville, N.C.

Manufactured at the Russell Finex plant, the Eco filter is a self-cleaning system that integrates directly into the pipeline and eliminates the need to change filter bags or clean filtration baskets. By means of a spiral wiper design, the filter element is kept continuously clean, ensuring optimum filtration efficiency. Because of its self-cleaning design, cleaning the filter between batch runs is quick and easy with minimal disruption during production changeovers.

Filter
Russell Eco filters have a Q-Tap valve that allows the sampling of freshly filtered material, so quality can be monitored on the fly.

“We’re no longer having to shut down production or babysit filter bags,” says Whitman. “Because we’re getting all the particulate pieces of product out of the brine solution, we’re not stopping up our nozzles, and we’re getting good brine flow into the system.”

Mt. Olive now uses a number of Russell Eco filters in production. These have a unique Q-Tap valve that allows the sampling of freshly filtered material so quality can easily be monitored on the fly without interrupting production. The filters also feature the Russell filter management system, a technology that automatically opens the oversize discharge valve at a specified differential pressure or time interval. The system enables the filter to be operated efficiently without operator involvement.

“Production is streamlined because the system automatically flushes and cleans itself when needed, and there’s no need to monitor, change, or dispose of bags,” says Whitman.

Compared to the previous filter bags, these filters are saving the company a substantial amount of downtime and labor. “We’ve had zero downtime with the Eco filters,” says Whitman. “Because they’re virtually maintenance free, they’ve helped us meet our production targets while saving labor.”

As companies like Mt. Olive are discovering, the self-cleaning Eco filter fits neatly into existing production lines, in many instances adding significant capacity without requiring excessive space. Because it’s totally enclosed, it also prevents outside pollutants from contaminating product and protects operators from any fumes or spillage. Users see substantial improvement in product purity as well as throughput and waste elimination.

“With more production uptime and lower labor costs, the Eco filters are helping us stay productive, competitive and grow into new markets,” concludes Whitman. “They’re part of our winning team.”

Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, California.

Pallet Flow Racks Boost Capacity

To expand business and capacity, U.S. Gypsum Co., a manufacturer of gypsumbased products, added a new production line to its Baltimore facility.

“We had plenty of overhead warehouse clearance but not enough pallet rack storage,” says Adam Simpson, joint treatment department manager at the Baltimore plant. “We wanted to minimize labor and lift truck handling while adding first-in, firstout (FIFO) capability to rotate stock and maximize shelf-life for customers.”

The company turned to Delmarva Material Handling, a material handling systems integrator, and Steel King, a flow storage system and pallet rack manufacturer. They recommended a warehouse pallet flow storage system.

In a flow storage system, dynamic flow rails are inclined in a static rack structure, allowing loads placed on one end to move by gravity on rollers to the unloading end, with speed controllers acting as gentle brakes. As a load is removed, the loads behind it move forward automatically. U.S. Gypsum Co. installed the SK3400 pallet flow system, which can carry about 1,200 pallets.

Once loaded, FIFO product rotation is automatic, and lift trucks are required only for initial and final unloading. Compared to traditional selective pallet-rack use, which requires multiple aisles, aisle space can be reduced by 75%, and up to 100% more product can be stored.

“We’re optimizing production, storage, and inventory management,” says Simpson. “Pallets are stored four high and 15 deep. By increasing storage capacity in our existing facility, we’ve eliminated the need for new construction. We’ve reduced physical plant overhead and material handling costs, and as product automatically rotates through storage, shelf life is maximized for customers.”

Onset Tracks its Energy Use

Hobo U30 remote monitoring system
Onset deployed its Hobo U30 remote monitoring system to track kilowatt hours and air temperature in a section of its building to improve energy consumption. Measurements are recorded, and the data is transmitted to the Internet where employees can view and analyze the data 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In an effort to protect the environment and reduce its energy consumption, Onset Computer Corp., a supplier of Web-based energy and environmental monitoring systems, has signed on to the EPA’s Energy Star Partnership program.

The company’s in-house energy team is launching a formal energy management program for Onset’s 40,000-square foot facility in Bourne, Mass.

The company will use its own Webbased energy monitoring products to monitor electricity consumption and other parameters in the facility. The data will help the company determine where it should focus its energy-reduction efforts and verify future energy-efficiency improvements.

“The very same systems we supply to energy managers, green building consultants and HVAC contractors all over the world will play a key role in helping us manage our own energy usage,” says Nick Lowell, director of engineering for Onset.

Live data from one of the company’s monitoring systems is accessible online at www.onsetcomp.com/livesystem/energystar.

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