Turnkey Automated Batching System Helps Company Reach Sustainability Goals
February 2012 Biosphere selected a turnkey automated batching system engineered and manufactured by Ingredient Masters Inc. of Cincinnati, Ohio on the basis of speed, repeatability, lead time for completion and cost.
The first of the five modules is a super sack bulk handling system comprised of six 54 cu. ft. dispensing hoppers arranged in a single row. Each is equipped with pneumatic slide gate valves with dual dribble positions to optimize cycle times and discharge accuracy. Air-activated vibration at each hopper is controlled by a PLC to ensure consistent product flow. A robotic scale cart, also governed by the PLC, moves under the dispensing hoppers and receives the precise amount of each ingredient specified in the recipe. The scale cart automatically docks with a transfer hopper to transport the ingredients. There are computer- controlled dust collection points at each of the five hopper discharge sites; dust collection can also be activated manually during hopper refilling.
The second module, a vacuum transfer system, is controlled by the central computer system. It automatically requests delivery of the next sequence of material whenever a premix hopper is empty. It has a primary premix hopper mounted over the mixer that discharges through the mixer port, and a secondary premix hopper that discharges into the primary. A vacuum receiver mounted above the secondary hopper transports ingredients sequentially from the scale cart transfer hopper into the secondary premix hopper. Module 3 is a fiber handling system with a mechanically agitated hopper mounted on load cells. It functions as a “loss in weight” scale hopper and can also be filled from an existing fiber shredder discharge conveyor.
System control is provided by an Allen Bradley Compact Logix PLC running RSLogic 5000 for the PLC logic and RS view for operator graphics. A Dell Pentium computer runs Windows XP and RSLix provides PC to PC communication. A Microsoft access database stores recipe and ingredient information and records batch data. Read more about this case study.
Powdered Beverage Producer Insight Beverages, Inc. Installs An Automated Weighing and Batching System to Increase Production and Improve Efficiency
September 2011 Ingredient Master installed the custom-designed automated gain-in-weight weighing and batching system in the company's batching room in early 2010. The system consists of 20 removeable 28-cubic-foot ingredient dispensers, 20 screw feeders with helix screws, one powered infeed roller conveyor, five scaling rollers, one powered outfeed conveyor wiht a check weigh station, and one PLC controller that controls the entire system's operation. Read more about this case study.
The Hempel Group chose Ingredient Masters automated batching technology for its manufacturing facility in Hong Kong
April 2010 Start-up was completed in March 2010. An IM automated batching system was also chosen for the company’s manufacturing plant in Buk, Poland which opened April 27, 2010. The Poland project was CE certified and ATEX certified; the system for Hong Kong was built to the same specifications. The Hempel Group is a leading global supplier of coatings for marine, container, protective and decorative applications.
The installation at Hempel Poland is CE certified and ATEX certified. It is a two-floor configuration, with discharge of individual ingredients from 1000 kg bulk bags and 25 kg bags, from the upper floor.
Start-up and training is now complete at Hempel Poland, where an Ingredient Masters 24-station dry ingredient batching system will enable the company to manufacture 40 million liters of coatings per year.
The tanks for the Hempel project were manufactured from a permanent, semi-conductive polyolefin compound that provides excellent resistivity to static charges, and excellent flow and impact properties.
March 10, 2010 Ingredient Masters, a manufacturer of custom batching systems for dry ingredients, has introduced a new design concept in dry ingredient dispensers. The new dispenser design was created for companies who need powder dispensers to empty completely for one of several reasons: sanitation, the use of very high-value ingredients, or batching operations where tolerances are so close that even minor variances are unacceptable. Companies that benefit most include food companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and powdered metal processors.
Ingredient Masters powder dispensers are manufactured from seamless, rotationally molded, cross-linked (HDPE) polyethylene. Standard gauge is ½ ″. These robust polyethylene dispensers are superior to stainless steel in both chemical resistance, and resistance to mechanical damage from forklifts and other plant equipment. HDPE polyethylene powder dispensers are exceptionally durable, have high tensile strength, and remain “sweat-free” when temperatures fluctuate.
The new powder dispensers have a liquid-smooth finish, and unique interior geometry that makes them suitable for both powered and flaked material. Ingredients gravity-feed continuously and evenly. There is no internal “shelf” to trap material, and no internal bolts or other interruptions of the polyethylene material. The new dispensers meet FDA and USDA requirements and are suitable for ultra-fine powders, high-density ingredients—and those that are mechanically or chemically corrosive.
Ingredient Masters new powder dispensers are manufactured in 8 cu ft., 11 cu. ft and 15 cu.ft. capacities; all have the same footprint, so they are interchangeable on a production line.
How Bear Metallurgical managed high-weight materials and tight-tolerance specifications
October 2009 Bear Metallurgical Company is a leading provider of high-purity ferroalloys and toll-oxide processing for the specialty steel, automotive and foundry industries. It is the sole independent converter of ferrovanadium and ferromolybdenum in the U.S. Processing services provided by the company include the toll conversion of vanadium oxide to ferrovanadium and the conversion of molybdenum oxide into ferromolybdenum. According to operations manager Bill Snyder, Bear Metallurgical has been successful, in part, because it fully-embraced ‘lean-event’ thinking, and lean-manufacturing strategies, before they became critical to staying competitive, and because management leveraged its commitment to ‘green’ operations by eliminating wasted effort, and wasted material, at every opportunity.
With economic forecasts beginning to darken, mid-2008 might have seemed to be an odd time for capital investment. Bear Metallurgical, however, regarded it as an opportunity to ramp-up efficiency, eliminate some handling costs and prepare for the next growth cycle. The capital equipment they had in mind was a dry ingredient batching system that would deliver very high (+1 pound on a recipe of 8,500 to 10,000 pounds) accuracy and could accelerate the production cycle for each batch.
Also on the company’s wish list: The elimination of non-productive material handling, specifically, two forklifts and other dedicated mobile equipment used to dispense material to drums; the improvement of safety, hygiene, and housekeeping through reduced dust emissions; and the elimination of redundant weighing and packaging steps. Finally, they wanted greater productive capacity—without disruptions to production, which runs 12 hours-per-day, 5 days-per-week.
Bear Metallurgical’s team requested outline proposals from several nationally-known manufacturers of dry ingredient batching systems. In a unanimous decision, the team selected a concept proposed by Ingredient Masters, Inc.
“Ingredient Masters was a logical fit for us,” says Dave Carey, plant manager. “They had solid credentials with major companies in the refractories and specialty metals field, and they demonstrated, with site visits, that their system could meet our tolerances.”
The system that Ingredient Masters engineered for Bear Metallurgical is custom to their requirements, although it is based on a robust design that the Cincinnati firm has used with excellent results for other precise batching applications.
Raw materials, including reagents, oxides and other ingredients, are delivered in 4,000-pound bulk bags, which are emptied into one of 12 dedicated dispensers, each of which has integral dust control. Dispensers are also fitted with air pads to prevent bridging (compaction). Computer-controlled vibrators pulse the pads at frequencies tailored to each material. Because the raw materials are exceptionally heavy, these 110 cubic-foot polyethylene dispensers have 5/8-inch nominal wall thickness and 1-inch bottoms. Each dispenser has a capacity of 30,000 pounds. Dispensers are mounted on a steel frame, and are linked by a track, on which a scale cart runs during the batching process.
At the start of the process, the operator specifies whether single or multiple batches will be run, and selects a recipe. The HMI consists of an Allen Bradley compactLogix control processor and Rockwell Software RSView 32 HMI package. System control resides in the PLC with the HMI package providing supervisory control and data acquisition. The user interface contains a full system overview screen, manual operation screens and alarm monitoring screens.
Recipes reside in Microsoft SQL data tables on the same supervisory PC. Recipes contain information on required ingredients, tolerances per ingredient, and system-specific data such as valve position requirements and vibration sequencing. There is no limit to the number of recipes that can be stored within the HMI.
When a recipe is selected, the system informs the operator if any of the required ingredients is not available in the quantities required. Once the batches are initiated, the scale cart begins operation.
Fifty-eight cubic-foot hoppers fit on the scale cart, and, as they move past dispenser stations, weigh and add ingredients as needed. A typical recipe requires five to six ingredients; customers specify the required quality, yield, percent reagent content, and purity. A typical batch is 8,500 to 10,000 pounds. During dispensing, the system logs the appropriate data, halting progress and alerting the operator if dispensing results in metrics that are outside the tolerances specified. No further operator action is required during automatic operation.
As the cart indexes and the bins dispense, run data is displayed. This includes batch start and end time, recipe ID, and the amount of each ingredient required and dispensed. The finished batch is then blended in a double-cone or V-blender.
The Ingredient Masters system is set-up to accommodate enterprise controls in 2010; for now, controls are autonomous, linked to the server, where a tech service manager writes and modifies recipes. The batching system has achieved the objectives the Bear team established for it.
“It is literally everything we expected,” says Dave Carey, “and accomplishes all we wanted it to. In addition to eliminating handling steps that added no value, we were also able to eliminate three high-maintenance scales that required quarterly calibration. Plus, the system is robust and ‘worker-proof,’ with zero unscheduled downtime.”
Ingredient Masters Expands International Reach
October 13, 2008 Ingredient Masters has appointed MIL Industries, LTD, Chennai, India, as its exclusive representatives for India. The alliance, announced today, will substantially increase Ingredient Masters’ sales, service and development capabilities to serve a fast-growing international customer base.
According to, Scott Culshaw, President and CEO of Ingredient Masters, the mission of the alliance is to pair Ingredient Masters’ expertise in the field of powdered ingredient batching and handling with MIL Industries’ experience in the chemical, fertilizer and process industries. Mil Industries sells custom equipment throughout the mideast, Africa and the Mediterranean region. In addition to its Chennai headquarters, Mil Industries has offices in Mumbai, New Delhi and Baroda.
India’s economy, measured in USD exchange rate terms, is 12th largest in the world, with a GDP of around $1 trillion (2008). It recorded a GDP growth rate of 9.1% for the fiscal year 2007–2008, making it the world’s second fastest big emerging economy.
JTM Automates A Spice-Batching Process to Improve Quality Control and Production Rates
June 2008 JTM Food Group, Harrison, Ohio, is a specialty food processor that produces various prepared-meat products, kettle-cooked products, and baked goods for the foodservice industry, the military, schools, and retail consumers. Many recipes include a spice mixture that gives a product its unique flavor. In the past, operators manually scooped the various spices into a batch bucket positioned on a scale, individually weighing each ingredient. However, over the years as customer demand increased, manually scooping and weighing the spices was taking too much time and causing a bottleneck in the production process. The company needed to find a way to improve its spice weighing and batching.
In 2004, the company had worked with local weighing-and-batching system supplier Ingredients Master to automate the bakery operation’s microingredient batching process. After installing the custom designed system, the company saw immediate improvement in the batching process efficiency and accuracy.
So in early 2008, the company decided to work with the same supplier to design an automated weighing and batching system for the spices and other minor ingredients. “The supplier was my first and only call because the bakery operation’s system works so well, and we wanted an automated system similar to that one,” says Joe Maas, JTM Food’s operations vice president. “However, for the spice-batching process,we needed a muc hmore complicated system that could handle twenty-four different ingredients, produce multiple recipes simultaneously, and make upto one-hundred-pound batches.”
The custom-designed automated gain-in-weight weighing and batching system consists of 25 32-gallon batch buckets, 24 28-cubic-foot ingredient dispensers, 24 screwfeeders with helix screws, one infeed belt conveyor, four weighbelt conveyors, one outfeed belt conveyor with a checkweigh station, and one PLC controller that controls the entire system’s operation. The batch buckets and ingredient dispensers are constructed of polyethylene and approved for use in USDA, FDA, and 3-ADairy applications.
The system’s PLC controlle rhas a flat panel touchscreen that allows an operator to easily call up the various spice-batch recipes, monitor the system’s components, and manage inventory. For quality control, the PLC sounds an alarm if an ingredient being filled into batch bucket falls outside the system’s ±0.02-pound accuracy range. The PLC also generates a tag that gives the lot number of each individual ingredient used in a recipe, allowing the company to track lot numbers from the ingredient manufacturer all the way into the finished product to provide complete quality control.
Since installing the system, the labor and time required to make the spice batches has decreased. “We’ve been able to put a couple of employees to work in other areas in the plant,” says Maas. “And we’re only spending about ten hours a day, four days a week making spice batches, which means we can handle future production increases. I feel very comfortable and confident moving forward using the supplier’s system.”
According to Maas, the supplier was easy to work with when designing and installing the custom system. “They were here throughout the installation and start-up process, making sure that all the hiccups got resolved,” he says. “And they have great follow-up service and have been very responsive whenever we’ve had issues with the equipment. The system was well worth the capital investment.” Read more about this case study.
Trouble-Free Batching for Spar, Inc.
April 2008 Spar has completed the manufacture of an 18-unit computerized batching system in Jacksonville, AL. Spar specializes in caliber shaped and unshaped refractories, including dry vibratables, free flow castables, graphite rams and gunning mixes. Other refractory companies who have recently chosen Ingredient Masters’ batching systems include JW Hicks Inc. and Steward Advanced Materials. Read more about this case study.
Simultaneous Batching System Processes Multiple Recipes at High Speeds
January 30, 2008 Ingredient Masters, Inc. has introduced a system that simultaneously processes up to 20 batches per hour, each with up to 24 components. The system is well-suited to a broad range of food processing and industrial applications.
The Ingredient Masters system is engineered for recipe sizes of 10 to 200 lbs. each, and maintains ingredient accuracy of +.02 lbs. per ingredient with the use of screw (spiral-type) feeders. Systems engineered to handle very high ingredient volumes, or very large batches, can be specified for auto valve release. The transfer conveyor can be scaled for gain-in-weight (which provides slightly higher accuracy), or loss-in-weight (which is faster), at customer option.
The batching systems are customized to the application, and can often be engineered to incorporate existing powder handling devices. They use as few as four, and as many as 30 dispensers, which are each 28 to 105 cu. ft. in capacity. Dispensers are rotationally molded polyethylene, for best-possible material flow, and are USDA, 3A, FDA and EPA approved. They are also exceptionally durable, and, unlike conventional dispensers, remain “sweat-free” when temperatures fluctuate.
Like other Ingredient Masters equipment, this batching system will flow virtually all powdered, flaked and granular ingredients—even compacted or hygroscopic ingredients—without the addition of a Bulk Bag Conditioner or other “helper” device.
System operation is controlled via an Allen Bradley PLC and a PC. Software is typically Allen-Bradley RSLogic 5000 for the PLC logic and RSView for operator graphics. A Microsoft Access database stores recipe and ingredient information, and records batch data.
Recipe storage is virtually unlimited and each recipe is date-stamped with the most recent revision or approval. A master list of ingredients, including operating parameters for each, is maintained in the database. The system maintains a deductive inventory for each dispensing hopper and tracks ingredient lot numbers for archiving in the batch data.
New System Batches Wet and Dry Material with Exceptional Accuracy
October 22, 2007 ngredient Masters has introduced an innovative system for sequentially introducing dry and liquid materials to a mixer.
The heart of the system is a “Super Sack” bulk material handling system, which incorporates multiple air-actuated dispensing hoppers, a robotic scale cart which moves between them, and an innovative, space-saving support structure. Dispensers are polyethylene, with capacities between 3.5 cu. ft. and 105 cu. ft. There are ten standard dispenser sizes.
Other components include a vacuum transfer system, a fiber handling (“loss-in-weight”) scale hopper, and a 50-lb. bag handling system with multiple hoppers. The hoppers are agitated, and are equipped with screw feeders; they discharge above a common platform scale.
The liquid handling portion of the system discharges three to seven ingredients; surge tanks feed continuously and are refilled via gravity flow each time a full tote is connected to the system.
Centralized computer control is via an Allen Bradley PLC and a PC. Software is Allen-Bradley RSLogic 5000 for the PLC logic and RSView for operator graphics. A Microsoft Access database stores recipe and ingredient information, and records batch data.
An unlimited number of recipes can be stored; each is date-stamped with the most recent revision or approval. A master list of ingredients, including operating parameters for each, is maintained in the database. The system maintains a deductive inventory for each dispensing hopper and tracks ingredient lot numbers for recording in the batch data.
The scale cart discharge accuracy depends on batch size, and is generally 0.002 lb. to 1 lb. per batch, a tolerance which makes the system well-suited for the broadest range of applications.
Internet-Based System Combines Flexibility, Precision for Dry Ingredient Batching
January, 2007 Ingredient Masters has introduced a batching system with internet-based programming, monitoring and diagnostics capabilities.
This fully automated, self-contained system uses an Allen-Bradley PLC for the input of up to 100 recurring process recipes, and numerous QC functions. Weighing accuracy is +.02 lb. per ingredient on a 1000-lb. recipe.
Systems use three or more FDA-USDA polyethylene dispensers, each with capacities between 3.5 and 100 cu. ft. The new system is particularly beneficial for applications where space is at a premium. (The footprint for a 5-dispenser system is just 8′ X 30′.) In addition to the in-line dispenser configuration, the system can be set up with modular dispensers to accommodate non-recurring recipes.
The Ingredient Masters System is JIT-compatible system and well-suited to the precision batching of dry product of all types, including abrasive and “high-drag” ingredients. Its integral, high-efficiency dust collection simplifies air quality management and plant housekeeping.
Ingredient Masters specializes in precision batching equipment for the food and pharmaceutical industries, also chemicals, ceramics, minerals, gypsum and other products.
Manufacturers Announce Strategic Partnership
July 31, 2006 Mettler Toledo, the world’s largest manufacturer of weighing solutions for laboratory, industrial and food retailing applications, and Ingredient Masters, a leader in custom powder handling systems that reduce the costs of processing and batching dry ingredients of all types, have formed a strategic alliance. The alliance, announced today, will involve the engineering and marketing functions of both companies and will operate throughout North America.
Speaking jointly, Roger Jeffrey, Mettler Toledo Global Business Development Manager, and Scott Culshaw, President and CEO of Ingredient Masters, explain that the primary mission of the alliance is to pair Mettler Toledo’s expertise with proprietary technologies such as Q.i (Quantum Impact), with Ingredient Masters’ expertise in the specialized field of “micro ingredient” batching and handling.
Explains Jeffery, “Q.i is a material feed measurement, management and cut-off control technology, initially developed & productized for manufacturing operations within Procter & Gamble, and since made available to any manufacturing company.
“In any manufacturing operation that involves batching, Q.i substantially simplifies the engineering effort and simultaneously enhances production speed and feed accuracy,” adds Jeffery. “Mettler Toledo was was highly successful in applying the Q.i technology within P&G’s global business units, and elsewhere, and, with this new alliance, will bring its benefits to a far greater number of producers – both regional and global."
Adds Ingredient Masters’ Culshaw, “Our experience in food, pharma and chemical processing, and Mettler Toledo’s strengths in precision measurement instruments, allow our two companies to bring truly innovative, cost-effective solutions to market sectors that have not yet been well-served by traditional control systems suppliers.”
Both companies currently invest approximately 6% annually on R&D; both have representation in all major US regions.
For further information, contact:
1900 Polaris Parkway, Columbus, OH, 43240
614-438-4412 • www.mt.com
Ingredient Masters, Inc.
1080 Nimitzview Drive Cincinnati, Ohio 45230
513-231-7432 • email@example.com
Minor Ingredient Batching System Offers Flexibility, Precision
June 20, 2006Ingredient Masters, a manufacturer of precision batching systems for powdered, flaked and granular ingredients of all types, has introduced a minor ingredient batching system for continuous production facilities that use minor ingredients in their product recipes. Read more.
A New Powder Batching System Has Helped Cincinnati Tyrolit, Manufacturer of Abrasive Grinding Wheels, Improve its Operational Efficiency and Competitive Advantage.
November 2005 Tyrolit, which supplies major bearing manufacturers, automakers and aerospace component suppliers, maintains several thousand product recipes. In late 2004, Tyrolit sought to improve the handling of the powdered ingredients used in the manufacture of vitrified bonds-its dominant product.
Tyrolit’s goal was to eliminate the manual scooping of primary ingredients from 2000 lb hoppers, and its attendant product waste, housekeeping and less than-ideal ergonomics. Other objectives included task simplification, greater efficiency and elimination of ingredient caking on the sides of the hoppers-a phenomenon that was costly in terms of both lost product and maintenance.
Bob Hegener, Tyrolit’s manager of Process Engineering, had twice encountered similar challenges; in both instances, he had worked with Ingredient Masters in Cincinnati, Ohio, a company specializing in custom powder batching technology, to design and implement a solution. He decided to turn this newest challenge over to Ingredient Masters as well.
The system engineered by Ingredient Masters includes 27 polyethylene dispensers (seven 54-cubic-foot units, eight 28-cubic-foot units and twelve 8-cubic-foot units). Polyethylene, which is abrasion-resistant and inert to most chemicals, is well suited to the application. It also provides an excellent moisture barrier, so caking would not be an issue.
An existing scale cart with electronic load cell sensors was enlisted to weigh each ingredient; a highly accurate manual valve replaced the task of scooping the required ingredients by hand.
Typical batches contain three or four ingredients. The cart moves beneath each hopper according to the product recipe, the bar code on each hopper is read, and the appropriate valves are activated.
The batching system was engineered, manufactured and installed in six weeks, and was fully functional in 14 weeks, following the interface with the existing baghouse dust collection system. According to Ingredient Masters CEO Scott Culshaw, this timeline is fast, but not unusual. “The modularity of these systems and the use of our standard dispensers makes a six- to seven-week turnaround possible,” he says. “It also contributes to a very attractive cost. The custom powder batching systems we’re engineering today are being manufactured here in the U.S. at a price point companies expect for used equipment. When you combine the return on investment advantage with the operational benefits, it makes a compelling case.” Read more about this case study.
Powder Batching Technology Prevents Dust Release
September 15, 2005 a new Ingredient Masters technology contains all dusts inside the dispenser, regardless of type or micron size.
Marketed as the Ventable Bulk Bag Dispenser, this new batching concept prevents fugitive emissions, while virtually eliminating IAQ and housekeeping issues. This technology also allows many materials to be re-captured and used. It is ideal for powders such as talc and carbon black, which create special challenges when released, and are difficult to re-capture.
Ingredient Masters systems are custom to the user. Ventable Bulk Bag Dispensers are configured using USDA grade polyethylene dispensers, each with an integral dust port.
The patented dispensers are manufactured in ten standard sizes, from 3.5 cu. ft. to 105 cu. ft. All have a distinctive design feature which eliminates “bridging”—a common phenomena which hampers the flow of powdered material.
The system is shipped skid-mounted, or single or double lowboy, or wide load. Ingredient Masters systems are engineered for compatibility with existing plant equipment and FIFO (first-in, first-out) protocols.
Whether a facility uses bulk bags, totes or paper bags, this batching system provides an efficient, ergonomic, and material-saving way to process powders and dry bulk ingredients.
Systems produce substantial savings in reduced labor, simplified dunnage and landfilling, and now, optimum confinement of fine powder material. Installation assistance provided nationwide.
Manual Batching Systems Offer Maximum Flexibility, Lowest Capital Cost
January 25, 2005 Ingredient Masters, a manufacturer of equipment and systems for companies who use (or process) dry, flaked or powdered ingredients, has introduced customizable manual batching and weighing systems.
Ingredient Masters (“IM”) manual batching systems are tailored to the customer’s production requirements. They are engineered to adapt readily to future expansions and automation.
System components include dispensers, unloaders, and dust collection. Dispensers are USDA approved polyethylene and have a patented design feature which eliminates “bridging”—a phenomena which works against the efficient flow of powdered material.
Many IM systems include user interface, feeder conveyors and precision metering and weighing devices. Ingredient Masters batching systems are engineered for compatibility with existing equipment and FIFO (first-in, first-out) processing protocols.
Whether a facility uses bulk bags, totes or paper bags, “IM” manual batching systems provide an efficient, ergonomic, and consistent way to process powders and dry bulk ingredients. Systems are designed to meet a specific ROI objective—generally two years or less. They produce substantial savings in reduced labor, simplified dunnage and landfilling, and improved confinement of fine powder material.
Integrated Bakery Expands Its Production Line While Remaining Lean Throughout
March 2005 Integrated Bakery Resources (IBR) develops and blends proprietary mixes for bakery products. Headquartered in Lake Oswego, Oregon, the privately-held company focuses on breads, bagels and English muffins. IBR maintains about 70 active formulas, 95% of which were developed for customers in its own labs. Ingredients such as flours are sourced worldwide, and its customer base includes virtually every state. The company also supplies the international markets.
The mixes developed by IBR have up to 15 ingredients: ten “majors” and up to five “micros”—more than the industry norm. Even more significantly, the number of different ingredients used in all recipes totals more than 100. The inherent complexity of the blends presented special challenges to production.
For the second time in two years, Integrated Bakery Director of Operations Mike Lengacher consulted with Ingredient Masters, and learned that an automated system—originally built for one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies which had a change in plant requirements—would soon be available and could be adapted to IBR’s specifications.
The system Ingredient Masters re-engineered and adapted for Integrated Bakery uses 16 free-standing bulk bag unloaders, 16 bag-lifting frames, 16 receiving hoppers and a robotic cart equipped with a gain-inweight scale system. System modules are computer-controlled; electric eyes ensure the cart stops where the recipe specifies. Twelve of the 16 units were part of the pharmaceutical system; four units were added. All surfaces that contact ingredients are USDA polyethylene or 304 stainless steel. Ingredient dispensers are configured in two rows of eight. Although only one dispenser is activated at a time, the dual rows, accessed alternatively, minimize processing time and space requirements. A batch bag is mounted on the robotic cart, which moves between the rows, stopping, filling and advancing to the next station according to process recipe. These batch bags, essentially a hybrid “super sack,” are distinct in that they have rigid sides and can be cleaned with an air-hose and reused.
IBR achieved its 250% production increase and, according to Lengacher, has also reduced its reliance on outsourcing. In 2005, Integrated Bakery Resources will move into a new plant in eastern Oregon and undergo another expansion. The modular design of the IM system will make at least that aspect of the move very straightforward. Read more about this case study.
Pharmaceutical Company Eli Lilly Installs An Automatic Material Handling System to Solve Ergonomic, Labor, and Bag Disposal Problems.
September 2001 In April 2000, the company did an Internet search for material handling systems suppliers, and, after reviewing all possibilities, narrowed its search to three suppliers. After a thorough investigation, which included presentations by the suppliers and visits to working installations, the company chose Ingredient Masters, located in Cincinnati.
In the summer of 2001, the supplier's technicians traveled to Eli Lilly's facility to design the material handling system's layout, taking into consideration the facility's available floor space, ceiling height, structural obstructions, and existing systems. The supplier designed the entire system to fit between existing structural supports, maximizing the facility's floor space. The supplier also integrated an existing dust collection system into the system. After Eli Lilly approved the supplier's layout drawings and engineering prints, the supplier built the system at its plant, and in the fall of 2001, shipped the system to the facility. The supplier's technicians assembled the system in the facility, tested it, and instructed the company's operators how to use it.
The material handling system consists of 12 free-standing bulk bag unloaders, 12 bag-lifting frames, 12 receiving hoppers, and a robotic cart with a gain-in-weight scale. A PC control station, which uses an Allen Bradley programmable logic controller (PLC) with RSLogic 500 hardware and Allen Bradley RSView and RSLinx software programs, controls the system's operation and enables communication between the equipment, the control station, and the company's main computer.
The new material handling system converted a labor-intense manual process into a simple automated process. "The new system drastically reduced the need for the operators to manually handle materials," says Svenstrup. "Now, the only manual processes the operators have to do are scan the bulk bag bar codes, operate the forklift, secure the bag in the lifting frame, open the bag's discharge spout, and use the control station to download the batch information. In addition, we cut one operator from this process because it no longer takes so much time to piece together and dispense the material." Read more about this case study.
Ingredient Master Chosen to Provide Batching Equipment for New Brick Making Plant in Harmar, Penn.
July 2001 Selecting equipment for a new plant can be a difficult and time-consuming process. This was especially true for Redland Brick's Harmar plant, whose goal is to achieve "100% customer satisfaction on every order." Reaching that level of quality with the least amount of rejects requires sophisticated, reliable equipment and a high level of support from the equipment suppliers. "We did a lot of homework in the planning process," says John Vrobel, director of manufacturing. "We traveled quite a bit to Europe to look at machinery that suppliers had built and installed in brick plants over there, and we ran tests using our material in some of the equipment we were considering."
Colors, coatings and textures are extremely important in the Harmar product line. The company carefully blends its clays to produce six body colors and adds coatings and textures to many products to further expand its available color and design spectrum. Consistency from batch to batch was a key criterion in choosing the equipment for this portion of the plant. The company chose Ingredient Masters, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, to design the batching system.
"We found Ingredient Masters at the Powder & Bulk Solids show in Chicago a few years ago when we were looking for a company to do the batching for us, and they were the best value that we could find," Vrobel says. "The system is completely automated, so it's much more accurate and much more efficient than the manual batching system we used in our old plant. We can easily do the same operations in half the time with the automated system."
Raw materials for coatings are stored in several hoppers along a track. A cart holding a 2000-lb stiff-walled super sack moves down the track and gathers a precise amount of material from each hopper using a gain-in-weight system. Once the batch is complete, it is transferred to either a wet or dry blending station for further processing.
The system was custom-designed specifically for the Harmar plant based on the required accuracy, volume/batch size and batch time. According to Vrobel, the company currently processes a batch in approximately 20-40 minutes; however, the system is set up to handle batch times as fast as four minutes. "This provides us with flexibility for any future increases we might face in production," Vrobel says. Read more about this case study
A Bulk ingredient Dispensing System Helps a Quick-Mix Food Producer Eliminate Waste, Reduce Costs, and Increase Plant Productivity.
January 2000 In August 1998, Calhoun Bend Mill installed a Mini-Bulk batching system made by Ingredient Masters. The system's components include 20 dispensing stations that support frames for 20 various-sized polyethylene dispenser bins.
Co-owner Jesse Calhoun said most of the installation was done by the mill's staff and a local metal fabricator, but an Ingredient Master's representative was always available when help was needed. The installation went smoothly, with only minimal adjustments needed.
Each polyethylene dispenser bin is translucent, which allows ingredient levels to be seen at a glance, and features a top lid for filling. The bins vary from 8 cubic feet, used for minor ingredients, to 100 cubic feet for major ingredients. Each smaller bin's upper section is square-sided. The larger bins are round at the top. Each bin's lower section has trapezoidal sides that converge toward the metering valve. The metering valve unloads ingredients to a large dump bin. This dump bin rides on a portable scale cart, which can be positioned under the appropriate bin to weigh the amount of material being loaded.
Since installing the bulk dispensers at the plant, Calhoun Bend Mill has been able to save money in many ways. The company can now purchase ingredients in bulk bags, which reduces the cost. But the most significant impact the system has made on the mill’s process is time.
"We have a more consistent product, a lower ingredient cost, and reduced risk of injuries. I would say it's a safer setup," Calhoun said. "Trash dumpsters are only picked up once a week, and cleanup time has been reduced. We have a simple fail-safe system. You almost have to be brainless to not be able to operate this." Read more about this case study.
Morganite Crucible Improves Production with Automated Batching
January 1999 Morganite Crucible Inc. in North Haven, Conn., a manufacturer of high quality crucibles used in the aluminum, copper and copper alloy, steel, and precious metals industries for metal melting and holding. Three years ago, the company operated a manual batching operation that stretched onto three floors and required 2 ½ people to operate. According to Dave Okamoto, operations manager, batching inaccuracies and dust control were two of the plant's biggest challenges. An automated batching system has helped solve these problems while also increasing production efficiency and reducing labor requirements.
Frustrated by various problems, the company began searching for an alternative. In 1998, the company president John Maxwell, visited another refractories plant that had installed an automated batching system from Ingredient Masters. According to Okamoto, Maxwell was impressed with the way the system operated. "Their operations were very similar to ours, and we were eager to see if we could achieve the same benefits," Okamoto said.
In 1999, Morganite Crucible installed a new, custom-designed, 28-unit, freestanding automated batching system from Ingredient Masters. An improvement in batch quality was noticeable immediately.
“We've been able to significantly increase our accuracy with the new system," said the Okamoto. While other changes within the plant-such as a new, high-intensity Eirich mixer-have also led to quality improvements, Okamoto has no doubt that the automated batching system has greatly reduced inaccurate batches. "We used to lose around eight hours per week just in bad mixes, but we no longer have that problem because our mix is consistent," he said.
Overall, Okamoto views the new system as a definite benefit to Morganite Crucible's manufacturing operations. "The new system has provided us with increased product accuracy and production flexibility, reduced dust emissions and labor requirements, and a number of other benefits. It has definitely been a good investment for our company," he said. Read more about this case study.
Uni-Ref Replaces Stationary Batching Hopper with a Mini-Bulk System
February 1998 The system's components include 12 bulk bag dispensing stations that each support a frame for a bulk bag. Each bulk bag frame is independent of the station, is transportable by forklift, and has an airtight flexible sleeve and slide-gate valve for unloading material to the station. Read more about this case study.
Stimsonite Corp. makes numerous types of thermoplastic roadway marking material using multiple major and minor ingredients. Major ingredients are handled two ways. The primary ingredient, calcium carbonate, is pneumatically conveyed from storage silos to a mixer. Other major ingredients in 50 pound bags are manually added to the conveyor hopper and transferred to the mixer.
Each product recipe calls for five minor ingredients on average. In the past, preparing minor ingredients (or "odds") for batching involved carrying a 50 pound ingredient bag to a stationary scale and slitting it open. If the recipe called for 13 pounds of the ingredient, that amount was poured into a bag sitting on the scale. Then the partially used 50 pound bag was set aside, and the next ingredient was weighed out into the bag on the scale.
The batching worker followed a recipe sheet that listed each ingredient amount needed for the batch. When all minor ingredients were weighed out in bags, they were dumped to the same pneumatic conveyor transferring the major ingredients for mixer loading.
Manually Adding Minor Ingredients Creates Clutter and Spills
Because recipe preparation involved manually scooping several minor ingredients from a 50 pound bag, various problems occurred. "There was a lot of dusting and spillage and the problems associated with that," says Process Engineer Bill Floor. "The batching workers would change uniforms probably two or three times a day. They had to wear special masks, caps and gowns. And we had material loss from spillage. At cleanup, we could fill a couple garbage cans with various spilled materials."
The many opened 50 pound minor ingredient bags were also a problem for the producer. And, unlabelled bags with small quantities of weighed out ingredient lay all around the batching area. "It was a mess; we had lots of open bags and many were identifiable only to the worker who assembled the minor ingredients. " Floor says, "Somebody new coming into the area wouldn't know what was what."
Manually adding minor ingredients also created a potential for operator error. Floor says, "When adding so many scoops of several different ingredients, it's possible to forget where you are."
When this happened, it wasn't known until the batch had gone through all production steps. "Sampling shows if something isn't right. To fix a batch, we have to reprocess the whole thing," says Floor. "If the batch was short of a material, the easy remedy was to simply add more of the ingredient. But if the batch had too much of a material, the remedy was more difficult."
The ingredient-adding operations were very labor intensive as well. Bag handling was excessive because each 50 pound bag had to be picked up and moved several times. Also, Floor says a typical batch has "about 75 pounds of minor ingredients, and a scoop size is one pound. So for every batch, a worker had to scoop once for each ingredient pound needed. It was a very slow process."
The producer had considered ways to make their minor ingredient operations more efficient and to minimize dusting so worker exposure would stay at acceptable levels. "We did some industrial hygiene tests on worker exposure to dust." Floor says, "The OSHA 8-hour exposure limit is .050 mg/m3. We found we were above that at times, so we researched ways to improve operations and stay in compliance." They decided to upgrade the batching operations.
Producer Looks at Ways to Streamline Ingredient Handling.
Unlabeled bags with small quantities of weighed out ingredients lay all around the batching area. "Somebody new coming into the area wouldn't know what was what."
To find a solution, Floor and a coworker visited the Powder & Bulk Solids Exhibition in Chicago. "We were searching for anything that could help streamline weighing and loading minor ingredients, " Floor says. "We considered dispensing odds from a standard steel container [IBC] with a slide gate at the bottom. We considered an [IBC] with a loss-in-weight feeder, and we looked at a fully automated loss-in-weight [bulk bag dispenser]."
"The OSHA 8-hour exposure limit (for airborne dust) is .050 mg/m3. We researched ways to improve operations and stay in compliance."
They found a manufacturer that built a semi-bulk dispensing station with a polyethylene bin and a slide-gate valve. "It was exactly what we were looking for," Floor says. After discussions with the dispenser manufacturer about the application, the manufacturer proposed a design. "They supplied excellent drawings that allowed us to make several revisions to fit our needs," said Floor.
"One of the nice things in considering the equipment was that the manufacturer offered an upgrade program. They said they would buy back the equipment and upgrade us to an automated system if we wanted," Floor said.
Dispensing Bins Provide Accurate Ingredient Discharge
In April 1997, the producer installed two Ingredient Masters dispensing stations that hold eight bins each, for a total of 16 dispensers. The bins' rectangular upper section slopes down to a cone-shaped bottom where material discharges through a slide-gate valve are made of Type 304 stainless steel.
The bins are available in various capacities, and the producer selected 28 Cu. Ft. units. The inner surface is liquid smooth and has no right angles that can trap material; each inside corner has a 2-inch radius. These features allow a first-in, first-out material rotation and eliminate the need for bin cleanout.
The dispensing stations have a loading platform and a pallet cart that can move a pallet of bags to the bin being loaded. The bins are filled through a top screw-on lid. Although workers lift 50 pound bags to fill each bin, each bag is lifted only once and quickly emptied into the bin.
A battery-operated portable scale on a rolling cart is used to weigh dispensed ingredients from each bin. "The batching worker puts a bucket on the scale, wheels it over to an ingredient dispenser, and opens that slide-gate valve," Floor says. As the target weight nears, the worker can adjust the flow to a trickle.
"We probably get 10 times the productivity from that worker now, because he or she can accomplish a lot more with the new method."
Exact weighments are possible because the valve is accurate, Floor says. "When we shut it off, it's an immediate [flow] shut off; there's no spilling." After each minor ingredient is added to the bucket, the worker tares the weight and adds the next ingredient. When the bucket contains all the required minor ingredients, it's manually dumped in the conveyor hopper and transferred to the mixer.
New Dispensing Stations Allow Batch Consistency, Reduce Cleanup
Installing the dispensing stations significantly improved minor ingredient batching operations. Opened and unlabelled bags no longer clutter the batching are floor. "We did a major cleanup of the area," Floor says. "Dusting is significantly reduced, and we've cut our cleanup time to almost nothing, because there's essentially no spillage. We have less material loss as a result."
With the dispensing stations, the producer keeps its operations in compliance with OSHA regulations. Workers dispensing material to buckets don't need to wear masks. "We have a safe and clean work environment," Floor says.
Minor ingredient production costs have been reduced. Only one batching worker is now needed. And the worker's productivity has gone up. "We probably get 10 times the productivity from that worker now because he or she can accomplish a lot more with the new method," Floor says. "Now a worker simply opens the valve at the bin's bottom and weighs out the material in probably one-tenth the time it used to take."
Another productivity benefit is that the worker has more time to perform other functions. "We de-bottlenecked the area. Our throughput is up about 150 percent in the odds [minor ingredients] batching area," says Floor.
Besides saving labor expenditures, the producer saves space in the batching area, according to Floor. "We've reduced the floor space needed for the entire odds area. I'd say we're using roughly 40 percent less space than before."
Floor is satisfied with the dispensing station manufacturer and the production results. "Batch accuracy and consistency have improved greatly. Reworking batches due to improper minor additions no longer occurs. I've been totally satisfied with the service I received, from initial contact to system installation."
The producer is now considering installing similar equipment in other plants, according to Floor. "It took only six months to get a return on our investment," he says.
Published in March, 1998 Powder & Bulk Engineering magazine.
Universal Specialties (Corapolis, PA) a division of Universal Refractories, develops and manufactures specialty refractories for the steel and other industries. The company originally used a manual batching process, with the raw materials in paper bags. Problems occurred with inconsistent bag weights, bag disposal and high labor costs due to work-related injuries. Universal Specialties wanted to solve these problems, and increase production to meet customer demand.
WANTED: Quality Control
The original batching process required workers to empty hundred-pound bags onto a conveyor that delivered various powder raw materials to a mixer. Workers charged a belt conveyor with the required raw materials by means of paper bags. This conveyor then loaded a mixer, which mixed the raw materials. After the mixing cycle concluded, the mixer gradually discharged the powder batch contents into a paper sack bagger. Finally, the bagger operator filled paper sacks with product until the mixer was empty. This procedure usually lasted more than 30 minutes, and operators had to wait until the process was complete before starting a new batch.
This process posed several problems. In addition to the length of production time required, there was a high potential for worker injury. Additionally, an experienced worker was needed to make daily changes to the charging bin. This added time and labor costs to the production process.
Another problem was that the quantities of powder raw materials going into a mix varied with each batch due to inconsistent bag weights and laborers not ensuring that each bag was completely empty.
"Since the superior product demanded by our Quality Control Department was difficult to achieve, a change to the production process was needed," says Shawn Elliott, Director of Research and Quality Manager.
An Automated Solution
Universal Specialties began looking for other viable options that would improve quality and consistency and decrease manual labor. After reviewing numerous options, Universal Specialties contacted Ingredient Masters, which specializes in powder batching systems.
"Ingredient Masters visited our facility, listened to our needs and exceptions, and offered a readily available, cost-effective alternative to our powder batching process. Their plan included integrating our existing equipment with new equipment. This plan did not require extensive modifications to our system or work environment, explains Elliott.
Ingredient upgraded the way primary powder raw materials were received, replacing hundred-pound paper sacks with bulk bags of 2,000 to 3,000 pound capacities. After a mixer completes a cycle, it discharges its entire contents into the bulk bag—an operation that requires two minutes, compared to the previous 30 minutes. The bulk bags of powder material are stored in 70 cu. ft. dispensers that produce many batches before refill is required. This reduces the labor needed for each batch.
Each dispenser is scaled with the aid of load cells and a pneumatic valve linked to a PLC/computer interface. This interface stores formulations, records batching and mixing times, and handles raw materials additions. It can also generate a spreadsheet detailing individual amounts of raw materials used in a particular mix, and total usage for a given production run. This data helps ensure that powder raw materials are consistent between batches.
Other raw materials that are a small portion of the batch size are staged at a bag break station. This station, also equipped with load cells and pneumatic valve, allows the operator to load the material into a storage hopper. The computer helps ensure accuracy for this manual operation. When all powder materials are in place, the computer verifies the weight and the operator can start the batch.
This automated system provides Universal Specialties with reduced manual labor and injuries, consistent product, and extensive control data. Additionally, using bulk bags instead of paper bags provides Universal Specialties a more cost-effective way to supply product to customers. "We consider this solution vital to the growth of our company," concludes Elliott. "The advantages of such an automated system begin at a much more basic level than computer control."
"The savings start by lowering the risk of injuries on the job (particularly back injuries). There is much less waste generated from spent paper bags, and raw material costs are reduced by bulk bag packaging. Production has increased 70% to 80%, while labor costs have decreased approximately 30%. The cost of one back injury easily pays for this system, and the additional benefits will only accumulate."
Old California Sour Dough Pizza Crust & Mining, based in San Francisco, Calif., sells a San Francisco style sourdough pizza mix and spice blends that are shipped to over 30 states, Canada, Japan, and Korea. The food product manufacturer receives truckloads of ingredients, including 50 to 100 pound bags of wheat flour, baking powder, malt, powdered milk, basil, and parsley. Granulated garlic, onion salt, black pepper, and white pepper arrive in 200 to 300 pound barrels. The manufacturer also receives salt, cellulose dextrose, cane sugar, whey, dough conditioner, and flour in 2,000 pound bulk bags. Pallet jacks or forklift trucks transfer ingredients to mixing stations. At each station, a worker follows a recipe card to dispense the proper amount of each ingredient into a plastic container resting on a portable dial-type scale. The worker dumps each weighed ingredient into a ribbon blender. The finished mix is bagged, sealed and moved by conveyor belt to a packaging department where workers pack the bags into cardboard boxes for shipment.
Manually Scooping Ingredients Causes a Mess
In the past, workers used large scoops to transfer ingredients from the containers they arrived in to the individual plastic containers. Manual ingredient scooping required excessive labor and caused workers to bend over as the containers emptied, increasing back stress. Ingredients also frequently spilled from the scoops, wasting material, causing a messy working environment, and requiring cleanup. Also, the scoop method impaired proportioning accuracy, reducing finished product consistency.
Each time a container emptied, a worker had to discard the empty container and open a new one, which interrupted the work flow and produced trash. Trash became a concern, because the food product manufacturer would have to reduce trash output 25 percent in one year and another 30 percent over the next three years to meet local trash reduction requirements.
Manufacturer Decides to Switch to Bulk Dispensers with Metering Valves
To eliminate the manual scooping of ingredients, the food products manufacturer began receiving salt, cellulose dextrose, cane sugar, whey, dough conditioner, and flour in 2,000 pound bulk bags. The bulk bags would empty into bulk dispensers with metering valves that would open and close to dispense ingredients. The food products manufacturer considered fiberglass, metal, and polyethylene dispensers.
Some dispensers considered were opaque, which prevented external viewing of the product level. Other dispensers' discharge valves were inconveniently located, but the polyethylene dispensers overcame these problems, according to Ronald C. Yates, President of Old California Sour Dough Pizza Crust & Mining.
"The polyethylene dispensers are translucent," Yates said, "so product levels can be seen at a glance. The design allows the product to be discharged from a dispensers' front section and not directly under the dispenser. The dispensers' valves are simple to operate, yet very effective in controlling product discharge."
Ingredients spilling from manual scoops created a messy work environment. Bulk dispensers with metering valves reduced spillage and waste by a factor of 10.
Manufacturer Installs 12 Bulk Dispensers
The polyethylene bulk dispensers come in various sizes, and the food products manufacturer chose two 70 Cu. Ft. dispensers for cane sugar and cellulose dextrose, four 54 Cu. Ft. dispensers for basil, dough conditioner, whey, and salt, and six 20 Cu. Ft. dispensers for parsley, white pepper, black pepper, onion salt, granulated garlic, and flour.
The 70 Cu. Ft. and 54 Cu. Ft. dispensers each has a screw-on lid on top of a cylindrical upper section. A cone-shaped lower section slopes to a patented stainless steel slide-type-metering valve with a single pivot. The cone-shaped section angles forward so the metering valve discharges toward the dispenser's front. The valve discharges through a curved section of stainless steel that directs material forward. Each dispenser is mounted in a tubular steel frame with two circular supports around the cone section and slots for a forklift truck.
The 20 Cu. Ft. dispensers each has a screw-on lid on the container's top. The dispenser has a square-sided upper section and a lower section with trapezoidal sides converging forward to the metering valve. Each dispenser, which can be moved by a forklift truck, is mounted in a tubular steel frame with a support on each side of the dispenser's upper section.
The food product manufacturer keeps the bulk dispensers on racks that elevate the dispensers so workers can position the portable scales and plastic containers just below the metering valves. To fill a bulk dispenser from a bulk bag, a forklift truck first moves the dispenser from the rack to the floor. The forklift truck lifts and positions the bulk bag, and a worker unties the bulk bag's outer closure, exposing the sanitary liner. The worker cuts off the liner's heat seal and screws off the bulk dispenser's lid. The worker then releases the bulk bag's inner closure, and material flows into the bulk dispenser. After filling, the worker screws the lid back on and returns the dispenser to the rack. The bulk bag can be returned and recycled. For ingredients that arrive in bags or barrels, a worker fills the bulk dispenser from a platform at the height of the dispenser's lid.
Bulk Dispensers Improve Operations
To operate a bulk dispenser, a worker positions a portable scale and plastic container beneath the bulk dispenser and manually opens the metering valve, controlling flow rate and cutting off flow when the desired amount is dispensed.
Using the bulk dispenser system has cut labor costs by 12 percent to 15 percent. Ingredients no longer spill from the scoops, which has reduced spillage and waste by a factor of 10 and has provided a cleaner working environment. The bulk dispensers' valves provide better ingredient proportioning accuracy than the scoops, which has improved finished product consistency.
Work flow is no longer interrupted by frequent switching between ingredient bags. Filling the bulk dispensers occurs much less frequently and takes five minutes or less. Trash output has been reduced more than 50 percent, exceeding local trash reduction requirements. Worker back stress has also been reduced.
"Not long after the bulk dispensers were put into operation," Yates said, "my annual insurance inspection was made, and the insurance inspector noted in his report that our probability of back injuries was drastically reduced by eliminating the lifting of 50 and 100 pound bags of ingredients used in our batching process."
Zedmark's Slippery Rock, PA, refractory plant receives truckloads of bulk bags containing materials such as aluminum oxide and zirconium oxide. The oxides come in different grades that vary according to particle size and material form (such as tabular or calcined). Forklift trucks move the palletized bulk bags to a warehouse and then to processing. During processing, raw materials are formulated into batches and mixed in a horizontal plow mixer. The mixed batches are placed in portable bins and moved to casting production lines. Finally, the batches are cast into specialized refractory shapes that are eventually used to manufacture glass, steel, cement, and aluminum products.
Manually Handling Paper Bags Results in Dust, Bag Disposal Costs
Before 1992, Zedmark's batching station consisted of two workers who weighed and dumped a lot of paper bags into a mixer for each batch. Zedmark received 50 and 100 pound bags of materials on pallets, which forklift trucks moved to a raised platform in the blending area. Workers lifted the bags and loaded them into a bag-breaking station mounted on load cells. The workers weighed each ingredient as it entered the station and discharged each ingredient individually into the mixer.
Zedmark's concerns about the batching station included dust in the workplace, the time and manual labor required to formulate batches, the cost of material lost from spillage and incomplete bag emptying, empty bag disposal costs, and batch consistency. "Workers manually handled the bags, and we had some dust in the workplace as a result," said Zedmark Engineer Bob McCutcheon. Bags sometimes tore, increasing dust and material loss. "Bag disposal also got very expensive," McCutcheon said.
Manufacturer Seeks New Batching System
In 1992, Zedmark wanted to develop a system to replace the manual batching station. Because Zedmark uses 16 basic raw materials in about 30 formulas with up to seven raw materials each, the company sought a batching system that would accommodate its variety of production needs. "We were looking for a flexible system that would rapidly switch between formulas," McCutcheon said. "We also wanted to eliminate manual bag lifting and dust," he added.
Zedmark also had limited floor space and found that some batching systems required a separate weighing station for each ingredient, which would take up too much room. Then Zedmark considered a more compact system that used bins mounted on load cells. The system also permitted quick changeover between batching formulas and computerized batching, which Zedmark preferred. As a result, Zedmark approached the batching system's manufacturer to discuss design options.
Computerized Batching System Uses PLC, PC
After initial meetings with the batching system manufacturer, McCutcheon started work on a custom-designed system. The resulting system has eight on-line bulk bag stations and a paper-bag or drum-dump station for very minor ingredients. All nine stations mount on load cells for loss-in-weight measurements that enable an IBM PC with an Allen Bradley PLC to control the materials as they discharge onto a transfer belt conveyor to the mixer.
Each station consists of a bulk bag holding rack that suspends the bag by four loops on a frame above a bulk bag dumper, which is also supported on its own frame. Each frame is independently movable by forklift truck for quick material changes. Each rack includes a dust collection ring that goes around the bag throat to control dust during initial bag opening. Each station has a dust collection valve, and a worker opens the valve to open a bulk bag. Once the bag is opened, the air space between the bag and the station is sealed, and the valve is closed. The bulk bag dumper discharges through a flexible sleeve and a slide gate.
Because of Zedmark's variety of batch formulas, the batching system includes eight additional bulk bag dumpers to increase system versatility. The system uses a bin ID system to prevent the interchangeable dispensers from being placed in the wrong station. Now the computer can tell which material is in which discharge station and can weigh out the required amount of the right material. "That's one of the features everyone likes," McCutcheon said. "It reduces the potential for making a mistake."
The bin ID system identifies each bin with a binary code in the form of a mechanical bar code; the code consists of a notched plate that trips limit switches to identify the bin. "The code identifies that such-and-such bin has such-and-such material in it," McCutcheon said. The bin IDs are changed every nine months on average.
To formulate a batch, the operator selects the formula and the number of batches to be repeated. A three-digit pneumonic identifies each formula, and the operator can enter and store new formulas and pneumonics on disk. The operator inputs the desired batch size, and the computer receives information from the load cells to determine if enough of the required materials are present to formulate the batch. If so, the computer controls dispensing of each material in the required ratio to the transfer belt conveyor. The computer also controls the transfer conveyor and the mixers to finish the batching cycle.
Batching System Cuts Labor and Cleanup Costs
Since installing the batching system, labor needs have gone from two workers 10 hours per day to one worker four hours per day, and the plant is cleaner. The batching system also eliminates material loss due to incomplete bag emptying and empty bags.
Handling 50 and 100 pound bags of oxides subjected workers to dust. A bulk bag batching system uses a dust collection ring during bag opening and then seals in material after the bag is opened.
Batching consistency has doubled, and Zedmark's quality control department says batches are now always in specification. All programming and training for the system were supplied by the batching system manufacturer and done on-site. A support person was also provided to help with the start-up. The system has been operating for almost two years, and it has proven so efficient that Zedmark will move it to its Dover, Ohio, operation and do all batching for both facilities there.
"We've been getting visitors just to see the batching system, and the folks in Slippery Rock are upset that we're going to move it to Dover," McCutcheon said. "They were beginning to feel like they were in charge of a sci-fi vehicle or something."
Published in October, 1994 Powder & Bulk Engineering magazine.
Health and Beauty Aid Manufacturer Greatly Increases Production with Company's Bulk Bag Lifting Frames
A company in Binghamton, New York, whose product line includes hair and skin care products, can now bring in truckloads of bulk bags instead of truckloads of paper bags and sending them to the dump. This processing plant is the primary manufacturing facility, and while talcum powder was already in their product line, the decision to start making Baby Talc, and the fact that one of their competitors got out of the talcum powder business, created a surge in the business that over taxed the original production line. Attempts to increase production capacity fell short of the market requirements. They ordered all new bottling line filler equipment, which gave them the capacity to bottle, but could not keep up with the line as far as supplying finished product. The company contacted more than 10 bulk processing companies to help them design and install the equipment needed to blend and feed talc, bicarb and corn starch to meet required production rates. Most of the companies contacted were not able to engineer a system to fit within the limited space constraints imposed by the company. Many of the companies were not accommodating and were recommending bulk processing systems that were just too costly.
Louis Jagel, Manager of Plant Engineering, needed someone who was willing to use the resources of all products available on the market and bring what was needed together to form the "processing system" the company required at a price they could afford. Jagel chose Ingredient Masters Inc., because they were willing to listen to the company's problems. During the listening process, it was discovered that the problems were lack of space for most bulk processing systems and the manpower required to feed the system. Ingredient Masters also looked at local labor rates, disposal cost of paper bags, loss of product due to paper bag breakage, and insurance concerns for back and wrist injuries.
When they first recommended bulk bags, they were not available from the talc supplier. Ingredient Masters set up the supplier and worked with the company to find a bulk bag that would work with talc.
The processing system was made up of Ingredient Masters' special bulk bag lifting frames that stationed the bags over their bulk bag dispensers that controlled the flow into a Scott continuous mixer where an injection system was installed to supply fragrance. After the mixing was completed, the finished product was dropped into a surge hopper to await transfer via a Hapman helix screw to the feed hopper above the bottling line in the next room.
This bulk processing system allowed the company to increase production from 20–75 bottles/minute, while reducing manpower requirements, eliminating paper bag trash hauled to the dump, and eliminating risk of a serious back injury from lifting numerous 50 Lb. bags.
June 1996 In mid-1996 a Midwest pottery manufacturer, Harris Pottery, was preparing to open a new processing plant in the South was seeking better methods to efficiently, safely and cleanly handle mixing of raw materials to finish batches. Disparity in paper bag weights was a common problem for the company, so it was considering an automated batching system to eliminate the mismatched and out-of-spec batches resulting from the disparity. Minimizing labor and eliminating the disposal of paper bag waste were also major considerations.
Manual lifting and emptying of the bags was fatiguing and hazardous and created spillage and dust. Pieces of the bag always had the potential to fall into the batch and clog the strainers which then had to be cleaned.
The company's product is highly specialized and requires precise measurements of raw materials since small variations can affect the finished product. Fifty pound bags of raw material were found to vary by as much as 10%, making accuracy impossible. Manual lifting and emptying of the bags was fatiguing and hazardous and created spillage and dust.
Pieces of the bag always had the potential to fall into the batch and clog the strainers which then had to be cleaned. Disposal of the empty bags created environmental problems, and smaller bags used for ergonomic reasons were thought too expensive. Labor costs and training for the new plant were also considered, as was the increasing problem of landfill regulations and cost.
Harris Pottery contacted Ingredient Masters because of its knowledge and experience in efficient handling and batching of dry ingredients. Ingredient Masters' knowledge of powder flow and the availability of cost-effective solutions to the problems the ceramic manufacturer was experiencing in their current plant were also deciding factors.
The equipment offered by Ingredient Masters was custom designed to meet the exact requirements of the manufacturer. Effective solutions to material handling problems were guaranteed, and the price quoted was less than expected, assuring a quick return on investment (under a year). A prompt schedule for engineering and delivery was also an attractive feature. Delivery was within six weeks, and installation took only a week.
The mini bulk system that was installed reduced labor cost by allowing one person to prepare the entire batch (called the body) and by eliminating the need to handle and dispose of paper bags. The system also allowed batches to be mixed with the required accuracy (within a pound or two) that could be verified by the scale controller readout.
Using such a bulk dispenser system can cut labor costs by 12–40%, reduce product loss from spillage by as much as 18% and reduce disposal costs by as much as 55%.
Since the company was looking for a complete system that would reduce labor requirements while improving accuracy, the system was set up with a single button to weigh the ingredients, transfer them to the mixer, start the mixer, and complete the entire batch and mix requirements. Now the supervisor can prepare the batch without requiring a full-time person to do it.
Since the system that was installed has worked so well, the customer is now ready to redo his original plant with this modern solution.
Bulk Bag System Increases Refractory Manufacturer's Batching Accuracy
October 1994. Ingredient Master custom designs bulk bag system for Slippery Rock, Penn. refractory firm, Zedmark. The resulting system has eight online bulk bag stations and a paper bag or drum-dump station for the very minor ingredients. All nine stations mount on load cells for loss-in-weight measurements that enable an IBM PLC to control the materials as they discharge onto a transfer belt conveyor to the mixer. Read more about this case study.