Labor Costs and Trash Reduced for Food Products Manufacturer
Old California Sour Dough Pizza & Mining Co., 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.
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.”