Minimising ingredient handling and waste

Wednesday, 02 December, 2009

Food manufacturers the world over share a common goal: the efficient production of high-quality products. Where food products are concerned, quality, freshness and waste minimisation take on additional importance.

To achieve such high levels of product quality in the food manufacturing sector, fast-track production processes free from downtime are essential. Such high-speed production processes often require raw ingredients to be continuously fed to the process to keep production online.

Raw-ingredient loading is one area where food manufacturers can incur production delays. Spillages, manual handling and cumbersome loading procedures can all cause production downtime; in severe cases, product contamination can occur.

Ensuring that raw ingredients are introduced to the production process in an efficient, hygienic and controlled manner goes some way to ensuring product quality and manufacturing success.

An Australian company committed to providing the global food manufacturing sector with advanced raw ingredient loading technologies is RVO Enterprises.

The company has developed a food processing technology that allows dry ingredients to be transferred from a collapsible intermediate bulk container (IBC) directly to the manufacturing process - the collapsible IBC process integration system (CIPIS). The RVO Enterprises CIPIS system comprises two separate machines - the RVO inverter station and the Matcon discharge station. The RVO inverter station’s motion processes rely on precision electronic drive control and motor technology from drives solutions provider SEW-Eurodrive.

RVO Enterprises’ inverter station features the latest in bulk materials handling systems, underpinned by precision pneumatic equipment and advanced motor and drive technologies. Compact by design, the inverter station enables the fast-track transfer of raw product from an IBC to a product-delivery hopper in even the most space-limited food manufacturing plant.

How it works

The collapsible IBC is ‘fork-lifted’ into position prior to the inversion process.

Using a forklift, an empty inverted hopper and an IBC full of raw ingredient are brought into position - the IBC at the base of the inverter station and the inverted hopper at the top. Once the forklift is clear of the inverter station, the inverted hopper is lowered on top of the IBC using a pneumatic travel system. A pneumatic clamping system is then activated, effectively joining and creating a seal between the IBC and the hopper. A plant-floor operator attaches additional clamps to ensure the IBC and hopper remain clamped together.

The RVO Enterprises inverter station in action.

The inverter station’s motor-driven rotator manoeuvres the IBC/hopper combination through 30° to allow the operator to block off the hopper cone-valve. Once clear of the inverter station, the operator completely inverts the IBC/hopper combination, transferring the contents of the IBC into the hopper - this takes only a matter of minutes. The fully loaded hopper, with IBC clamped on top, is then removed from the inverter station via forklift. It is then positioned onto a Matcon discharge station, which permits the dustless scaling/batching of dry ingredients into various relocatable process containers.

RVO Enterprises' Managing Director, Wilhelm Harnacke (left), discusses the operation of the inverter station wtih SEW-Eurodrive technical sales representative Ryan McCabe (right).

The Matcon discharge station can also be integrated into existing process lines to allow the direct scaling of dry ingredients into processing equipment. Once the required quantity of raw ingredient has been discharged, the raw ingredients can be re-inverted back into the IBC for use at a later date.

Operating to tight tolerances, the inverter station requires precision rotation control in order to hit the mark every time. The weight of the IBC/hopper combination - up to two tonnes - can cause the machine to accelerate faster than required, which makes this positioning all the more challenging.

‘Lean’ machine

According to RVO Enterprises’ managing director, Wilhelm Harnacke, the development of the RVO CIPIS system was driven by ‘lean manufacturing’ principles. More specifically, the inverter and loading stations were engineered to produce a complete loading system that minimises the seven sources of waste detailed in the lean manufacturing principles. These include overproduction, inventory, conveyance, correction, motion, processing and waiting.

“The rapid and safe delivery of raw ingredients to the manufacturing process is imperative to minimising waste and keeping production online,” says Harnacke. “The RVO CIPIS system presents a number of operational and economical advantages over traditional raw-ingredient handling and loading techniques. Raw-materials costs, spillages, packaging and labour expenses are reduced, while production efficiency and accuracy is increased.”

The SEW-Eurodrive engineering team (right) worked with RVO Enterprisees' Managing Director, Wilhelm Harnacke (left), to develop an easy-to-use, ingredient-loading solution engineered to minimise waste and optimise production.

Manual handling is virtually eliminated with the use of the CIPIS system. “It enables smaller food manufacturers to leverage the benefits associated with purchasing bulk raw materials in collapsible IBCs, including the advantage of using global logistics companies to transport the IBCs,” says Harnacke. “Buying raw ingredients in IBCs is far more cost effective than bags or bulka bags. It also reduces the manual handling of ingredients, which has OHS advantages, as well as minimising packaging. Furthermore, the chance of product contamination at the loading stage is greatly reduced.”

Much of this waste minimisation and labour reduction can be realised thanks largely to the optimised design of the inverter station.

“The inverter station has been engineered to produce fast and accurate rotation of the IBCs,” says Harnacke. “It was imperative that the inverter station was equipped with sophisticated motion and control technology and had an easy-to-use control system - here SEW-Eurodrive was invaluable.”

Motion and control

RVO Enterprises chose to implement SEW-Eurodrive’s drive solutions across the CIPIS system. The rotator on the inverter station is driven by an AC gear motor with brake and encoder, paired with a Movidrive ‘B’ application inverter. An SEW-Eurodrive drive operator panel (DOP) was incorporated into the control system architecture to allow straightforward operation of the inverter station.

The SEW-Eurodrive engineering team designed a system that doesn’t require a traditional PLC. The inverter station is controlled using the integrated configurable logic in the Movidrive ‘B’. The inverter station’s pneumatic control system is integrated with the Movidrive ‘B’, with limit switches located on the pneumatic cylinders wired back to the application inverter, allowing it to monitor cylinder position.

The system required a reliable application inverter that could support continuous accurate positioning applications. The Movidrive ‘B’s IPOS positioning and sequence control with encoder feedback is able to accurately position the rotator so the pneumatic locking system can be activated. Furthermore, the regenerative DC braking feature of the Movidrive ‘B’ allows larger rotating loads to be stopped quickly and positioned easily.

‘Bullet-proof’ operation

According to Harnacke, at any given manufacturing facility, plant-floor operators can be required to become familiar with many operating systems across a range of processes.

“Operator error causes downtime so our goal was to develop a ‘bullet-proof’ operating and control system,” says Harnacke. “The SEW-Eurodrive engineering team worked with us to develop an easy-to-use solution customised to our application.”

The inverter station is equipped with an SEW-Eurodrive DOP operator interface, which provides users with step-by-step instructions on how to operate the machine correctly and safely. To achieve certain project-specific functionality, SEW-Eurodrive engineers developed and programmed all the code to RVO Enterprises’ specifications. The team also developed an application-specific series of 3D illustrations for the DOP to simplify operation.

The SEW engineering team developed an application-specific series of 3D illustrations for the DOP to simplify operation.

“We were able to develop easy-to-follow production steps with safety in mind,” says Harnacke. “Operators use the DOP panel to progress through the IBC inverting stages. At each production step, the operator is required to confirm the next action before it is executed. This kind of safety feature is crucial.”

A safe future

Like much of RVO Enterprises’ food manufacturing technologies, the inverter station has safety built in. Fenced on three sides (right, left and back), the inverter station is permanently forklift-accessible from the front. This unfenced side is protected by a laser scanner sensor, which is connected to the Movidrive ‘B’ via the unit’s Category 3-rated safety control circuit.

When the laser detects movement in the scanned area, the system is shut down. This was obviously preferable to the alternative - equipping the inverter station with dual three-phase emergency stop contactors to drop the power supply to the drive. Furthermore, the inverter station’s control system can be integrated with plant-wide control and monitoring systems, as the Movidrive ‘B’ supports common industrial fieldbus standards, including Profibus and DeviceNet.

According to Harnacke, RVO Enterprises is set to take its CIPIS system across the globe.

SEW-Eurodrive Pty Ltd -

RVO Enterprises Pty Ltd -

Matcon Pacific Pty Ltd -

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