Dairy processor increases line capacity with speed and efficiency

JBT FoodTech
Thursday, 07 January, 2010

DFA is a cooperative owned and operated by the 18,000 dairy farmers it serves. It is one of the most diversified US manufacturers of dairy products, food components and ingredients, and serves as a leader in formulating and packaging shelf-stable dairy products in cans and glass.

In 2008, when the Cabool, Mo, USA, plant location of Dairy Farmers of America, Inc, (DFA) needed a new aluminium can filler for its dairy drink production line, the group of divisional engineering and plant staff conducted three months of internal and external due diligence before making a decision.

“We needed to grow the capacity of the line to meet customer requirements, but the filler we were running was maxed out on speed capacity and fill accuracy - it had become a bottleneck in our production line,” says Gary Duggins, facilities manager at DFA’s Cabool facility.

The Cabool plant was running a steel can filler that was retrofitted for aluminium cans to fill Sport Shake, a dairy-based drink from DFA. Although the steel can retrofit had been working well, the facility needed to optimise its production line to accommodate for increasing order volume.

DFA’s Cabool facility had recently worked with JBT FoodTech specialists to purchase and install six SuperAgi Agitating Batch Retorts on the same line, which had already proved to increase production efficiency.

JBT FoodTech was contacted, and the XL-series Unifiller, with its ability to fill more than 600, 15-ounce cans per minute, was recommended for enabling the line to keep up with production demands while maintaining product quality.

In addition to speed and fill accuracy, the Unifiller solved more issues for DFA’s Cabool facility - eliminating lost production time and equipment damage due to a lengthy cleaning process. The existing filler needed to be taken apart by hand and reassembled every time it was shut down for cleaning. This process took between two to three hours and came with the potential of lost or damaged parts, leading to additional unwanted equipment downtime.

The Unifiller’s clean-in-place technology automatically cleans at the push of a button. This automatic cleaning process is fully repeatable, eliminating inconsistencies in manual cleaning. No disassembly is required, and the filler is clean and ready for start-up within an hour.

JBT FoodTech applications engineers worked side by side with DFA engineers to ensure the Unifiller would integrate well into the production line.

The tendency of the Sport Shake to foam when being filled into a can could displace the head space volume, causing unwanted variation in sealed container pressure. Correct container pressure is important for handling and distribution, to minimise can denting and damage. JBT FoodTech developed a specialised nozzle for DFA’s Unifiller that minimises agitation of the product during filling. A test Unifiller was taken to DFA’s Cabool facility and used product directly off of the production line to determine and ensure the correct nozzle geometry and valve configuration for optimum filling performance.

The Unifiller was customised and tested in the JBT FoodTech Process Technologies Laboratory in Madera, Calif. Technicians and DFA engineers worked together to synchronise Unifiller with DFA’s existing seamer, and to make any additional adjustments before shipping the final product for installation in Cabool. Both mechanical and electrical systems were tested and controls were fine-tuned.

The proven sanitary design and filling accuracy of the Unifiller fulfilled the requirements DFA’s Cabool facility was searching for in a filler. By working with JBT FoodTech to customise and test the equipment, DFA was able to seamlessly implement it for immediate results.

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