Power protection in the beverage industry

EU Automation

By John Young, EU Automation
Monday, 17 February, 2020

Power protection in the beverage industry

While bacon and eggs work well together, electricity and liquids are not a match made in heaven. Yet electronic systems are crucial when handling fluids in a beverage processing plant, so effective power outage management is essential.

Thanks to increased competition and customer demand for greater traceability, today’s electricity grids in the food and beverage industry are growing in complexity. When this is combined with augmented automation and a multitude of energy generation sources, it is easy to see that increases in power applications lead to greater efficiency. But what happens when there’s an unexpected interruption to the power supply?

Protecting the power

Power outages cost billions of dollars in lost production, inventory and security. Not only do they threaten companies’ bottom lines, they also put worker and consumer safety at risk.

If we attempt to quantify the cost of regular stoppages during the beverage bottling process, the losses are difficult to fathom. Not only would the unexpected downtime lead to lagging productivity, bottles of beverages that are in line awaiting their caps also risk loss. If the contents spills due to a sudden stoppage, product is lost, machinery is potentially damaged and a health and safety hazard is created — all at the hands of even the most minor of interruptions to the power supply.

It’s no secret that beverage processes require a large amount of energy. From mixing and blending ingredients to keeping drinks cool and the bottling process, each application consumes a lot of power.

Let’s take a closer look at dairy production. Milk demand is on the rise in Singapore, with research from Euromonitor International stating that consumption rose by 12% between 2011 and 2016.

Dairy production is a very energy-exhaustive process, and greater demand ups the intensity. The processing of raw milk involves separation, pasteurisation and homogenisation in order to get the product to a safe, longer lasting and consistent standard. Each of these stages involves intense levels of heating and cooling, producing extensive electric emissions.

The nature of working with raw milk also requires extensive tracking and tracing in order to monitor critical factors such as temperature, the transfer of the raw milk into a pasteurisation vessel or milk powder being transported from a spray dryer into a silo. This is typically monitored by a process control system but, if the plant loses power, the program risks interruption. If the system is unable to record this data, the safety of the product cannot be guaranteed and it may have to be discarded.

Building a safety net

There’s no use crying over wasted milk. To protect a beverage processing plant from power outages, manufacturers must put several safety layers into place. The first is a traditional hazard and operability (HAZOP) analysis, which allows plant managers to identify what could potentially go wrong during an unexpected outage. This study should be regularly backed up by plan-do-check-act (PDCA) procedures to continuously monitor and improve processes and equipment.

The second layer is an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). As a widespread method of power management, a UPS contains a battery that kicks in when the device senses a loss of power from the primary source. This allows the UPS to keep any affected units powered until they can safely shut down. Plant-wide UPS backup is also available to protect an entire supply chain from outages.

Another aspect of outage protection is an outage management system (OMS) — software that can be embedded into a supervisory control and data acquisition system (SCADA) to provide a real-time view of a plant’s power. By giving safety engineers an immediate and schematic view of the power system, they can quickly identify faults and speed up reconnection efforts for affected areas.

Proper preparation prevents poor performance — but even with the most stringent plan in place, these protections can fail and damage is unavoidable. In this case, the third layer of protection comes into action by working with a part supplier, such as EU Automation, that can supply the components needed promptly anywhere, any time that it is required.

In beverage manufacturing, a steady supply of power is crucial to many applications. Without a continuous and reliable power system, product can be lost, rendered unsafe and cause hazards for employees. To mitigate the effects of a poor outage management system, preparation is key. With these layers of power management working in unison, liquids and power can work in harmony.

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