Five Opportunities to Improve Performance of Food and Beverage Operations
With more than 500 projects completed with less than one year to payback, Cargill Optimizing Services understands how to decrease costs and increase yields in the food and beverage industry.
Over the past six years, Cargill Optimizing Services has had the opportunity to help around 100 customer plants. This experience combined with over 15 years working with Cargill facilities gives COS a unique perspective of com-mon opportunities available in Food and Beverage op-erations. We’ve seen a very broad range of prod-ucts being manufactured – from specialty pastries to commodity cheeses; from beer and whiskey to vege-table oil and corn starch. While there is a huge varie-ty in terms of scale, com-plexity and operational con-straints, there are five common opportunities that we have observed in many of those facilities.
The purpose of this article is to provide a high level over-view of those opportunities and how to capture them.
- Asset Utilization
Cargill Optimizing Services (COS) leverages an internal Cargill engineering research group that has spent over fifteen years designing new processes and optimizing existing manufacturing facilities. They have supplemented the practical experience this has developed with a suite of computer-based tools, and by developing close working relationships with a number of senior business managers. This combination of experience and tools allows COS to identify pragmatic, actionable and financially attractive process modifica-tions that impact several key manufacturing metrics including: plant through-put and capacity; waste, energy and water minimization; improved sustaina-bility; and improved operating margins.
While our solutions are tailored to the specific requirements and characteris-tics of a given facility, we have noticed a number of common themes that have recurred around the world and across a broad range of products:
Minimize Waste: Performing a component mass balance for the manu-facturing process can allow the team to understand where raw material is diverted away from incorporation into final product. In processes with significant recycle / rework, tough-to-measure components (e.g. water addition / loss in a bakery), or limited instrumentation, a computer model can uncover and quantify the magnitude of loss points. Combining the mass balance with statistical analysis and a review of the plant’s mecha-nistic design can then convert an understanding of where the loss is hap-pening into a root cause analysis of the underlying causes. COS has been able to apply this general approach in a range of plants – continu-ous and batch; single and multi-SKU – to find significant yield and capaci-ty improvements, helping to “unlock the hidden plant”. Tools include plant observation / data gathering, statistical data analysis, operating and de-sign choices (e.g. a change in the approach to recycle / reuse loops) or application of alternative technology (e.g. review of the impact of a new unit in an existing flowsheet).
Integrate Utilities with the Process: There are a number of commonly applicable best practices associated with the operation of utilities such as refrigeration and boiler systems. While their application can yield “low hanging fruit” that COS (or a number of other vendors) can identify, inte-grating these utility systems with the manufacturing process can provide significant additional savings. For example, it may be possible to modify the process to raise the coldest refrigeration temperature required – in one recent engagement, we were able to precool food entering a freezer tunnel, which reduced water evaporation before the product started to freeze. The lower water loss both improved product quality and reduced frosting on the freezer coils and so allowed the ammonia temperature to be raised and the electrical load on the compressors to be reduced. A brief overview of refrigeration systems was provided in an earlier Bulletin*. In other cases, the operating requirements on the boilers can be modified. With another customer, we were able to reduce the variability in process demand for steam, and thus reduce both the peak load and the operating pressure of the boilers, providing an attractive, capital-free re-duction in natural gas costs.
Integrate Process Energy: Developing a mass and energy balance of the facility allows the team to see where energy is used and lost. This al-lows the use of formalized techniques, such as Pinch or Exergy Analysis, that calculate the “thermodynamic minimum” energy use for a process. While this ideal is rarely achievable, it does give a good scoping target, and with that goal in mind, a range of operating and design choices can be reviewed in the model to identify pragmatic approaches to move to-wards that minimum. Reviewing the options with the model avoids poten-tial double-counting of savings, and allows other interactions, for example between energy and yield, to be quantified (discussed in a case study*).
Optimize Schedules / SKU: In plants that produce multiple Stock Keep-ing Units (SKU’s) through common equipment, the sequence and run-length of products can have a huge impact on the total cost and environ-mental footprint. Opportunities range from the cleaning protocols used (mentioned below); the way in which the transition from one product to the next is handled (see an earlier Bulletin*); the “product wheel” that de-termines the sequence in which products are manufactured; and the vol-ume and type of products that are planned for the year. Several recent projects have focused on combining information about sales volumes and prices with product margin and equipment usage time in order to optimize SKU mixes for a given time period (e.g. production year). Interestingly, this “SKU Optimization” often finds capital-free alternatives to simple strategies (e.g. maximize production volume or maximize value of high-margin products) that in some cases can double EBITDA.
Review Cleaning Protocols: Many food processes require frequent Cleaning In Place (CIP) of operational equipment. This is particularly true in facilities that process liquids, make multiple SKU’s, incorporate aller-gens in some products, and/or handle microbially challenging products (e.g. milk or eggs). In many cases, the CIP protocols are put in place when the plant is designed and developed with a sole focus on ensuring food safety. Many plants are finding that the CIP protocols can be re-viewed and improved to provide significantly faster cycle times, reduced energy and chemical use, and less waste water without compromising the cleanliness of the equipment at the end of the cleaning cycle. While there are a number of techniques to achieve these improvements, COS has found that dynamic simulation provides a “technology agnostic” approach to review multiple options – a summary of some potential out-comes of such an analysis was provided in an earlier Bulletin*.
While every plant and product mix presents its own unique challenges, COS’s combination of broad food and beverage experience, proprietary computer modelling toolset, and deep business experience has been highly effective in finding actionable opportunities at a wide range of facilities.
With more than 500 projects completed that have less than one year to payback, Cargill Optimizing Services understands how to decrease costs and increase yields in the food and beverage industry.