Improving Efficiency, Sustainability And Profitability In Beverage Production

Monday, May 21st, 2018

Liquid product recovery and pigging technology will help businesses increase yields, reduce costs, speed up changeovers and become more sustainable, says Peter Elgar, group marketing manager of HPS Product Recovery Solutions.


Why More Companies Will Start “Pigging” In 2018

Beverage production is changing. Droughts, sugar taxes, raw material costs, concerns over safety, the demand for sustainably produced goods, fierce competition and increasingly discerning customers are all putting pressure on manufacturers.

Growing demands mean producing more for less, and faster. So, minimising downtime, reducing risks of contamination, improving lot control, saving water, optimising process efficiency and cutting waste to an absolute minimum are essential.

That’s why, in 2018, liquid product recovery (often referred to as ‘pigging’) is becoming an essential part of the beverage manufacturing process.


How Pigging Works

Hygienic pigging systems use a special projectile (a ‘pig’) to recover residual liquid from the inside of process pipelines. It’s a proven, reliable and safe technology, which delivers a high return on investment and pays for itself extremely quickly. A new pigging solution will usually pay back in just a few months, and nearly always within a year.

In beverage production, pigging uses hygienic pigs manufactured from FDA approved materials. The process itself is extremely quick, easy to implement and highly effective. Rather than wasting product, the best quality pigging systems swiftly extract up to 99.5 percent of residual liquid and safely transfer it to packaging, bottling or storage containers.

Faster changeovers, reduced use of water and chemicals, higher capacity and less downtime are key reasons beverage companies use pigging systems. But it’s the bigger yields delivered by pigging that’s really driving its uptake. And that’s not surprising. The yield increases from pigging are significant. For example, a well-known soft drinks manufacturer introduced pigging and immediately saw a 4 percent increase in yield, equating to 48,000 extra cans per week of its product.


Pigging Reduces Risks When Introducing New Products

An increasing number of new beverage products continue to be developed and released to the market. Whether driven by pure innovation, in response to restrictions, or as a direct result of changing consumer trends, the continuing growth of beverage product ranges is unlikely to slow. New flavoured waters, alcoholic beverages, energy and sports drinks, protein-based products, craft sodas and adult soft drinks will be regular additions to the shelves.

But introducing new products carries a high degree of risk. These risks are increased if they need new equipment or dedicated manufacturing lines. Even if new products use existing processing equipment, it’s important to reduce risks as far as possible. So, minimising the chances of cross-contamination, ensuring changeovers are as quick as possible, reducing flushing and CIP, ensuring product waste is negligible and optimising yields are essential. And that’s where pigging comes in.


More Competition Demands More Cost-Efficiency

With more products appearing on the market, niche suppliers taking on established brands, existing manufacturers extending their product ranges and consumers demanding more product variations, competition is severe. This competition shows no signs of slowing down. Along with a variety of other external demands, such as packaging changes, extra taxes and fluctuating raw material costs, there’s immense pressure on all beverage companies to produce at optimum efficiency.

Pigging systems can be added to existing plants, as well as being incorporated into new designs. So, one of the easiest and quickest ways to become more competitive in 2018 is to update your current processing equipment to incorporate a pigging solution.


Sustainability Continues To Gain Prominence

Sustainability continues to be high on the priority list of most businesses. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), managing operations in an environmentally and socially responsible manner—“sustainable manufacturing”—is no longer just nice-to-have, it’s a business imperative.

Producing beverage products, whether they’re new formulations or older recipes that have been around for a while, must use efficient, sustainable processes which keep waste to an absolute minimum. They should be non-polluting, conserve energy, water and other resources and make a positive contribution to society. Consumers no longer just buy a drink because they are thirsty. They also buy into an idea. Younger consumers are more likely to buy products where the brand has a sustainability ethos at its heart and produces goods responsibly.

It’s not only because consumers are demanding sustainably produced products that makes it important. It’s also because any future-fit manufacturing company—and beverage producers in particular—must have sustainability at its very core to remain efficient.

Sustainable brands can’t risk polluting, accidental spillage or non-safe disposal of waste. It also costs a lot to dispose of waste safely. And one of the easiest and most reliable ways to cut product, chemical, water, and other waste is to use pigging.

Product recovery and sustainability go hand in hand. So as sustainability continues its rise in prominence, so will pigging


Responding To Droughts And Water Shortages

With the exception of Antarctica, every continent in the world is predicted to have regions with high or extremely high water stress by 2040. But there’s no need to look that far ahead to see major issues with water. It’s happening already. And in 2018, it looks to become an even more pronounced issue for beverage manufacturers.

Right now, regions in South Africa, Australia, the US, the Middle East and other areas are experiencing severe droughts. Water is becoming a more precious resource than ever. Thus, using it ultra-efficiently is essential.

In many beverage production facilities, water consumption is an inherent part of the process. From dairy products to wine and fruit juices, a wide range of beverage processes can, if left unchecked, use excessive amounts of water. Some products in particular, like wine, are often produced in areas which need to conserve water the most. So, water-saving technology such as pigging becomes an inherent part of the production process.


Saving Water Through Pigging

Even in areas that are not suffering from drought, unnecessary water consumption can hurt a brand’s image, in addition to hurting its budget.

As well as saving valuable product, pigging saves beverage producers massive amounts of water. For example, by using pigging technology, a well-known Australian winery is saving over 40 million litres of water each year, along with wine savings of approximately 40,000 litres.

Saving water using pigging is by no means restricted to wine production; it’s a key benefit of the technology for many beverage, food and other product manufacturing processes.


Not All Pigging Technologies Are Equal

At first glance, most pigs seem like fairly simple devices. However, they are usually the result of years of development. The shapes may look simple, but they are usually highly refined. Similarly, pigs are made from specialist materials and produced using dedicated manufacturing processes.

In beverage production, the pigs used will be specially designed for use in hygienic food and beverage production environments. The best quality pigs have a bi-directional one-piece design with magnetic cores to enable reliable, non-intrusive detection (and hence automation).

The magnetic cores of the safest pigs do not contain solid magnets. This is because solid magnets can shatter and cause major contamination issues. Instead, they contain a specialist flexible magnetised core which cannot break or shatter.

In addition to being safer, the flexibility of these type of pigs enables them to maintain constant contact with the inside of the pipes (and hence maintain high product recovery levels) even while travelling through 1.5D 90 degree pipe bends.

There are, of course. many designs of pigs, but generally the simple cylindrical or bullet shapes perform best. More complex shapes, finned designs, or assembled pigs can have a tendency to tear, rip, break or be unable to travel in more than one direction.


Projectile Technology Remains In Front

The proven, reliable and highly effective projectile-type pigging systems remain by far the most popular in the process industries, and beverage production is no exception. While other technologies have attempted to adapt to beverage processing, they have been unable to match the speed, product recovery rates and performance of ‘traditional’ projectile-type pigging solutions.

Furthermore, less established pigging technologies, such as ice-pigging—which uses an ice-slurry—by its very nature uses significant amounts of water while needing a lot of power to create the ice. Reliable detection and automation is a problem, and, despite it being an interesting technology, the environmentally unfriendly nature of ice pigging, together with its associated contamination risks, automation difficulties, poor product recovery rates, and performance means ice-pigging is unlikely to see an uptake in use in beverage production.


Automation Technology Continues to Develop

A few years ago, many pigging systems were controlled manually. However, as more and more processes become automated, so does the number of automated pigging systems. In fact, improved pig-detection technology, along with advances in PLC, HMI and programming and customisation capabilities, mean the majority of new pigging systems are now fully automated.

Pigging system automation not only saves time, reduces labour, and increases efficiency, it also helps improve safety and minimises the risks of human error.

Arguably, in areas where labour is abundant (and cheap), manual pigging systems may still have a role to play. However, the use of automated pigging systems looks to become the standard for the foreseeable future.


Lot Traceability

With minimal waste, pigging systems enable beverage companies to quickly and easily transfer their products to packing or storage, rather than leaving them in the pipes. This improves lot control, as well as preventing products from being unavailable for use over an extended period of time. What’s more, by helping segment and differentiate batches by creating clear barriers between them, pigging further helps improve traceability.

In recent years, there have been some high-profile product recalls in the beverage industry and consumer confidence in product safety has been lagging. Thus, by improving lot traceability and minimising contamination risks, pigging can help lower recall costs and minimise the damage of product recall on customers and end users. This will, in turn, help towards restoring some of this lost confidence.


Time To Start Pigging

Beverage production, bottling, and processing is highly competitive. Reducing waste, saving water, improving production efficiencies and ensuring your processes are environmentally sustainable is becoming essential.

Liquid product recovery and pigging technology will help your business increase yields, reduce costs, speed up changeovers and become more sustainable. Typically, a best in class solution will pay for itself within just a matter of months, which is why an increasing number of beverage companies will be deploying hygienic pigging systems and technology in 2018.

And if your company isn’t pigging yet, it’s time to start.


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