April 14, 2016

Dairy Production: Maintaining Product Quality While Minimizing Downtime

The global dairy industry is growing, and one of the dairy producers’ biggest challenges is to maintain high product quality, while also increasing efficiency and minimizing waste and downtime. Recently Philip Edwards wrote an article on this topic for What’s New in Food Technology and Manufacturing titled, “Conductivity Measurement: A Hidden Key to Dairy Industry Success.” Below is an excerpt from this piece:

NZCattle2_lessgreenTo ensure this consistent product quality, the equipment used in the manufacturing of dairy products is not only made from the highest grade of material, but also needs to be cleaned and maintained in such a way as to minimize any possible contamination when changing from one product to another or from one batch to another. This process is called CIP (clean-in-place).

To remain competitive, it is important to minimize production downtime without compromising on the safety and quality of the end product. In the CIP process, conductivity measurement is used to determine how effectively equipment has been cleaned and flushed. Conductivity in CIP picks up the change in the electric conductivity of a sample stream to indicate when a flushing process has started and ended. On a rinse cycle, for example, low conductivity indicates that all chemicals in the process stream have been flushed out and it’s ready for the next batch of product.

An Interesting Case History
A major global dairy company with plants around the world was experiencing challenges with its liquid analytical systems, particularly as related to CIP. CIP systems thoroughly clean wetted components such as tanks, vessels, fermenters, process lines and inline sensors. The CIP process controlled the flow of pre-rinse, wash and post-rinse cycles, which include caustic rinse, acid rinse and water rinse cycles.

Conductivity sensors are a critical component in the design of CIP systems. The various cleaning solutions have more conductivity than the water used for flushing and final rinse. Since many systems are a ‘re-used design,’ the sensor can monitor the strength of cleaning solutions as chemicals get used up through successive cleaning cycles. Conductivity measurements can indicate the need for replenishment.

Any sensors that have to withstand CIP and sterilization must be able to function under very harsh conditions — not a simple requirement for a sensitive analytical sensor. The dairy company was experiencing up to a 50% failure rate on sensors each year, at an approximate cost of $1,200 per sensor. Much worse, however, was the cost of plant downtime — up to $100,000 per hour. The significant failure rate called the reliability of every sensor into question after a short usage period. As a preventive measure, every conductivity sensor was replaced at the end of the season, which required another CIP cycle to be performed, adding even more costs and delay to production. It was preferable, however, to the possible dumping of milk product that would have to occur in the event of a sensor failure during processing.

To learn more about the unique solution the dairy producer implemented to overcome these challenges, click HERE to read the full story.

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