March 1, 2006
by Lynn Petrak
Pumps, valves and fittings keep things moving in dairy plants.
In a successful dairy plant, one thing leads to another. Pumps, valves and fittings link all sorts of processes, from fluid transfer to powder handling to tank washing.
As the virtual nuts and bolts of so many systems, pumps, valves and fittings are a regular focus of operations. When a key component is down or not performing to potential capacity, that means a loss in production and along with it, valuable resources.
In both function and design, the newest pumps, valves and fittings reflect an increasingly uncompromising food processing industry. Used for more and different types of dairy products, such elements must be effective, efficient, ergonomic and easy to clean.
Often, processors get around to buying new pumps, valves and fittings when old ones break down or are deemed too outmoded to be efficient. Those manufacturers building new lines, meanwhile, have the opportunity to look for the latest in such technologies. “It’s a combination of both. It could be an older system out there and the requirements have changed. There also seems to be an increase in plants being built,” says Bill Duyser, marketing manager for Chestertown, Md.-based Dixon Valves and Couplings, which includes Pewaukee, Wis.-based Bradford Fittings.
For whatever reason they are upgrading pumps, valves and fittings, dairy processors seem to be seeking out specific solutions to their production features and challenges. “In a lot of companies, there is custom work being done. Recently, we have been working with some of our customers’ customers who have various requirements,” Duyser says. “We’ve helped resolve things and come up with custom applications that may not be the norm.”
Cost, that timeless factor, remains a top-of-mind issue when it comes to pumps, valves and fittings. “Price is a driving factor in any application, especially in food and dairy these days,” Duyser says. “People want a better end product and want to keep it in line with price, so you have to make sure you are priced competitively.”
Bill Rice, technical product manager for pumps for Delavan, Wis.-based SPX Process Equipment Co., agrees that economics can drive decisions. “Processors are looking for ways to reduce cost,” he says, citing an example of how suppliers and manufacturers can work together. “Therefore, we have seen a shift to minimize the number of pumps in a facility by using one pump to handle a variety of applications.”
Pumps, essential workhorses in a dairy plant, come in a range of forms, including centrifugal, positive displacement, rotary and self-priming, among others.
The life span of a pump can be several years — up to 20, if maintained properly— but those looking to replace or buy new pumps right now can pick from perennially popular models and recently introduced units. A newer model in the Waukesha Cherry-Burrell line from SPX is the Tru-fit Pump. “Recently, we developed the Tru-fit pump mounting system that eliminates the need to check shaft alignment,” Rice says. “Along with the introduction of the alignment-free design, we were also able to incorporate a different base design reducing horizontal surfaces for cleanability.”
Speaking to processors’ need for versatility and more tailored solutions, SPX also introduced several new sizes of centrifugal pumps over the past year. “The development of these new products was driven in part due to energy issues, and therefore, the requirement for more efficient pumps for specific flow rates and pressures,” Rice explains.
Sanitation remains a key issue for pump design too, resulting in more clean-in-place (CIP) designs. SPX offers CIP features for its positive displacement pumps. “We have worked with USDA Dairy and our 3A third party inspector to ensure cleanability of our pumps during mechanical cleaning or clean in place operations,” Rice says.
Meanwhile, because time is money, pump designs are typically more user-friendly today, cutting down on labor and maintenance. Fristam Pumps USA, Middleton, Wis., touts the simpler design and easier maintenance of its new series of FPR centrifugal pumps, which feature a front pull-out seal and about half the number of components. According to company information, FPR pumps can be serviced more quickly, without the use of special tools, and require less maintenance inventory. The FPR series also appeal to the sanitation minded, since the pumps are CIP-able.
Valve and Fitting Update
Like pumps, valves — from ball valves to single- and double-seat valves to butterfly valves — are chosen based on the type and volume of product that is to be handled. Also like pumps, today’s valves are engineered for the best possible efficiency and cleanability.
“The biggest thing from our standpoint is having it in stock. We have distribution centers that our company owns that support our customer base and bring us much closer to the plant,” Duyser says, adding that having brackets and valves in stock enables the company to ship valves like butterfly valves and ball valves the same day.
Other time-efficient options are available from Dixon/Bradford as well, Duyser notes. “One of the things we are finding companies doing is what’s called a manual limited switch, which can show a position of a valve remotely,” he says, adding that by using a such a switch, a plant employee can see the open or close position of a valve from one location.
As for sanitation, easy-to-clean design is a must in modern valve design. SPX, for its part, last year debuted a new mix-proof valve to be used in Grade A facilities that comply with Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) requirements. Alfa Laval USA, a Swedish firm with U.S. offices in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., recently brought to market a mix-proof PMO valve with CIP features for high-volume cheese processors. And Südmo North America Inc., a supplier of mix-proof, single seat, aseptic and other valves with U.S. offices in Rockford, Ill., offers an advanced, automatically cleanable valve for 3-A plants that can be used with particulates and viscous products.
Efficiency and sanitation extend beyond fluid handling to dairy ingredients. For those producing powdered dairy products, such as whey protein and milk powders, Bete Fog Nozzle Inc., Greenfield, Mass., offers a Twist and Dry nozzle used for spray drying of products. “Nozzles are hard to categorize because they are a piece that are on the very end — you have pumps, pipes and fittings, then a nozzle. They are probably more in the valve category,” explains Tom Bassett, Bete’s vice president of engineering and quality. “The nozzle helps develop a certain spray or pattern of a liquid for better control — it provides the liquid in a form that the processor can use, rather than a big slug of liquid.” Bete also offers a special nozzle for tank cleaning, for an aggressive spray of water in hard-to-reach areas.
Finally, fittings are considered integral in the proper handling and flow of product within a dairy plant and also are available in up-to-date designs. Last year, for instance, Dixon/Bradford launched new bevel seat fittings, clamp fittings and heavy duty I-line fittings.
Joseph Schlicher, national sales manager for the WCB-Flow Products arm of SPX Process Equipment, reports that clamp-style fittings have been predominate for years and that sanitation is an ever-important factor. “Weld systems are becoming more popular due to less clamp joints, which equals less area for possible contamination and easier CIP,” he says. Most recently, WCB-Flow Products launched a series of T316 clamps for high corrosive areas.
Lynn Petrak is a freelance journalist based in the Chicago area.$OMN_arttitle="Flow Chart";?>