by Lynn Petrak
Pumps, valves and fittings keep things moving in dairy
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
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
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
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
“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
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