The latest thoughts from the experts.

In the race to create the next greatest, tastiest food product that not only wows consumers but cures obesity and addresses every other trendy nutritional concern, the last thing dairy processors need to worry about is their manufacturing infrastructure going kaput.

That’s why pumps, valves and fittings are so vitally important to every dairy manufacturing operation. They need to work how they’re supposed to, each and every time. They need to be easy to clean and, if necessary, change out. And they need to be far down on every processor’s “I hope nothing goes wrong” list.

We asked several key suppliers of flow components about their customers’ needs and how they’re being addressed:

DFR: What are dairy processors looking for in their pumps, valves and fittings?

Beard: Cleanliness, reliability, ease of maintenance and efficiency. Processors also look for pumps that are gentle on products in applications where shearing has a negative impact on product quality.

Berkbigler: High reliability, variable pump rates, ease of cleaning, quick knockdown, leak detection, 3-A certification and high-polish stainless-steel construction.

Dillon: CIP cleaning with absolutely no tear-down, easy inspection to prove sanitation and robust designs to eliminate any product contamination.

Gehr: With today’s focus on food safety and optimizing costs, dairy processors are looking to more advanced, easier-to-use and more reliable technologies for their solutions.

Jordan: In the past dairy processors were mainly concerned with the reliability of their valves to reduce plant downtime. While this is still very important, now processors want to make the most of valve technology to maximize plant efficiency.

Larsen: The ability to process more in a given time period.

Maabjerg: They look for effective and reliable equipment in their processing plant to cut production costs, enhance the working environment, reduce the number of production interruptions and ensure an improved end product.

Medlar: Processors need their suppliers to be constantly innovating with a view to making the processor more competitive. This is nowhere more true than for suppliers of valves, pumps and fittings, the core components of any process plant. With more and more plants operating on a 24/7 basis, reliability of components is even more critical. Suppliers of flow components who can demonstrate their products are designed to operate on an extended basis without the need for maintenance downtime and who, in any case, offer superior service to the processor will be the suppliers who succeed.

Verges: For pumps, they are looking for long-term dependability, ease of maintenance, low total cost of ownership and parts interchangeability.

Wittkoff: While pumps are the heart (motive force) of the process, dairy processors in fact would like to spend the least amount of time looking at pumps and focus instead on other process and company challenges. To this end, they are looking for pumps that exceed performance requirements (product handling, product safety and efficiency) and yet not require attention. This is accomplished only when the application and pump technology used are well matched.  

DFR: What special needs have arisen as processors seek to streamline operations and improve efficiencies?

Beard: The increase in plant automation and the desire to run processes more continuously have increased the need for CIP-able pumps.  Pumps that are easily and quickly cleaned in place prevent downtime and keep production moving. With more plants producing an increased variety of product recipes, pumps must be versatile while maintaining their efficiency over wider production ranges.

Dillon: System designs and programming to ensure that operation, including during the cleaning cycles, does not damage equipment. DCS and SCADA systems must be programmed with all aspects of equipment performance considered. Higher flow rates and pressures are being demanded.

Gehr: Ease of operation, lower maintenance and running costs while satisfying regulators’ concerns are paramount. In the actuator arena, this means smarter, more accurate and user-friendly control-valve actuators with integral positioning and control facilities.

Jordan: Dairy processors are constantly striving to reduce operating costs, increase production and expand operational flexibility. One need, regarding mix-proof valves, is how to perform the required cleaning of the valve and process lines without completely shutting down the plant. With the FDA’s recent revision to the seat-cleaning restrictions for mix-proof valves in PMO-regulated dairy plants, dairy processors can now take full advantage of all the benefits mix-proof technology has to offer. Also, dairy plants with ultra-high-temperature (UHT) or extended-shelf-life (ESL) processes need an aseptic valve that will withstand the rigors of high temperature, high pressure and aggressive chemicals.

Maabjerg: High speed capability is a high priority. With this capability a booster pump (centrifugal) can be eliminated due to the high speed capability of APV’s DW positive displacement pump. It can run both product and CIP.

Medlar: Processors need process equipment that will allow them to be able to produce a wider range of products in a faster time and at the lowest cost possible. They need to be able to produce their current product portfolio and introduce new and innovative products as quickly and as seamlessly as possible into their process.

Verges:  The desire to install the most efficient pump for energy conservation. We have a larger range of pumps that can help us fit the duty and, with the new FPR series, more parts are interchangeable.

Wittkoff: Lacking is pump technology for applications where all the following needs occurred at the same time: certified for the highest hygienic levels (full CIP capability); low-shear, no-slip performance; indefinite self priming and run-dry capability; positive displacement yet centrifugal-like fluid dynamic behavior; and natural dead-head (pressure-limiting) capability.  

DFR: What new technologies have been developed to meet these needs?

Beard: Pumps are designed to not only meet the critical hygienic standards of organizations like 3-A and EHEDG, but also to specifically make cleaning in place easier.  Wide-open seal chambers and crevice-free casings are examples of how manufacturers are working hard to make advances in hygienic designs. Rotor and seal arrangements designed to eliminate confined areas like those found in traditional rotary lobe and circumferential piston pumps ensure excellent CIP results with the standard design. To enhance efficiencies, more and more dairy processors are relying on variable frequency drives to minimize energy usage and to reduce the wear and tear on pumps.

Berkbigler: Overmolded PTFE and EPDM diaphragms that do not allow for traditional leakage paths. Optical and physical leak detection, which ensures the quality of the product through the process.

Dillon: Integrated control systems as part of the drive programming on our products. Brake motors or gear reducers with back stops to prevent reverse rotation, especially for filling operations. Even-wall elastomer stators that are capable of higher pressures and are less affected by wide temperature variations. Specially designed rotor and stator geometries to minimize slip and product damage.

Gehr: A new breed of “smart” electric actuators is available that provides the same or better process control than traditional pneumatic actuators, but without the need for costly maintenance that intensive pneumatic control demands. For example, the GPSA electric actuator from Rotork Process Controls goes one stage further by providing an additional suite of control functions. OEMs supplying the dairy industry and dairy operators are finding that smart actuators, such as the GPSA, can help deliver more consistent product and are more cost-effective to run over the long term.

Jordan: In the past year, Norit Südmo has developed a revolutionary new PMO Mix Proof Valve, the 365it, which carries the FDA Memorandum M-b-354, allowing the valve seats to be cleaned while product is on the other side of the valve. Norit Südmo’s patented design uses a deflector to route the CIP solution away from the opposite seat. Now that dairy processors can take full advantage of mix-proof technology, they no longer have to wait until the end of the day to clean valve clusters, leakage areas and lines. For aseptic processing, Norit Südmo has developed the P3 diaphragm. P3 material is ideal for the production of ESL products and UHT processes. In plants where P3 is being using, it has a 10-times-longer service life when compared to other diaphragm material. This allows for increased production runs and reduced plant downtime.

Larsen: Our unique PMO Plus offers the ability to do individual seat-lifts during CIP while processing through the opposing valve chamber.

Maabjerg: Dairy manufacturers are providing a sophisticated and ever-changing range of products to customers all over the world. Success in the industry hinges on market insight and the ability to move very quickly when consumer demands and trends change. And we, APV, have a very sophisticated program of new product development to help you put out just the right product at just the right time.

Medlar: In April 2007, the first mix-proof valve – the Tuchenhagen 24/7 PMO valve – was developed and accepted by the U.S. regulatory community to allow simultaneous processing of multiple products and cleaning operations in U.S. dairy plants. Since production and plant cleaning operations could now be handled simultaneously, processors can now save the two to three hours per day of downtime that was previously required for plant cleaning. This is perhaps the greatest innovation in the last 20 years in the U.S. dairy industry and one that overnight allows the processor to streamline his operations – less equipment to produce an increased number of products – and improve efficiencies by gaining these extra hours per day of production.

The use of product recovery systems, such as the Tuchenhagen Varicover system, allows dairy plants to minimize product losses when switching from one product to another. By using an automated and sanitary system such as this, as much as 99% of one product can be recovered from a product pipeline before switching to another product. In the past, perhaps 10% of this product would be lost to drain. Since the process lines are “pre-cleaned” by the product recovery system in this case, a second but as important advantage is that it allows the plant to be cleaned using less chemicals and water, as well as reducing the overall cleaning time, minimizing the negative effect on the environment.

Wittkoff: While the air-operated diaphragm pump is a more recent development than other positive-displacement or centrifugal technologies, it has resolved many application needs in a large number of industries. The reason for its limited use in the dairy industry until recently has been because the design was not sufficiently refined to meet the highest cleanability and certification standards used. In the last 10 to 15 years, pumps used in the dairy industry have undergone considerable refinement to meet modern needs with the diaphragm pump undergoing the most recent and changes. 

DFR: How are food-safety concerns impacting development of these components?

Beard: Food-safety concerns will lead to more plant automation and the need for pumps with improved CIP capability. Pumps must provide trouble-free performance over wider operating ranges for extended periods of time without human intervention.

Dillon: All materials, especially elastomers and plastics, are being certified by either 3-A or the FDA. Users require more robust materials with more resistance to heat and erosion.

Jordan: The great thing about the Norit Südmo 365it and mix-proof valves in general is the increased efficiencies and safety for both the products and personnel. Product safety is insured because mix-proof technology separates CIP from product or product from product during processing to prevent allergen crossover. As a totally enclosed system, mix-proof technology is also safer to operate. Because of the durability of the Norit Südmo P3 diaphragm in aseptic processing, the reduced chance of rupture greatly decreases the possibility of a system breach.

Larsen: To prevent any possibility of cross-contamination, you must prove the ability to seat-lift clean without creating positive pressure in the leakage chamber and without direct impingement of CIP fluid on the opposing valve seat.

Maabjerg: Years of intensive product development on a worldwide scale have enabled APV to offer our customers a complete range of hygienic pumps to match any processing requirements.  The majority of the pumps and valves manufactured by APV meets 3-A, FDA, USDA, BISSC and EHEDG.

Medlar: In the case of the 24/7 PMO valve mentioned above, public safety was the number-one design criteria, following the requirements of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance directives. In today’s multiple-product plants, and as the processor strives to streamline operations and improve efficiencies, it is imperative that production and cleaning operations take place simultaneously as mentioned above. It is therefore more critical than ever that flow components are designed primarily to ensure that even in component failure mode, product integrity is maintained at all times, so that no cross-contamination of products and cleaning liquids can ever take place.

Verges: We work hard on our design to focus on the ability to clean being a primary goal.  The FPR seal is a prime example attaining the approval of the BPE for accepted seal design.

Wittkoff: Food-safety concerns are now further minimized with the use of appropriately certified and applied air-operated diaphragm pumps. New air-operated diaphragm technologies offer unobstructed product and cleaning fluid flow path. No longer do outer-diaphragm pistons or ball seats cause for difficult cleaning. 

DFR: What’s the next phase of technological development on the way for pumps, valves and fittings?

Beard: The key areas of cleanliness, reliability, ease of maintenance and efficiency will continue to drive pump manufacturers to improve upon existing designs.

Dillon: Additional material development to extend life and broaden the performance envelope. Increased systems capabilities to ensure that equipment is not abused by DCS, PLC or SCADA designers who are not familiar with the many ways you can inadvertently kill a pump.

Gehr: RPC’s “smart” control valve capability (integral closed loop control), which vastly improves the repeatability of products over that achieved with traditional cumbersome control architectures. With built-in PI (proportional and integral) control available from external sensing equipment, extremely fast and accurate operation can be achieved.

Jordan: Norit Südmo is currently planning to expand the capabilities of the 365it Mix Proof Valve into all applicable FDA-regulated dairy and food plants. This includes our PMO Cheese Curd Outlet Mix Proof Valve and our Large Particulate Mix Proof Valve. Norit Südmo is also developing a mix-proof aseptic system, the Aseptic Interface Valve (AIV), that allows aseptic processors to use the full functionality and flexibility of their aseptic tanks and fillers.

Maabjerg: A look into the future of fluid-handling equipment could include such features as a seal-free pump. Future equipment could be designed with the “less maintenance cost” in mind.

Medlar: In today’s world of diminishing natural resources and an ever-more environmentally conscious society, processors actively pursuing and promoting “greener” products will be the new leaders in their markets. Sanitary flow components that are designed with these requirements in mind will be the successful ones. A current example of this is Tuchenhagen’s new TVIS A7 control module which enables the process plant to be cleaned while using 70% less water and cleaning chemicals than before.

Wittkoff: The next phase for technological development is to take advantage of the excellent large-particulate handling ability and yet be highly cleanable with appropriate review by the certifying authorities. A good example is handling large particulates such cheese curd or fruit for yogurt. Pump manufacturers will work continue to work to meet this next challenge to optimize particulate handling with cleanability.

Bill Beard, sanitary sales manager, Grundfos Pumps Corp., Olathe, Kan.
Rik Berkbigler, director of worldwide sales and marketing, process products, Graco Inc., Minneapolis
Michael Dillon, president, Seepex Inc., Enon, Ohio
Tim Gehr, marketing manager, Rotork Process Controls, Milwaukee
Jack Jordan, president, Südmo North America Inc., Rockford, Ill.
Jim Larsen, business development manager – valves, Alfa Laval Inc., Kenosha, Wis.
Anita Maabjerg, regional product manager, APV, Lake Mills, Wis.
Dave Medlar, president, Tuchenhagen Flow Components, Portland, Maine
Randy Verges, application engineer, Fristam Pumps USA, Middleton, Wis.
Wallace C. Wittkoff, global sanitary product manager, Wilden Pump, Grand Terrace, Calif.

Alfa Laval Inc.
APV, an SPX Brand
Fristam Pumps USA
Graco Inc.
Grundfos Pumps Corp.
Rotork Process Controls
Seepex Inc
Südmo North America Inc.
Tuchenhagen Flow Components
Wilden Pump