A Fluid Situation
Designed for efficiency, maintenance and sanitation, pumps, valves and fittings deliver on customer demand.
by Lynn Petrak
The product development and marketing side of the dairy business may command a lot of attention, but items wouldn’t get out the door and into consumers’ hands without a properly run production line.
Pumps, valves and fittings, which ensure the flow of product throughout various processes, have been core components for decades. New models have been driven by a variety of factors, from processors’ desire to adhere to Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) standards to speed and efficiency concerns to maintenance issues, like clean-in-place (CIP) features and protection against corrosion.
“Processors are increasingly seeking to incorporate efficient processing, and therefore incorporate efficient processing equipment. There has been a continual shift towards such equipment as automated valves, automated double-block-and-bleed systems, like mixproof valves and high-efficiency centrifugal and positive displacement pumps,” observes Mark Larsen, vice president and general manager, sanitary segment, for Alfa Laval Inc., Pleasant Prairie, Wis., a supplier of components and full-service process system designs.
The changing nature of dairy processing has impacted pumps, valves and fittings, as companies expand their product offerings. “Viscous products have always been a challenge to processors. Products like low-shear rotary lobe pumps and long-stroke single-seat valves have aided processors in efficiently moving viscous product through the dairy,” Larsen says.
Basic production capability aside, budget concerns are at the center of any operation. “Processors want to reduce costs by automating their process, and are demanding more flexibility from their valve systems to allow higher asset utilization,” explains Jack Jordan, president of Südmo North America, Rockford, Ill., which provides a full line of aseptic and product-safe valves and fittings.
Bill Duyser, marketing and corporate trainer for Bradford Fittings, a Pewaukee, Wis.-based division of Dixon Valves and Couplings, agrees. “What is changing is that processors are looking to reduce costs and one way to do that is by eliminating people. Then you have to have something to do that job, so automation is a big part of that,” he says. “You not only automate just one valve, but a section of valves to do things.”
Indeed, the long-term value of high-performing pumps, valves and fittings is becoming a key concern in equipment upgrades. “There is a greater awareness of the total cost of ownership for a piece of equipment. Most sophisticated processors are realizing that the initial price of a pump or piece of equipment may be a relatively small portion of their total cost over the life of that product,” says Bruce Smith, regional sales manager for Middleton, Wis.-based Fristam Pumps USA, citing recent industry research. “In fact, a DuPont survey of pump costs showed that the purchase price represented only 4 percent of the lifetime operational cost.”
Other trends driving improvements in pumps, valves and fittings include cleaning capability, especially given greater emphasis on sanitation standards, some of which has been driven by PMO requirements and voluntary HACCP programs. “Companies are looking for stainless steel for washdown, so they have longevity,” Duyser says.
Scott Dillner, marketing director, Americas, for Delavan, Wis.-based SPX Process Equipment Co., manufacturer of Waukesha Cherry-Burrell products, cites the usual factors of cleanability, ease of maintenance and dependability as reasons dairy plants invest in new equipment, but points to another recent impetus. “Safety and security — that has been even more evident in the last three to four years,” he says, adding that SPX now offers material traceability on its products.
Although many companies that upgrade pumps, valves and fittings do so because the existing parts are worn or not working properly, often changes in the entire system are made. “Some see efficiencies by upgrading all at once. Others cannot afford large upgrades or significant downtimes, so they’ll upgrade as they can,” reports Larsen.
Others agree that renovations depend on plant circumstances. “In my experience, most upgrades take place as part of capital projects that are justified on the basis of increased capacity, cost savings or the ability to provide new products or packages,” says Smith.
Adds Dillner: “We’ve found that processors generally upgrade when required with various components. It occurs all at once if a new line is being installed or if an existing line is being overhauled.”
Consolidation within the dairy industry has impacted operators who decide to pursue the latest machinery and parts. “Some larger dairies are building larger automated facilities and closing down smaller operations to get the cost benefits,” observes Jordan. “Some companies were forced to invest because their plant efficiencies were so low.”
Several suppliers have introduced new models of pumps and various support features over the past year. SPX, for example, recently launched several new pumps including the Tru-Fit PD pump, which offers self-aligning shafts where a coupling and guard are not required. “It eliminates high maintenance costs, reduces base plate length by an average of 20 to 25 percent and has improved cleanability over traditional pump packages,” explains Dillner.
Fristam’s new models include a new FPR centrifugal pump, featuring an internal seal with as few as half the number of components. “The FPR responds to customer requests for simpler design and easier maintenance,” Smith says. “The seal is front-loading so customers can change it without moving the pump, and there are fewer parts to inventory.”
In 2004, Minneapolis-based Graco Inc. debuted a series of quick knockdown Husky sanitary diaphragm pumps, designed to meet the increasingly stringent requirements of the dairy industry. Created to accommodate flow rates up to 150 gpm, the Husky 3150 models are available with ball check models, which can pass solids up to 1 inch, and flapper checks, which can pass solids up to 2.5 inches, says Brian Welborn, product marketing manager.
Other features of the self-priming Husky 3150 pumps, Welborn says, include lube-free operation, tri-clamp connections and a superior air valve with a 15-year warranty. In addition, Graco’s pumps are available with Santoprene®, Buna-N, Viton® and PTFE diaphragms, and can be sent stand-mounted or in 55-gallon or 300-gallon unloader packages.
SPX recently introduced a PMO mixproof valve, which Dillner says is a direct result of demand for PMO-compatible equipment in Grade A plants. “It’s durable and machined from bar construction. It also has an independent seat lifting actuation, and a standard balanced lower plug,” he says.
Alfa Laval’s Unique Mix Proof Valve was designed to handle large-curd cheese applications, among other functions. “The 4-inch valve enables modern, high-volume cheese producers to move product quickly and efficiently,” Larsen says. “With the Unique’s ‘double-block-and-bleed’ mixproof design, you’re able to stream two different products or CIP fluids through the same valve at the same time – without risk of cross contamination.” In addition, Larsen says, processors can increase yield through repeatable sanitary processing and quicker maintenance.
SPX has developed new Y-Body valves, with a full-port design that minimizes pressure loss for large particulates and allows for extra-long stroke to lift valve plugs out of the flow area.
Südmo, too, has been busy on the design side. “Our new ARC valve allows for a 3-A solution for a full-bore, automatically cleanable valve similar to the manual clean plug valves. This valve can now interface with pigging systems, particulates and viscous products while having the ability to clean in place,” says Jordan. The valve has applications for products like ice cream, cottage cheese and heavy sauces.
Südmo also recently improved its single-seat valve line. Recently, the supplier began offering a mechanical stop that allows a standard shut-off valve to open to a variable, locked position. “This allows processors to accurately batch products with reduction in errors which results in costs savings,” Jordan says.
New Britain, Conn.-based Parker’s Fluid Control Division has developed a new series of Sinclair Collins SC-2000 piston-operated check valves to its current lineup of equipment, which includes process control and solenoid valves. The new stainless-steel check valves are available in a variety of models and with multiple port sizes, and were designed to withstand pressures of up to 500 psi with reduced cracking pressure.
Control-top technology has been another area of interest in valve design. Südmo has developed the new IntelliTop that offers a more robust control top featuring a stainless-steel cover. The control top was created to send the automation system a signal for valve maintenance as well as other feedback variables. “This saves the processor maintenance costs and increases efficiencies by faster trouble-shooting” Jordan says.
Likewise, SPX now offers improved control top features. The company recently unveiled new Set & Forget Valve Control Top Technology, which eliminates the need to adjust micro switches or proximity switches.
Suppliers have worked on more efficient actuator components of valve systems as well. Bradford Fittings, for instance, has developed cylinder-style and vertical-style actuators to work with its ball valve designs. Duyser says dairies have been opting more for stainless-steel components for washdown and reliability.
Keenly aware that time is money, meanwhile, Bradford is also set to offer custom accessories. “We now have custom-designed bracketry for all of our valves and actuators that we can ship in a 24-hour period,” Duyser says.
Modern designs for fittings increasingly reflect manufacturers’ demands for cleanability. Indeed, traditional fitting areas can be tricky to clean thoroughly and consistently.
Along with its series of valves, Bradford Fittings recently unveiled new bevel seat fittings, clamp fittings and heavy duty I-line fittings.
Alfa Laval supplies several types of fittings for dairy applications, too. The company’s Tri-Clover models are most often used in dairy settings, especially with corrosion-resistant finishes. Dairy customers also have installed Alfa Laval’s Tri-Weld and Bevel Seat fittings for various dairy plant uses.
Lynn Petrak is a freelance journalist based in the Chicago area.$OMN_arttitle="A Fluid Situation";?>