Any plant that works with fluids will require a quality system that adequately handles the product under various conditions. Valves are among the vital components that control and manage the flow and direction of such fluids throughout the end-to-end process of a typical production facility. Particular products, such as those in the food and beverage industry, will require additional specifications to suit safety and quality standards. Here is a quick rundown of how using proper valves can increase a plant’s overall productivity.

Fit for purpose

The right tools for the job are not a feature solely focused on cutting costs. Above all, they should enable facilities to achieve their objectives effectively. In a typical processing plant, components that handle fluids go under extreme highs and lows in terms of temperature, pressure and viscosity, among other things. Selecting the appropriate valve, which can withstand such conditions while meeting practical considerations relating to maintenance and servicing, should guide the design and selection process.

A good starting point for valves used for food and beverage handling is evaluating whether it is used in direct contact with the product or employed separately for utility service. Direct-contact valves typically undergo rigorous sanitation procedures, requiring valve build material such as stainless steel that can withstand the corrosive properties of cleaning agents. On the other hand, specifications for utility service valves depend on the working fluid it handles, including steam, water, and waste products.

Safety standards are the top considerations in evaluating the suitability of a valve for handling food and beverage products. The dairy industry takes this a notch higher by requiring hygienic design certification for valves that come in contact with the dairy product. The FDA's Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, for instance, specifies valve designs that do not comply with handling milking systems.

Higher Efficiencies

Following the importance of having a suitable valve is exploring opportunities to gain efficiencies. While the design and selection of a valve focus on its functionality and applicability, it also presents an opportunity to realize higher efficiencies.

Typical losses in a fluid system come in the form of pressure drops or head losses. The number of piping bends, kinds of fittings, and valve choices contribute to pressure drops that require the total system to compensate through increased energy usage. While some inefficiencies are unavoidable due to friction losses as the fluid moves through the facility, a thoughtful design can minimize wasted energy. 

For example, substantial losses can occur when using a valve designed for fluid control. During the design process, teams should evaluate the necessity of such valves and choose a valve type that minimizes pressure drops.

Manage Maintenance Costs

Another essential consideration in valve selection is the practicality and ease of performing maintenance. This is especially true for applications in the food and beverage industry. Keeping components clean requires special attention. 

Upgrading components with a design that purposely eliminates crevices and corners that are difficult to clean can reduce the time and effort in performing routine maintenance. A practical example that demonstrates such application is through cavity-filled valves that use a PTFE filler which smoothens out what would have been hard-to-reach areas.

Selecting a valve with the proper orientation that allows maintenance work without affecting the product within the internal housing can also improve productivity and the continuity of operations. Mix-proof valves are examples of valve designs that can run two fluid streams separately and simultaneously to prevent one from contaminating the other. These types of valves also lend themselves to clean-in-place (CIP) applications to eliminate any need for an outage.

An additional approach to managing maintenance costs is the selection of adaptable components that can handle the variations in fluid characteristics, such as flow and viscosity. Reducing the complexity of the range of valves simplifies maintenance and decreases overall downtime. Exploring newer valve models with fewer parts can further streamline the need for servicing. These models contribute to the reduction of possible failure points as well as maintenance demands. 

Automation Opportunities

Automation does not only offer increased efficiencies but also heightens the focus on safety and compliance with health standards. An overarching example is the expanding applications of computerized systems. By linking various equipment and consolidating controls into a central processing unit, facilities can automate procedures that monitor and control devices.

Automation also lends itself to some of the previous features we've mentioned. For instance, the functionality of a valve can improve with automated controls that can regulate the flow control of fluids. Typical processes concerning food products require the precise management of multiple inputs from various manifolds. Minimizing the manual intervention in these procedures more easily avoids errors and miscalculations. A practical example is how pneumatic valves can optimally apply the specific pressure required in processing cheese products. Moreover, computerized systems can track relevant information from measuring implementations to ensure quality and simplify troubleshooting.

Other applications of automation are present in the maintenance aspects of valve operation. These can range anywhere from installing alarms that indicate cleaning and servicing requirements to automated mix-proof equipment that ensures the consistency of sanitation procedures.


Valves are crucial components that impact the way facilities handle fluids. As with any other process relating to food and beverages, dairy plants will have requirements specific to their procedures and the resulting traits of the fluid flow throughout the process. While upgrading valves can seem daunting, not to mention costly, it is a worthwhile investment that leads to long-term efficiencies.

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