How do you increase throughput during a facility upgrade when significant safety concerns exist? Often, you must find a way to automate a manual process quickly, or face lost profits through delays and excessive safety procedures.
EPIC provided mixing systems for an agricultural client that automated their process in a few short months. The engineering team provided a flexible solution that was viable for multiple production sites with different throughput requirements. The client applied the solution to several plants, significantly increasing production and reducing risk. Each new system iteration improved the process, reduced costs and minimized handling of a hazardous chemical.
- CLIENT: Fortune 500
- INDUSTRY: Agricultural Products
KEY ENGINEERING FEATURES:
- 13 sets of customized automated mixing and drying systems, each designed to fit in a unique plant space, and significantly different throughput requirements of the same batch process procedure
- Acid dip & collumization water to treat the product for further processing
- Extractor to separate parts of the product during processing
- Effluent neutralization system to ensure process discharge water is safe for release
CORE CHALLENGES FOR MIXING SYSTEMS:
- Fast compliance upgrade required: The client’s use of a newly acquired facility depended on upgrading the facility to match safety and efficiency compliance of the new parent company. OSHA and internal client standards had to be met before operations could begin.
- Automation of manual application: If the client couldn’t upgrade the process with improved production speeds they wouldn’t keep up with product demand
- Flexible & repeatable: the client had several facilities performing the same process but at various volumes. They required a solution for each location that could be easily reworked to match different product volumes while minimizing repeated system design.
- Time crunch: the facility was already acquired when the client approached EPIC, but every day it remained out of compliance would create significant lost profits. The client needed a fast solution that addressed all the above needs.
Front-End Engineering/Design Engineering
Instead of providing a fixed-bid quote, EPIC uses a front-end engineering approach, where our team asks clients to spend a modest amount of money on due diligence at the critical preliminary design stage of the project, to guarantee projects are delivered on time and on budget. At the end of the front-end engineering stage, we provide a contract with a fixed price to complete the design, integration, installation and startup of the complete line. Some of the reasons we believe in front-end engineering:
- Risk is minimized for both the client and the supplier because “unknowns” are turned into “knowns”.
- Contingency is drastically reduced in the quotation for the same reason.
- Issues surrounding technical feasibility are uncovered early.
- The careful, informed development of an accurate project schedule based upon actual equipment lead times results in a high probability that your system will be producing product on the agreed upon date.
To guarantee the success of the project before signing a binding contract, EPIC completed the following during front-end engineering, in addition to our standard FEE deliverables:
- Major equipment selection and accurate pricing for:
- Seven full-sized systems
- Six systems of various smaller sizes to meet production capacities
- All systems included:
- Acid dip and product pre-treatment tanks
- Separation processing tanks
- Effluent neutralization system
- Mass packaging unload/reload areas
- Programming and controls for chemical formulation and processing times
- All required equipment including:
- Control panel
- All systems included:
After FEE is completed, EPIC developed a fixed bid quotation for mixing systems that included:
- Project detailed design
EPIC’s Proven Solution
A few months after the facility was acquired, EPIC provided the client with an automated mixing system solution that addressed both safety concerns and increased processing capacity. Through repeated module construction, EPIC helped the client upgrade facilities around the world. Cost savings and productivity gains were achieved quickly for a relatively small cost.
EPIC’s Engineering Team carefully designed the repeated modules for different locations requirements. A wide range of throughput and processing speed requirements existed among the various client sites, and a flexible solution had to were engineered to match these variable processing requirements. To tackle this inconsistency, EPIC specified the basic equipment included in all systems. Equipment size and layout were designed for flexibility in relation to system size. Several of the tanks included spinning drums, so inertia block design and good structural engineering were established for each system size.
Chemical mixtures and flows were programmed with system controls. These processes were adjusted for each size of the system, based on flow rates and production levels.
A bulk agricultural product is manually loaded into a pre-treatment tank. The mixing systems combine an acid wash and collimated water together and douse the product in the acid wash. The product is rinsed with water before being transferred to a separation tank. The product is dried and separated, and loaded into the bulk container for further processing.
The wash water is pumped to a neutralization tank, where caustic is added, and pumped to a holding tank for disposal. pH probes ensure a correct pH level is reached in the wash tank acid mixture and the caustic tank. Automated controls determine the correct time the product is in the acidic wash and the separation tanks.
As each system was developed, efficiencies learned from the design, building and installation of the previous system were transferred forward. Having the same turnkey integrator for each system meant each module became more efficient in cost and design, benefiting the client’s bottom line.
The previously slow, manual process was much faster and robust with automation. In addition, the system was safer because the hazardous chemicals involved were no longer handled directly by humans. The parent company’s OSHA compliance concerns were eliminated due to purposeful system design of the automated system.
- The client’s newly acquired site was compliant in a few months, creating a safer, more robust system
- Upgrading a manual, hazardous process to automated mixing systems increased production capacity and reduced long-term risk
- Costs were reduced through duplicate system integration by the same integrator and careful design engineering
WHY EPIC MODULAR PROCESS?
A good modular design firm brings manufacturing and scale-up expertise to your system, helping you design a better system that meets your budget. EPIC believes we can help you “Do It Better” by:
- Utilizing Front-End Engineering to guarantee that the proper steps are taken during project scope development
- Applying our plant engineering experience to assists you in identifying needs, pinpointing objectives and providing the most appropriate manufacturing equipment for the application
- Maintaining an open door client policy to promote innovation. We invite clients to visit EPIC to experiment with new processes, technologies and techniques that push the limits of traditional engineering
- Being accountable to responsibly manage our clients’ projects from start-to-finish and beyond
- Imparting a transfer of knowledge (not just a basic training) for the systems and equipment we provide
- Providing a single point of direct contact during the entirety of the project