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Modular Process Case Studies

In-line Blending Skid Adds 20 Flavors at Minimal Cost

Inline blending systemWith limited budget and floor space, the client needed to double the flavors mixed in their existing facility. A pre-engineered, field-proven in-line blending skid from EPIC provided a fast, economic solution that allowed the client to drastically expand the product portfolio with minimal equipment additions.

Continuous In-Line Blending Systems

CLIENT: Fortune 500 Company
INDUSTRY:
Consumer Products

KEY ENGINEERING FEATURES:

  • Outside pre-mix blending skid to formulate flammable base formula in a classified area
  • JIT perfuming inline blending system with multiple ingredient trees integrated with existing product making line
  • Coupled blending and filling system featuring a mix tank with pump re-circulation to create a buffer between blending and packaging
  • Back pressure control to keep product moving through the system
  • Control logic to automate mixing and prevent flavor mix-ups
  • Product-to-Product washout featuring re-blend system, for scrap material, to reduce wasted product

CORE CHALLENGES:

  • Product offering expansionTraditionally, each new product flavor requires the installation of a new batch mixing system, equipped with cumbersome tanks for finished product storage. These tanks and systems require valuable floor space, and expensive equipment. The in-line blending system solution has a significantly lower cost compared to a batch mixing system, and eliminates the need for multiple storage tanks. This in-line blending system DOUBLED the number of products the client could offer AT HALF THE COST of several traditional batch mixing systems, and improved the plant’s ability to switch SKU’s more frequently.
  • Accurate blendingAccurate blending for different sized flows required properly sized dosing equipment for each individual flow stream. EPIC designed, fabricated and installed all the ingredient trees with flow control valves integrated to achieve the highest accuracy and flexibility.
  • Homogeneous mixtureIn addition to accurate dosing equipment, a mixer in the surge tank was added to guarantee a homogeneous mixture before product reached the filler
  • Line start-up/shut-downFrequent line startup/shut-down and product changeover were anticipated and addressed through control logic. For example, filling rate and mixing rate are matched and the pressure adjusted during incremental increases and decreases of product flowing through the system.
  • Scrap ReductionScrap from washouts added up quickly. A re-blend system allowed the client to add 3-5% re-blend back to the mixture and saved potentially wasted materials.

AN EPIC SOLUTION

Blending system sideviewFront-End Engineering/Design Engineering

Instead of providing a fixed-bid quote, EPIC uses a front-end engineering approach, where we ask 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.  Front-end engineering makes the process better due to:

  • 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 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:
    • Pre-mix module
    • In-line blending skid including surge tank
    • Re-blend system
    • Control programming
    • Control panel development for Class 1, Division 2 area
  • Develop fixed bid quotation for project design/programming/platform fabrication/installation/commissioning
  • Base project execution schedule with critical path defined

THE FINAL SOLUTION: IN-LINE BLENDING SKID

EPIC’s proven in-line blending skid design allowed two different products and over twenty different flavors to be mixed on one process line. This system greatly reduced the capital investment for the client and increased the systems flexibility, all while taking up less space.

The existing flavor mixing line was modified and expanded with EPIC’s in-line blending skid addition. Recently, the client had installed a new packaging line for the blending system and wanted to expand the capacity of the blending system without expanding the footprint of the line.

The system starts outside the building, where a pre-mix module makes a base formula containing ethanol. Ethanol is flammable, so mixing and diluting ethanol happens outside in a Class 1, Div 2 area before flowing into the building.  The (outside) blending skid feeds base formula into the building through pipes that are connected to the in-line blending system.

perfume blending skid

The in-line blending skid uses ingredient trees to mix various products on one small skid, eliminating multiple storage tank requirements. The skid utilizes two small tanks. As product is mixed, one tank fills with solution. Simultaneously, the other tank is emptied and washed out, prepping for the next product in the que.

Each ingredient tree has an on/off flow control valve that feeds raw ingredients from the raw materials storage area into the product formula. Flavors are fed from a perfume in-line blending system, allowing for just-in-time perfume mixing, and reducing down time.

Static mixers on the skid are used to ensure the formula is properly mixed. A re-surge tank is included in the system, where a re-circulation pump is used to ensure proper mix before filling.

The resurge tank acts as a buffer between the blending and filling systems. Because the system can operate at variable blend rates, which is especially important during start-up and shut-down, the tank regulates flow to the filler. It does this by creating a reserve of product that can continue flowing, even as blend rates vary. The automated controls for the system match blend and fill rates, regulating pressure on the holding tank to level the fluctuations and couple the blending and filling system.

A product-to-product washout system is used, and the tank is drained between products. A back pressure control valve keeps pressure on the tank, and logic in the control system prevents two flavors from running at once. Past the pump for the packaging side, a pair of valves sends scrap material to re-blend totes. Three to five percent of scrap is re-blended into  appropriate product batches.

When blending of a product ends, any remaining product is pumped back to a re-blend tote. The system is washed out and a spray ball cleans the tanks. The washout water is drained to a pan and also sent to the scrap tote. More washout runs through the system and the new product is slowly metered into the mixing system.

The client uses multiple re-blend totes because certain product ingredients cannot be mixed. For example, colors for re-blend must be similar (like orange, yellow and red). If you re-blend a yellow dye with a blue product, less than 3% yellow can delude the blue color. Also, antibacterial formulas cannot be mixed with non-antibacterial products. The control logic for the system controls the re-blend totes, and tracks where the product profiles are sent, preventing accidental mixing of incompatible scrap material.

Product from the surge tank is pumped to the filler and added into bottles. The packaging and in-line blending skid are integrated together to ensure matched speeds and prevent product mix-up.

IMPACT

  • Blending system delivered on time and on budget by utilizing EPIC’s proven in-line blending system design and design to implementation strategy
  • Capital costs decreased and system flexibility increased by using ingredient trees to replace tanks. OVER 20 FLAVORS can be mixed on one process line.
  • Wasted product greatly reduced through metered re-blend system

WHY EPIC MODULAR PROCESS?

A process design firm helps you design, fabricate and integrate an appropriate process solution that improves your manufacturing process. EPIC believes we can help you “Do It Better” by:

  • Utilizing Front-End Engineering to ensure that the proper steps are taken during project scope development
  • Designing most process systems as modular skids, which often saves time, money and creates a more efficient solution
  • Appointing a single point of direct contact during the entirety of the project
  • Applying our plant engineering experience to assist clients in identifying needs, pinpointing objectives and providing the most appropriate manufacturing equipment
  • 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.
  • Imparting a transfer of knowledge (not just a basic training) for the systems and equipment we provide

Find a better solution. Contact EPIC or learn more about in-line blending systems or other modular process systems.

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