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Thomas R. Cutler

Quality Insider

Creating the Lean Dairy Plant

Reducing water and energy waste

Published: Monday, February 19, 2007 - 23:00

Dairy plants are among the heaviest users of municipal water in the United States, using two gallons of water for every gallon of consumer product produced. The clean-in-place (CIP) systems that daily wash and sanitize every truck, tank, pipe and surface in the plant use the greatest amount of that precious water and waste the most as well.
The cost of CIP water is high, because much of it has to be heated, chemicals must be added to it and cities levy charges for the use of municipal drain systems. A typical CIP system pushes water and chemicals through dairy plant equipment at 100–200 gallons per minute, although the required rate of flow (5–6 ft per second) across processing surfaces can be accomplished with much less water. Until recently, few companies even knew how long this flow should continue to ensure complete cleaning.

It’s common for dairy manufacturers to deal with even minor quality problems that may be CIP-related by increasing time in each step of the CIP wash-and-rinse programs. Most of this water—and sometimes all of it—makes one pass through the equipment and then goes straight to drain. For each minute added to the wash in an attempt to correct quality, another 100–200 gallons of hot water go down the drain.

In cleaning a typical dairy plant, three or four steps of each CIP program run water to drain. Add two minutes to each of those steps, then do that 50 times, once for each CIP performed that day, and the loss becomes a major expense in wasted water and chemicals, higher municipal charges and energy costs to heat water to CIP temperatures. And this extra time and water still seldom solve the original quality problem.

Analysis software can document expensive waste of water and chemicals during CIP. Software monitoring has allowed several dairy manufacturers to reduce water usage by more than 30,000 gallons a day. The savings were established by documenting CIP operations using the software to monitor every CIP event, correlated against perceived results and strict quality tests. Supervisors and plant managers have used this information to tune CIP programs to create more effective cleaning, using the exact amount of water required. To ensure sustained benefits, the software continues to monitor the situation.

Fine-tuning CIP programs with software can allow a plant to save $20,000 or more each month in water charges, as well as recover valuable production time. When equipment is being washed, it isn’t productive. One plant analyzed the performance of each CIP wash cycle, reduced step times and created optimum performance, saving an average of 10 minutes on each piece of equipment being washed. Since each CIP circuit washed about 10 different pieces of equipment, about 100 minutes of production time a day was recovered. That recovery equates to a 6.25-percent increase in equipment productivity with no increase in fixed costs.

Sending wastewater to drain is a required component of dairy manufacturing, and this technology makes it possible to manage and limit those costs through documented savings in water, chemicals, energy expenses for heat, and production time. This direct influence on the bottom line is a central tenet of a lean dairy operation and provides another quantifiable element to continued process improvement.

Software technologies serve the dairy and food processing industries effectively with configurable solutions for tracking, tracing and analyzing process manufacturing. This provides auditable records that reduce product loss, improve energy use and provide production data for ERP enterprise systems, aiding in Bio-Terrorism Act compliance. The ability for dairy plants to become lean through new technologies is quickly spreading to other industry sectors driven by compliance mandates.

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About The Author

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

Thomas R. Cutler

Thomas R. Cutler is the President and CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler Inc., celebrating its 21st year. Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium including more than 8000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. Cutler authors more than 1,000 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. More than 4,500 industry leaders follow Cutler on Twitter daily at @ThomasRCutler. Contact Cutler at trcutler@trcutlerinc.com.