The 'Perfect' Fixed Industrial Mixer isn't always the best solution
In recent years, the world of powder processing has undergone significant changes. With more stringent regulations, rising labour costs and international pressures, there has never been a greater emphasis on production efficiency. Those companies who can produce faster and cheaper without compromising quality will be the ones that thrive. But with more markets demanding smaller volumes of more diversified products, manufacturers know that a process needs to be flexible as well as efficient. Companies cannot afford to overproduce products and hold excess inventories to meet varying demand. As a result, philosophies like ‘lean manufacturing’ are being viewed less as a trend and more as the essential method to follow. In this article, we explore how maximising mixer effectiveness using lean production principles is a springboard to more competitive powder processing.
Realise the Value of Your Industrial Mixer
Often the most critical aspect of a powder process and the step where the manufacturer is adding the most value is mixing. With so many different mixing technologies available it can be difficult to decide which provides the best option for lean powder processing. Deciding how best to combine batch or continuous processing, high, low or no shear, horizontal or vertical, the choice is dizzying.
Conventional wisdom would suggest analysing all mixing requirements for a process and simply selecting a mixing system that can do everything. While this approach is fantastic for successful mixing it may not address process efficiency or flexibility. To maximize productivity, key pieces of equipment, like your industrial mixer, need to keep running.
Your productivity is measured by working out the percentage of manufacturing time that is truly productive and is referred to as Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). Simply put, in the case of your industrial mixer, the more it is actually mixing, the higher it's OEE.
Quick isn’t always the fastest
Even if a batch mixing time is only a couple of minutes, it can’t be considered efficient if it takes a significant amount of time to fill or empty the mixer. While steps can be taken to improve mixer filling and emptying times, there are other factors to consider too. For example, the time required to clean the mixer can make product changeovers a time-consuming endeavour, although a necessary requirement. This not only reduces the mixing system’s OEE, but it also limits your facility’s ability to respond to sudden production schedule changes.
Efficient Industrial Mixers
One mixing technology that is capable of achieving a very high OEE is container blending. This approach uses rigid Intermediate Bulk Containers to provide a detachable blending vessel. This means formulation (filling), emptying and cleaning of the IBC is carried out separately from the mixer (parallel processing is all the processing steps working at once, rather than sequentially)
When one batch is blended, simply remove the IBC and replace it with another filled with unmixed materials. A manufacturer can begin to mix the next batch immediately even if changing recipes.
The images below illustrate the differences between the in-line and parallel solutions.
If we imagine a one tonne batch being produced in...
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