PET Food Processing - September 2020 - 50

"Creating access and context to the data is essential to
bringing value to all points on the information value chain."
Roger Woehl, SafetyChain

Conquering complexity

Those engaging
on a daily basis
with automation
technology are
key to ensuring all
the benefits of the
technology are
fully realized.
Sosland Publishing

50

The continued expansion of pet food product lines has
driven much of the automation investment over the past
couple of years. The number of ingredients and the variety
of flow rates of those materials have increased the number
of bins from which raw materials are pulled to produce the
variety consumers want.
"The expanded equipment involved, as well as complexity, is perfect for automation," Ensch said. "Automation
can deal with this complexity well and reduce the number
of operator errors."
Packaging is another area that has become more complex in recent years.
"Pet food producers and especially the treat processors
have so many package types and sizes to deal with and this
has not only expanded the number of packaging lines but
the need to do frequent changeovers," Ensch added.
Taking automated packaging systems one step further by
automating secondary - end of line - packaging to make
it retail ready serves to support and streamline the retail
aisle and help brands differentiate themselves on the shelf.
"Some believe hand-packing [packaged products] is
most flexible but that comes at a cost," said Peter Fox, senior vice president of sales, SOMIC America, Eagan, Minn.
"Hand packing is slower, the cost of packaging materials
for hand pack can be 15% to 20% more than materials that
run in form-fill machines, plus automation offers shelfready, display-ready packaging formats that can't be done
by hand. Growth in e-commerce is increasing demand for
smaller volume packages, which requires faster machines
to maintain or increase capacity."
Packaging's influence on automation is also a factor in
wet pet food and treat processing applications. The cost

PET FOOD PROCESSING | September 2020 | www.petfoodprocessing.net

savings driving investments in automation in canneries
are not only labor savings and production efficiencies, but
packaging materials as well.
"Automated systems are more efficient at running less
expensive, thinner cans with different style openings or
different coatings than manual processes allow with these
types of materials," said Eric Hanrahan, general manager,
Allpax, Covington, La.
"Also, with the increased popularity of wet pet foods,
the demand for flexibles - trays and cups - justifies the
need to add capability for different containers," he added.
"This adds complexity that automation is designed to
handle efficiently."

Safeguarding resources
In many processing environments including pet food canning facilities, energy usage can be one of the larger costs
after labor. Hanrahan said automation and intelligent technology can play an increasing role in energy recovery, reuse
and reduction.
For dry pet food and treats, the dryer is typically the
most expensive piece of equipment to run in the plant due
to energy consumption, explained Brad Stokke, principal
engineer, WEM Automation, New Berlin, Wis.
"Automated monitoring of inlet and outlet moistures
at the dryer, with the ability to make changes of dryer
zone temperatures, bed speeds, or both to achieve optimal discharge moistures, can have great return on
investment," Stokke said. "Not only is it tied directly to
product quality, additional process controls can greatly
reduce energy cost."
Technology can allow processors to catch the data that
identifies trends and allows them to improve their process. It also is key to optimizing and safeguarding limited
resources. An example is optical sorting technology that
identifies and expels foreign material in pet food product.
"Almost no product gets diverted when the foreign
material is removed," said Lars Povlsen, global sales manager proteins, TOMRA Food. "This preserves the resources
used to create the product and also dramatically reduces
waste. Today's technology enables a smoother production
flow from one recipe to another and safeguards against
cross-contamination."
Technology can do what humans simply can't by providing as much control as possible to preserve the investment
in production and preserve the brand and the resiliency of
the company as well.
Stokke emphasized that tying all of the processes of a
plant together - from raw material coming in to finished
product going out and all the interlinked data in between
- is becoming more important in managing the complexity of a modern plant.


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PET Food Processing - September 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of PET Food Processing - September 2020

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PET Food Processing - September 2020 - 1
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