Choosing processing components goes beyond stainless steel

– it’s about relationships and trust

As we have discovered at Tetra Pak with customers around the globe, sometimes it’s just a matter of getting the right component in the right place – and with the proper settings to match the recipes and processing lines. The following stories are drawn from a variety of settings: small-scale regional dairies in France; large-scale milk production in China; a greenfield plant to expand UHT milk production in Brazil; and faster and more cost-efficient pet food manufacturing in the US. But they all share one thing in common: choosing the right component – correctly dimensioned and installed – and having the confidence that it will perform exactly as planned. An optimised experience leading to optimised operations.

Tetra Pak operators

Regional and global synergies produce triple-win in central France

Sometimes global meets regional in interesting ways, depending on lines of trust that stretch out over time and space. Soubrier Besse, a fifth-generation family-owned business located in the Central Massif region of France, has been a loyal Tetra Pak integrator for more than 30 years.

With 70 employees, they design, install and maintain food processing installations for the dairy and cheese industry in their mountainous region, where they cater to the special needs of small and medium-sized producers. As part of their engineering and service solutions, Soubrier Besse offers a range of Tetra Pak high-speed separators, homogenizers, heat exchangers, and numerous other plant components.

Typical challenges involve increasing capacity and upgrading processing lines, but assignments sometimes stretch into the nuances of small-scale production of specialty cheeses, for example. One of their customers brought us a challenge involving sheep milk pre-treatment, in which spores had to be removed via bacteria & spores removal. Butas sheep milk is very special, the process also had to take into account the quality of the incoming milk during different seasons of the year.

Consultations and calculations provided by our separator support in Lund, Sweden, were able to show that the functionality and volume could be provided by one of our smaller separator models, if it were combined with an outgoing milk recycling circuit – and they also provided the correct settings.

“In our part of France, we do things in a particular way with our cheeses,” says Jean- Jacques Besse, managing director and owner of Soubrier Besse. “So it’s good to know that Tetra Pak can back up their premium equipment sizing with calculations that take into account our specific requirements. Our dairy customers benefit from Tetra Pak’s support know-how and innovations, as well as their performance guarantees.” There are additional benefits for integrators like Soubrier Besse. Single-sourcing component procurement offers more competitive pricing, confidence and trust. In addition, with a single vendor for technical tasks and services, the need for staff training is minimal, and any updates or upgrades will be more comprehensive and efficient.

So there is a strong long-term synergy based on combining Soubrier Besse’s local establishment, their engineering and service capabilities, with Tetra Pak local and global product expertise, brand reputation and innovation.

“Soubrier Besse has extended our reach to customers we wouldn’t ordinarily meet,” says Antony Isidro, Key Component Sales Manager for France/Benelux. “Their relationships to dairy producers in the area have been built on trust going back generations. And now Tetra Pak is part of that chain of trust as well, building on product safety and peace of mind. It’s a win- win-win situation.”

Homogenizer and a glass of milk

Gearing up for homogenization with the right methods and tools.

Sometimes the pathway to the right component is quite involved, going beyond pure technological choices to involve measurement methods and personnel skills.

The two top market-leading dairy producers in China are also the top two Tetra Pak customers in that market, both for packaging and processing solutions. They produce a wide range of products, including white and flavoured milk, yoghurt, and many other dairy formulations. Both producers strive for optimal line efficiency and low costs, while maintaining consistent product quality and minimal environmental load. Homogenizers were identified early on as main components, due to their significant consumption of energy and the cost of spare parts within processing lines.

To strengthen our relations with these two market leaders and to reduce their energy cost, we embarked on a two-year knowledge transfer project focused on homogenization performance, how to measure it and how to set the optimal pressure, which has a direct impact on choosing the optimal homogenizer.

We promoted the NIZO methodology, most commonly used in the dairy sector to measure the homogenization effect, and helped our customers set up facilities and measurement protocols within their R&D departments. Our experts trained up joint customer/Tetra Pak teams to measure NIZO values, and our customers’ R&D departments set up new quality control and quality acceptance criteria based on NIZO values.

Joint research with our customers found that Tetra Pak homogenizer performance was much better than the competitors in terms of NIZO values: achieving better product quality with less homogenizing pressure (thus achieving significant energy reduction), as well as savings on spare parts, thanks to the possibility of downsizing the homogenization and the unique design of our patented homogenizing device – HD100.

By measuring NIZO values, we also managed to guide customer attention to our competitor’s pneumatic pressure adjustment system, which when compared with the Tetra Pak hydraulic system, cannot deliver consistent NIZO values, due to larger pressure fluctuations during production. This creates instability and uncertainty, with a large risk of final products not meeting quality standards.

Unstable working pressure also leads to unexpected wear and tear on crankshaft and bearings, which have even caused homogenizer breakdowns at different customer sites. Our customers have even had us rebuild competitor homogenizers, by retrofitting Tetra Pak homogenizing devices and hydraulic systems on them.

The overall result of the NIZO focus was a win for the customers when they installed our homogenizers: about a 15-30% reduction in energy costs, and additional savings from reduced costs for spare parts. Fat floating and protein sediment issues were solved, and more consistent product quality was achieved, with fewer breakdowns and associated costs, adding up to higher line efficiency and a greater contribution to sustainable operations.

But it was also a win for Tetra Pak, as our market share for homogenizers with both customers went from low numbers to about 80%. As both of them have a strong motivation to build up digitalised operations with a high level of line automation, we expect that Tetra Pak homogenizers will continue to play a very important role in their production expansion.

About NIZO values

The NIZO method is used by Tetra Pak to measure homogenization efficiency in milk, usually based on laser diffraction, which measures the average fat globule size in the sample after homogenization. NIZO is a percentage value where higher numbers mean smaller fat globules and therefore longer stability – that is, how long the product can stay stable on the shelf without a cream layer forming. The intended shelf-life of the milk determines the necessary NIZO value for every product, since it is important to not waste energy by over-homogenizing.

Particle size is crucial when measuring homogenization efficiency

But all products cannot be measured the same way. All measurements done by laser, which measures light scattering.

Different ways to present results: D[4;3], D[3;2], D[5;3], dv90,dv50, dv10

More info: 4 important questions about the NIZO method | Tetra Pak

NIZO table
People in a meeting

“Show me the numbers – show me the real value”.

Turning a reluctant customer into an enthusiastic one can sometimes be a case of running the numbers. Because numbers don’t lie. Especially when they’re backed by guarantees.

Turning a reluctant customer into an enthusiastic one can sometimes be a case of running the numbers. Because numbers don’t lie. Especially when they’re backed by guarantees.

The challenge faced by Tirol, the fifth-largest dairy producer in Brazil, with more than 150 different SKUs, was easy to describe. In order to expand their UHT production, they were ready to invest in a large greenfield plant, capable of producing 600,000 litres/day. And they wanted to single-source the entire plant, in order to enjoy more straightforward service and maintenance.

Given our recognised strength in UHT production, we made an offer including a pasteurizer, a separator and a bactofuge besides the UHT system, but were met with resistance. Even if we had some demonstrably superior performance and quality processing components, they preferred another one of their established vendors, and because they were committed to a single source for the entire plant, that meant no deal.

We sharpened our offer with a proposal to compare their technology with ours. And when it came to separation and spore removal capability – we knew we could convince them to change their minds, as we could offer an innovative solution that would optimize their TCO.

Our hero in this race was our separators, which feature our AirTight technology, running on up to 20% less energy than a semi-open separator. Our Encapt™ technology option on the larger models even takes it a huge step further. This is a vacuum option that reduces internal air resistance, and leads to an additional 20% reduction in energy consumption compared to our traditional range. Considering the calculations based on separators with the Encapt option, they would experience huge energy savings compared to a semi-open paring disc separator – up to 40%. And to sweeten the deal, we offered performance warranties.

Another advantage of AirTight technology is that there is no risk of overflow or air incorporation into the product, so the capacity can be easily adjusted. You can adjust to different recipes just by changing the pressure. This flexibility is an undisputable advantage of the hermetic design of our high- speed separator compared to the traditional semi- open paring disc technology, which is what every other separator manufacturer supplies.

“They were happy with the total cost of ownership of our machine compared to our competitor,” says Rachel Goncalves, Product Manager Separators. “The difference was so huge that it led to us winning the entire plant. After installation and production start-up, our lines fulfilled their promise by performing according to our initial calculations. Energy consumption and the discharge interval matched what we had promised.”

Woman in lab

Producing pet food with a high-shear flair.

One of the ways that Tetra Pak makes it easy to choose the right component is product testing. Customers can bring their formulations to one of our Product Development Centres (PDCs) around the world and test their recipes with different mixing technologies and process parameters. We’re able to demonstrate the ease of operation of processing components and to test the right mixing set-up – before they invest. Because seeing is believing.

This was the case with an integrator in the US with a pet food customer that was investing in a new plant and wanted to shorten their batch times. They were also experiencing problems with poor mixing, clumping of powdered ingredients and long processing times, including CIP. They didn’t have any Tetra Pak equipment installed, but thought that Tetra Pak’s high-shear mixer might be able to turn things around.

So they arranged to visit the PDC in Denton, Texas, driving for a few hours with a small truck filled with sacks of ingredients. In a single day they managed to run eight different trials of our variable high-shear mixer on three pet food recipes, one with gravy and two using alginate as a thickening and stabilising agent – which results in a very high-viscosity product.

The customer was used to using a gravity feed mixer with a high speed blender, and transferring the product from one tank to another when another mixer was required. Our PDC experts explained that they would have to forget what they’ve done in the past, re-think their process, and consider different technologies.

The first was vacuum feeding, where powdered ingredients are introduced under vacuum beneath the surface of the liquid in the mixer, rather than being dumped on top of the liquid. This avoided the clumping effects and the “fisheyes” that normally build up, because the mixture is subject to instant shearing and dispersion. Vacuum also helps to increase the powder intake rate, and thus decreases the batch time.

The second was Tetra Pak’s dynamic stator, which is capable of being raised or lowered and provides both high-shear mixing and gentle blending. A happy by-product of this feature is that the product doesn’t have to be transferred to a separate tank for two different types of mixing, which cuts mixing time, CIP time and product losses in the transfer process. To their surprise, the customer was able to run alginate recipes for 500 litres in just 5 minutes. For the gravy formulation, steam was injected directly into the mixer after low-shear blending for efficient heating of everything in the same tank, and the batch was ready in 12 minutes. PDC staff provided advice on recipe validation and processing settings, and were able to provide insights into working with difficult, high- viscosity ingredients based on past experience and knowledge. After the product trials, we were able to work with the customer to appropriately size the mixers for the different applications in their product line. “This was a new processing world for the customer,” says Tony Wilkoski, Processing Account Manager. “They had hands-on experience with new equipment that gave speedy results with the required quality, and the trials gave them confidence in their choice of technology. So they ended up ordering eight variable-shear mixers.”

Location - Tetra Pak Product development centres

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