How do I choose a batching system that will handle multiple product formulas?
When choosing a batching system to handle multiple product formulas it is critical to choose a supplier that not only has all the hardware to physically handle the bulk and minor ingredients in an efficient and reliable manner but also one that can successfully design, build and install the electronic controls and recipe driven software to customer expectations.
Control Equipment is required to measure the quantity of material delivered (‘Batch Control’) and control the delivery system. Selection of the batch control device is normally part of the scope of supply from the company selected to supply the ingredient delivery system. The manufacturer will have programs written for various PLC and weight controllers that are specific to the operation of their equipment.
During the concept phase of the system design, they will consider the following points to select the most suitable devices: Batch size, number of ingredients per batch, number of recipes, ingredient quantities per recipe, batch cycle time, ingredient properties, location/environment, existing legacy equipment (if applicable) and job specification/criteria (this may include communication protocols with existing systems). Any PLC based controls should be stand alone and connected to a printer to generate batch record labels and production history or integrated into a larger control system that covers the whole production facility.
Mechanical Equipment is required to deliver the ingredients (conveyors, valves, feeders, etc). The control concept, ingredient delivery time and quantity determine the mechanical equipment selection. During this part of the design phase the client and vendor must consider the required ingredient accuracy per batch and batch repeatable accuracy.
Weighing equipment selection is very important to achieve the required accuracy. This means the resolution of the weighing system equals the system capacity divided by its sensitivity. In simple terms choose an appropriately sized measuring system that provides the required accuracy. Also consider suitably sized feed devices for major and minor ingredients, suitability of the selected devices for the working conditions, equipment layout/geometry, site location and ingredient delivery logistics.
These are general considerations that are non-specific to any vendor or application. The selection of equipment and control devices is typically budget driven and the return on investment provides the justification for vendor and equipment selection. There is a large variety of equipment to choose from in the market place so consider a vendor’s previous experience and capabilities.