Food Engineering
TECH FLASH

Food producer uses pneumatic conveying system to handle 20 tons of baker’s-like flour

New system increases safety, efficiency and energy savings with new pneumatic conveying system.

April 28, 2013

When Brian Miller, plant engineer for Mrs. Miller’s Homemade Noodles Ltd., which produces 40,000 pounds of noodles per week, switched from handling 50-pound bags of flour to handling 2,000-pound bulk bags, he knew he would need to integrate a new conveying system into his process. The former conveyor—an older, pressure-based system that transported the flour from a hopper through a volumetric feeder and finally to a mixer—would no longer satisfy the company’s needs.

Mrs. Miller’s Homemade Noodles Ltd., located in the middle of an Amish community in Fredericksburg, OH, is a family-owned and operated business that has produced preservative-free, homemade-quality products for over 30 years.

Miller’s goal was to implement a system that would efficiently convey 20 tons of very fine flour per week, and eliminate the need for manual filling. After some research, Miller found he could achieve this goal with a pneumatic conveying system from Vac-U-Max.

The Vac-U-Max system handles problems with fine powders by applying a high polish finish to the systems' interior and exterior, reducing the amount of powder that sticks to the system.

Since the inherent nature of the pneumatic system prevents loose powder from becoming airborne, it makes for a cleaner and safer environment all around. According to Miller, the system is completely enclosed and there is no mess.

Although the system has reduced some housekeeping time, Miller says the bulk of the gain is safety and efficiency.

“The new system is safer because it accommodates the super sacks better and feeds the product directly from bags without manual labor,” he explains. “Before, our guys were climbing up to a big hopper and would fill it by hand sometimes.”

In addition to increasing safety and efficiency in the plant, the new system is more compact, saves energy and reduces noise in the plant. “Space is always at a premium at any plant facility,” says Miller. “The Vac-U-Max is more compact and allowed us to eliminate that big hopper.” Miller states.

In addition to a smaller footprint, the system has fewer moving parts because it works on compressed air instead of electricity. “We used to have a couple of electric motors running in the process, but now there are none,” says Miller. Beyond reducing the noise by eliminating the motors, the unit reduces energy costs.

One of Miller’s main concerns about the compressed air was the flow rate required by the system. “We move about one cubic foot per conveying cycle, and I didn’t want to overwork the compressed air system, but it has not been a problem—it has worked very well,” he says. 

Of course, customer service is important in solving problems in an operation, too. “Our bulk bags are a little oddly sized, and the new rack didn’t fit them,” Miller explains. “I told my contact about the problem, and that very day he got an engineer on the phone who said, ‘we’ll build you a new one.’ In less than a week, a new rack arrived at the facility that was custom designed for the bags.”

For more information, call 888-241-6992 or 973- 759-4600; or visit www.vac-u-max.com.