Food Engineering

A pickle of a problem

January 1, 2008
New filters without bags reduce cleaning time.

The Eco filter integrates into existing pipelines and automatically cleans itself without human intervention, saving maintenance and materials costs. Source: Russell Finex.

As the largest privately held US pickle company in an industry that’s undergone widespread consolidation, the Mt. Olive Pickle Company understands it must operate more efficiently than the competition while producing product of the highest quality for consumers. Packing more than 90 million jars of pickles, relishes and peppers annually for distribution in over 45 states, Mt. Olive must ensure its processing meets the most stringent standards. One important process is nozzle spraying fresh-pack product with a brine wash solution.

To prevent the spray nozzles from clogging with bits of product debris washed off in the process, the brine wash solution must be filtered before each reuse. Mt. Olive, however, found the traditional filter bags it was using for this operation had distinct drawbacks. “Depending on the product running, filter bags on each production line had to be changed about once an hour, during which time production had to stop for about five minutes,” says Steve Whitman, Mt. Olive production manager.

Furthermore, filtering efficiency varied depending on how full the bags were, leading to potential spray nozzle blockage and line shutdown. To determine when to change filter bags, workers had to monitor pressure gauges. “As the outlet pressure gauge dropped and the inlet pressure gauge increased, workers knew they needed to change their bag,” says Whitman. Cleaning the strainers and changing the filter bags manually was a wet, messy job, while purchasing, storing, handling and disposing of the bags added to production costs.

Based on the recommendation of its salt bath supplier and its own research, Mt. Olive decided to install a self-cleaning Eco filter system from Russell Finex, Pineville, NC. The filter integrates directly into the pipeline and eliminates the need to change filter bags or clean filtration baskets. By means of a spiral wiper design, the filter element is kept continuously clean, ensuring optimum filtration efficiency. Therefore, cleaning the filter between batch runs is quick and easy with minimal disruption during production changeovers.

“We’re no longer having to shut down production or babysit filter bags,” says Whitman. “Because we’re getting all the particulate pieces of product out of the brine solution, we’re not blocking up our nozzles, and we’re getting good brine flow into the system.” Mt. Olive uses a number of the filters in production, which have a tap that allows the sampling of freshly filtered material to monitor quality on the fly without interrupting production. A filter management system automatically opens the oversize discharge valve at a specified differential pressure or time interval.

“Production is streamlined because the system automatically flushes and cleans itself when needed, and there’s no need to monitor, change or dispose of bags,” says Whitman.

Compared to the previous devices, these filters are saving the company a substantial amount of downtime and labor. “We’ve had zero downtime with the Eco filters,” says Whitman. “Because they’re virtually maintenance-free, they’ve helped us meet our production targets while saving labor.” u



For more information, Shaun Edwards, 704-588-9808, shaun_edwards@russellfinexinc.com.