Rising costs from inflation and an increased focus on reducing carbon dioxide emissions make product loss management more important than ever in dairy plants. One major reason losses occur in the dairy industry is because timing or other processing parameters are set incorrectly, causing a lot of valuable dairy product to be unnecessarily discarded along with the facility’s wastewater. ColloidTek’s Collo Analyzer addresses this problem by detecting any type of liquid in the pipes in real-time, offering a solution for optimizing production and cutting product losses.      

The rising costs of raw milk, electricity and other expenses are driving dairy plants to put more focus on reducing milk loss. The cost of raw milk has increased by 64% in two years in the EU region, and in some countries the price is significantly higher. With thin profit margins, it is strategically necessary for dairy plants to minimize product loss. At the same time, there is global pressure to reduce the carbon footprint of dairy production, and milk loss during processing plays a key role. 

The scale of the problem is huge. Considering that the EU alone has more than 12,000 milk processing and production sites handling over 161 million tons of raw milk in 2021, significant volumes of milk could be saved. This means that, as a whole, the dairy industry could greatly reduce carbon footprints for dairy plants across the EU by prioritizing the reduction of production losses. 

“But to be able to minimize wasting valuable milk products, it is essential to know where in the process the leak happens,” says Mikko Tielinen, head of sales at ColloidTek. “With conventional methods it is hard to meet that goal, which often results in milk products being unnecessarily flushed out with the wastewater. When a leakage then shows in the form of excess organic waste in the effluent, it is extremely difficult to determine where it is coming from.”

Millions of Down the Drain
For a typical dairy plant with an intake of around 250 million liters of milk per year, a loss of just 1% of the raw material corresponds to throwing about one million euros down the drain. Tielinen points out that current solutions are insufficient for addressing the problem. Flow rate timing is inaccurate, and traditional sensors are unreliable and imprecise, with fouling and creep being major issues. As several types of traditional sensors are needed to detect different types of liquids, such as whey, cream and cleaning chemicals, the optimization systems become complicated and expensive to manage.

“Our solution, on the other hand, offers an easy and very accurate way to detect where exactly in the process the leakage is,” Tielinen says. “It measures the exact real-time liquid fingerprint at any desired point in the process with a single EMF-sensor. Combined with machine learning, our solution ensures that the process stays optimized and easily monitored through our cloud solution.”

Addresses Problems at the Source
Usually, product losses in processing are noticed when there is an excess of organic material in the effluent. However, this can also be a sign of problems in the production. Measuring just the effluent does not tell why, and from where too much milk product is getting flushed out with the wastewater. “As our technology can supervise all the draining points in real-time, it can keep track of the liquids in the pipes and show exactly where the leakage is,” states Tielinen. “This makes it possible to address the problem at the point of origin, saving huge amounts of milk and money.” 

In addition to directly improving the profitability of a dairy plant, reducing the milk waste also lowers the cost of wastewater treatment and helps dairies to achieve their environmental goals. “Most of the carbon dioxide generated in a dairy production originates from the stages before the milk even arrives at the dairy,” explains Tielinen. “That is why it is essential to not waste valuable milk in the dairies’ processing operations. If milk-based products are lost in a dairy, a replacement amount of milk will have to be produced and transported to the dairy, which will produce even more carbon dioxide emissions.”