The Vac-U-Max pneumatic conveying system installed at Piasa cuts manual labor and increases process throughput many times over. Source: Vac-U-Max.

At Piasa, producer of food additives in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, a comprehensive plan to automate and continuously update processes previously performed manually is increasing the company’s output capacity by several times. Piasa is a Mexican corporation that produces products from blended ingredients, and stocks more than 1,000 ingredients. Specializing in spices, marinades, sauces, seasonings and other additives, with an emphasis on the snack food, poultry and meat markets, Piasa aims to become a major international supplier.

“Making dramatic changes was vital to our future and competing with the major players,” explains Ricardo Madrigal, Piasa’s vice president. “With the limitations of our human-assisted blending process, it used to take 20 minutes to blend 1.5 tons of a product such as a seasoning. Now that same output can be completed in 20 seconds. That’s a 60-fold improvement that comes from automating the process.”

Automation and process integration are part of a dramatic expansion plan that has led to Piasa relocating its production to a new plant 20 times larger than the previous one. One of the technologies that enables Piasa’s aggressive plan is a pneumatic conveying system that dramatically increases throughput and eliminates several manual operations. Provided by Vac-U-Max of Belleville, NJ, the system was custom designed to meet Piasa’s new production system and future operations as well.

The pneumatic conveying system includes a bulk bag unloader and loader, large-capacity vacuum receiver and positive displacement vacuum pump package. The material is conveyed from the bulk bag unloader to the vacuum receiver and then discharged into the blender. From the blender, the material is stored in bulk bags using a bulk bag loading station. The bulk bags are then stored in a warehouse where they are used in conjunction with a separate convey system that loads the filling machine for packaging the final product.

“Material handling is an integral part of our process operations,” explains Madrigal. “The new system gives us the capacity and the flexibility we need to achieve our very energetic growth strategy. For example, we can use a Vac-U-Max dump station to feed ingredients to the blenders for smaller and many normal size orders. But for high-volume products, such as snack food coatings and flour, we can pneumatically load the blenders directly from silos at an even greater rate of speed. Considering the efficiency of our new blending systems, this gives us vastly improved production capacity.”

Safety is another important benefit of Piasa’s new pneumatic conveying system. The high-volume, automated flow of ingredients into the blender obviates the need for workers to climb ladders to load heavy bags into the system. Both the dump station and silo loading system eliminate the use of small paper and vinyl bags containing ingredients, which used to accumulate on the shop floor and had to be thrown away.

“Through the improved conveying capabilities and removal of human labor, we are able to pass significant savings along to our customers, thereby making us more competitive in the markets we seek to serve,” adds Madrigal.

For more information: Doan Pendleton; Vac-U-Max; 800-822-8629;