Moving from batch to continuous processing improves quality, reduces cleanup
Mixum AB started producing boiled and peeled eggs for restaurants and commercial kitchens in 1989, becoming the largest processor of cooked and peeled eggs in Sweden, handling 250,000 eggs daily. The company, in Motala about 100 miles west of Stockholm, has since expanded its product line to include fresh sandwiches, salads and a line of ready meals, sauces and dressings.
Mixum is also the largest producer in Sweden of cooked pasta, much of which is supplied to Picadeli AB, the salad bar chain popular in Scandinavia and parts of northern and western Europe. Mixum provides pasta-based salads to almost 3,000 Picadeli locations throughout Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany and France, representing 35 to 40 percent of Picadeli’s total product offering.
Between 2010 and 2012, Mixum rebuilt its production facilities from the ground up into a model food processing plant. Not only was it designed to be highly energy efficient, reducing energy consumption by 30 percent, but it also installed state-of-the-art food processing equipment.
From batch to continuous processing
One of those systems installed was a line of continuous-process blanching and cooling equipment for pasta, which replaced a batch processing system used for over a decade.
“We were cooking our pasta in batch vessels,” says Magnus Franzen, CEO of Mixum. “This method did not give us much control in terms of timing of the cooking and cooling because it was being done manually.
“We were looking for equipment that could not only cook, but that could also cool, so we could maintain better control over the entire process. We needed very fast cooling, so we could get more consistent product quality.”
Mixum also needed to increase its production throughput to keep pace with growing demand for its pasta products. Like many other food processors, Mixum was leaning toward shorter runs of a wider selection of products, with increasing concern about quick changeovers and faster cleanup times.
“After reviewing many process options, we decided on a continuous-process Clean-Flow XT blancher from Lyco Manufacturing and a continuous-process Easy-Flow cooler, also from Lyco,” says Franzen.
The blancher uses a 40-inch diameter auger with flights to move the pasta through water, fully submerged, from input to output.
Most important is this blancher’s faster sanitary cleanup time. What normally would take several hours for a thorough sanitary cleaning now takes 30 minutes. This not only significantly reduces labor hours required for cleanup, but also provides flexibility for more frequent changeovers to accommodate shorter production runs. A CIP system using spray manifolds cleans the auger and tank. The CIP can clean more than 98 percent of the machine by itself.
The pasta exiting the blancher is gently deposited via a flume into the Easy-Flow cooler, where it is quickly and evenly cooled to bring it down to the required 40°F final temperature.
Automatically controlling the pasta cooking and cooling—with consistent parameters for temperatures, process times and recipes—has completely outperformed the batch method used formerly by Mixum.
“Before with the batch method, we were running about 650 pounds of pasta per hour,” says Franzen. “Now with Clean-Flow XT and Easy-Flow, we are processing about 2,200 pounds per hour. This is about 85 percent maximum capacity of the machines.”
For more information, visit www.lycomfg.com