Keeping the food and beverage industry rolling

Engineering in the food and beverage industry is the backbone to all efficient production processes, with manufacturers constantly searching for methods to streamline systems to ensure quality output while minimising cost and maximising profitability.

Making things easier for the food and beverage industry is certainly an important mission for ABB New Zealand.

“ABB operates in New Zealand and in over 100 countries with our own manufacturing, logistics and sales operations together with a wide network of local channel partners that can quickly respond to customer needs,” says Johan van der Westhuizen, ABB’s business development manager for the food and beverage sector.

“We also have seven global research and development centres, with more than 8,000 technologists and ABB also invests $1.5b annually in innovation.”

And with such demand for food and beverage, innovation is certainly needed in New Zealand food and beverage facilities to allow for more flexibility, while at the same time avoiding high energy costs and unplanned downtime.

“ABB is very technology driven, offering ways for customers to automate more to help increase productivity as well as safety,” says Westhuizen.

“In the ABB Motion business unit, we have an extensive range of general purpose and industrial drives, high efficiency IE5 SynRM motors, softstarters and a comprehensive automation offering that includes a wide range of scalable PLCs and a selection of HMIs, instrumentation and robotics.

“With functional safety options, from built-in safe torque off to safety PLCs, our customers can also readily implement safety requirements.”

The adoption of digitalisation and Industry 4.0 technologies is helping to prevent unexpected downtime while optimising the operation of food and beverage manufacturers’ assets.

In a food and beverage facility where every piece of equipment can play a critical role, it is essential to know if there are any issues early on to prevent unexpected machinery failure. The capabilities offered by ABB mean that these sorts of issues can be detected early.

“Using our expertise, we can have these facilities connected so the customer can see plant-wise how things are performing, if there are any issues they can make some informed decisions, it’s very automated. From digitalisation, we maximise our customers’ plant performance.”

Westhuizen says that ABB Motion discusses with its customers actionable insights to help optimise and monitor the condition of their plant equipment, how cloud-based technologies can be utilised to help understand and predict potential downtime and enable the schedule of maintenance.

“We try to understand the business objectives, their goals, their long-term and work with them on the journey.”

John Brooks is also helping food and beverage manufacturers succeed.

In particular, winemakers and manufacturers of other liquids such as milk, honey and beer can benefit from the company’s Fluid-Flo pump.

Available with centrifugal, flexible impellar and rotary lobe pump options to suit a variety of applications or pumping needs, managing director at John Brooks, Karl Brooks, says it is a product that saves time by automating pumping tasks within a processing plant.

“It’s a portable pump and it allows you to have different control and variable speed options so you can connect it to different vats and run through different modes.

Brooks says that many Fluid-Flo pumps have been sold to wineries and craft breweries to transport liquids from one tank to another.

“It is helping not only the liquid, but the process part of the liquid. For example, in winemaking it will still have skins in it for getting the colour into the liquid of different viscosities.”

First designed in 2001 at a winemaker’s request, the company says that at least one Fluid-Flo pump can be found at more than 50% of Kiwi wineries.

“But it’s not just limited to wine – it can do honey, beer, milk, olive oil, chemicals,” says Brooks.

“You can connect it up to a flow meter and pump precise volume amounts, you can have it connected to a flow sensor that when it reaches the top of the tank when it’s filling, for example, it will shut off automatically, or as it’s emptying it will shut off.”

The product is also exported to Australia’s wine industry; however, Brooks says recent wildfires and droughts have meant yields have been down. The ongoing pandemic has also had a negative impact.

“Obviously with COVID-19 and the ability to travel safely and effectively between the two countries has made it more difficult to visit and follow up.”

Exporting has also been a recent struggle for Global Stainless Industrial.

“It’s a challenge just to know how to market it, to get it overseas,” says Lincoln Raikes, manager at Global Stainless.

“We know from our happy New Zealand customers at how happy they are that we offer an alternative way of a tank, a spherical tank, but getting it overseas is the challenge.”

Despite the challenges though, there is no doubt that there is some great Kiwi ingenuity in this sector.

As ABB’s Westhuizen says, “in New Zealand our primary industry is food and beverage,” so it is important for all in the industry to work with customers to find the right solution as we move into the future of engineering in food and beverage.