Industrial Utility Efficiency    

Meat Processor Improves Uptime, Saves Costs with Compressed Air System Upgrade

For decades, a major meat processor and packaging operation in Northern England did what many growing companies do when more compressed air is needed to meet demand: added another air compressor and then another air compressor and so on. Yet the company decided the strategy of adding equipment had run its course, especially given a positive outlook for continued growth and the need to resolve nagging issues with system downtime and compressed air quality.

The decision to start from scratch led to a compressed air system makeover, which included the replacement of small fixed-speed rotary screw air compressors scattered throughout the plant with a centralized compressed air system that not only eliminated problems encountered but also improved uptime, saved costs, and ensured ample capacity to accommodate future growth.

BOGE compressors at Cranswick Hull

By upgrading its compressed air system, a leading meat processor in Northern England improved production uptime and ensured the delivery of high-quality compressed air for years to come. 

 

Plant Outgrows Piecemeal System

The meat processing and packaging plant is one of the company’s numerous operations spread throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland. Started in 1975 as a consortium of farmers, the company has since built a reputation as a leading supplier of premium and fresh sliced cooked meats for food retailers and food service companies throughout Europe with annual revenues in excess of $2 billion.

Compressed air at the expansive processing and packaging facility is the main source of production power and is used for a diverse range of applications, from controlling valves on cooking equipment to powering pneumatics on automated conveying systems and thermoforming packaging lines.

Since the plant began operation, it steadily added production capacity and expanded to keep pace with demand for its products. All the while, decision-makers took a conservative approach to the compressed air system by installing various brands of new air compressors and auxiliary equipment when and where needed throughout the facility.

The compressed air system eventually grew to include 10 rotary screw air compressors, which ranged from 10 to 20 horsepower each, and delivered up to 460 scfm of compressed air to production and packaging lines. The original system also included eight refrigerated dryers and an equal number of wet receivers, some of which were paired with two air compressors – depending on the production process and air quality needs involved.

Over time the aging piecemeal compressed air system began to falter and became increasingly difficult to maintain. Additionally, the addition of two thermoforming lines at the plant drove the decision to explore a more reliable and cost-effective strategy for supplying the facility with compressed air for both immediate- and long-term needs.

 

Reliability a Top Priority 

The addition of the thermoforming lines shed light on the plant’s vulnerability to serious and unacceptable problem since it clearly demonstrated how the facility outgrew the existing compressed air system. It also placed even more emphasis on the need to put issues of inefficiency and serviceability behind it.

A major issue was the inability of the system to deliver enough compressed air needed for production during periods of peak demand. As such, some production areas struggled to maintain productivity since a sufficient supply of air was not always available. The addition of the thermoforming lines would only worsen the problem. It also wasn’t unusual for any one of the air compressors to require service, creating the need to bring in rental air compressors to maintain production until work was completed on the unit being serviced.

Equally troublesome were near-weekly production shutdowns as a result of problems with the quality of air delivered by the compressed air system. The problem occurred when water made its way past the dryers into the compressed air pipeline supplying production areas, and as a result, caused frequent failure of control valves on equipment located throughout the plant.

Air treatment issues, combined with the complexity of maintaining aging equipment and reliability, drove the need to upgrade the compressed air system, which included a mix of air compressors from various manufacturers.

 

Problematic Compressed Air Configuration

To more strategically address the issues, decision-makers analyzed the plant’s compressed air use to gain an accurate picture of demand. The team also vetted a number of compressed air service companies to gain ideas for resolving the issues and equipping the plant with a system capable of providing high quality air to the operation for years to come.

The team ultimately chose to partner with BOGE Compressors U.K. (https://uk.boge.com/en) to design and install a new centralized system ideally suited for the plant. BOGE  UK, based in Huddersfield, England, is a subsidiary of BOGE KOMPRESSOREN Otto Boge GmbH & Co. KG, based in Bielefeld, Germany. 

A key issue to address, said BOGE U.K. Project Manager Neil Gibson, was the configuration of the existing compressed air system.

“The plant had a single galvanized piping system with 10 air compressors linked to it, which created areas of pressure drop typically at points of use at the end of the distribution line,” Gibson said, adding the physical location of some air compressors and dryers also needed to be addressed.

“Some of them were located in the roof void of the plant between the ceiling joists and the roof with production ovens located beneath them,” he said. “The temperature in the space was tremendously high, especially during the summer months. In addition, there wasn’t enough air circulation in the space to cool the air compressors. The dryers were not getting air down to the proper pressure dew point, which let condensate into the piping system.”

Condensate, as well as particulates, entering the piping system caused pneumatically controlled valves on production equipment to malfunction, which led to production shutdowns. With the need to improve uptime and develop a more effective approach to compressed air, decision-makers decided the best option was to start with a clean slate.

“The service costs for the compressed air system were spiraling out of control and the decision to keep buying another small air compressor and dryer and install it somewhere where they had pressure drop was no longer an option, especially with continued growth,” Gibson said. “The company wanted somebody to come up with the right solution.”

 

Centralized Compressed Air System

Working closely with the plant, BOGE U.K. determined the best option was to replace the existing air compressors and related equipment with an efficient centralized compressed air system and a new piping network able to reliably deliver high-quality compressed air throughout all areas of the plant with capacity to spare.

Housed in a centralized air compressor room on the ground floor, the system includes two, fixed-speed BOGE S-3 air compressors and a Variable Speed Drive (VSD) S-3 air compressor. Each fixed-speed 75-horsepower (hp) air compressor is rated to deliver 309 scfm at 115 psig. The 75-hp VSD unit is rated to deliver 340 scfm at 115 psig. Compressed air travels from air compressors to 793-gallon wet receiver tank and through a pre-filter and into a 918-scfm-rated BOGE Fridge Desiccant Adsorption Dryer (FRDA) tandem dryer.

Three BOGE S-3 air compressors

The meat processor’s upgraded compressed air system features three BOGE S-3 air compressors located on the ground floor of the operation.

The unique tandem dryer uses a combined refrigeration and adsorption drying process to deliver a pressure dew point of -40°F (-40°C). The dryer operates by passing compressed air through a standard pre-filter, which protects the cooling circuit and efficiently removes most of the water vapor. This is followed by adsorption drying and additional filters for oil aerosols and particle separation. The moisture contained in the air at this stage is reduced to the target pressure dew point before the clean, dry compressed air is passed to the air-air heat exchanger. The air is then heated again and delivered to an after-filter before entering the newly designed pipeline network. The dryer and air filtration system together are designed to achieve moisture removal, particulates and oil to ISO 8573-1: 2010 Air Quality Purity Class 4, Class 2 and Class 2, respectively.

Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) Compliance: Two Compressed Air System Specifications – Webinar Recording

Download the slides and watch the recording of the FREE webcast to learn:

  • Direct vs. Indirect Contact with Compressed Air
  • Air Quality using ISO 8573.1 for : Particulates / Water Content / Oil Content
  • Two Examples of Food Industry Specifications
  • Refrigerated or Desiccant Air Dryer?
  • Can Coalescing Filters Remove Oil?
  • Impact of Temperature on Total Oil Content
  • Residual Oil Content and Life of Carbon Filter
  • Compressed Air Testing to comply with ISO 8573-1 Purity Classes
  • Analytical Methods for Particles ISO 8573-4:2001

Take me to the webinar

Ring Main Key to New Piping Network

Designing “the right solution” included replacement of the galvanized piping system with a new, BOGE EasiFit, 2.5-inch-diameter aluminum distribution piping system.

The approach involved the installation of a ring main (or looped piping system) encircling the production plant. Installed in the roof void, the system incorporates branch pipe connections for serving compressed air points of use. The new piping network, said Gibson, allows for more uniform compressed air supply.

“By creating a ring you allow the system to consistently provide equal distribution of compressed air, which lessens the potential for pressure drop at any point in the system,” he said. “The use of lightweight aluminum piping with push-fit connections also helped with the installation, especially since it the roof void can be hard to access and using galvanized steel would’ve made things difficult. Drops can also be quickly added where needed as the plant makes changes and continues to expand.”

 

Production Uptime Improves

Since the new compressed air system began operation, the meat processing and packaging plant has significantly improved production uptime and eliminated costs for rental air compressors.

Today, the plant normally operates one fixed-speed air compressor at near 100% capacity as a baseload unit, while the VSD air compressor picks up the additional workload when needed. Each fixed-speed machine is rotated on a weekly basis, allowing for system redundancy and ensuring consistent wear on both units. Additionally all three air compressors are equipped with BOGE focus control 2.0, which automatically sequences  the machines and delivers the appropriate  volume of air based on based end-user demand.

Looking ahead, the centralized system also gives the plant 40% additional capacity to fulfill the plant’s need for compressed air to accommodate continued growth. Importantly, Gibson said, decision-makers at the plant are able to focus on the business of production and supplying the market with quality meat products.

centralized compressed air system at meat processor

The newly installed centralized compressed air system gives the meat processing operation 40% additional capacity to accommodate future growth.

“After the engineering manager at the plant saw how the new system performed, he said ‘the system just runs’ and he’s glad because he doesn’t have to think about it. The main thing for us is that the plant is pleased with what we’ve done,” Gibson said.

 

For more information on BOGE America, Inc. visit https://us.boge.com/en-us.

All photos courtesy of BOGE U.K.

To read similar Food Industry articles, please visit https://airbestpractices.com/industries/food.