At a recent conference, representatives from Premier Foods, global technology firm GE Intelligent Platforms and manufacturing solutions firm STICorp presented a case study on Premier Beverages' Knighton factory, in Staffordshire.
The work there is part of a wider collaboration between GE and its partners and customers, known as 'Art to Science', to apply a rigorous and scientific approach to process optimisation.
Knighton produces powder for products ranging from Cadbury's Drinking Chocolate to Angel Delight. Part of the project looked at factors affecting the bulk density of the powders produced. Analysis of full production and operational history revealed that some procedures for tackling quality issues covered in an inherited troubleshooting guide at the site needed to change.
"Most parameters accorded with the guide," said Peter Towersey, senior process technologist at Premier Foods' central office. "In some cases analysis taught us that parameters nobody had considered important affected product significantly.
"One insight solved all the quality problems on a product and there were a few parameters where the troubleshooting guide turned out to be completely wrong." For example, advice to adjust atomiser speed was shown not to work and adjusting direct steam injection temperature delivered far better returns.
David Loughlin, Knighton operations manager, said: "We think we are running the plant at 85% of what we can run at."
Project participants claimed process optimisation could deliver significant reduction in waste and major efficiency improvements.