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Creating a Powder Handling System to Improve Production Efficiency

Image courtesy of Matcon IBC_System_MATCON.jpg
This Matcon IBC system helped True Protein improve its production efficiency and capacity.
A sports nutrition products manufacturer implemented a system that enables scalable growth potential.

Based in Sydney, Australia, True Protein is a family-owned business that manufactures a range of all-natural sports nutrition products, including protein powder blends and pre- and post-workout supplements. Established in 2014, True Protein has become one of Australia’s fastest-growing natural sports nutrition company, producing more than 300 products and 12 protein flavors made from the finest globally sourced ingredients.

Specializing in producing 100% natural products that have essential amino acids to assist muscle growth and healthy antioxidants, True Protein products contain no added sugar, artificial flavors, or preservatives.

Besides Australia, True Protein also distributes to New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada, and the United States. Its customers include a mix of high-profile athletes, sports teams, health conscious fitness enthusiasts, and gyms.

The Need

The company’s original process consisted of two lines. Line one comprised a small vertical mixer that was emptied by the operator into small drums. These drums were manually fed into a hopper that supplied a small screw conveyor filling a 250-g pouch auger packing machine. The second line consisted of a larger version of the first line. However, on this line there was a 600-l vertical mixer hopper feeding an inclined bucket elevator that, in turn, fed a 1-kg bag filler running at 6-8 bags per minute.

This production set-up was labor intensive and inefficient with numerous manual handling process steps. Product recipe changeover was slow due to the amount of equipment cleaning needed when switching recipes, and floor space was also tight, limiting True Protein to smaller-volume, campaign-style production.

To meet an escalating order demand and growth ambitions, True Protein purchased a larger building next to its existing premises to cater for the expected 50% growth in production capacity, and sought a new production setup that could support its requirements.

The Right Solution

From the outset of project discussions, True Protein liked the simplicity and flexibility that the Matcon IBC system offered. The company could see the opportunity to improve efficiency and production capacity, while significantly reducing the amount of manual handling steps. Future product formulations would also be easily introduced into the manufacturing process.

Ben Kierath, managing director at True Protein, had previous experience with a Matcon system at a major company in Europe, and recognized that by installing a new Matcon IBC system, the company would be able to benefit from:

* Handling multiple flavors and batch sizes in one shift due to the quick changeover now possible during blending
* Reducing cleaning time as IBCs can be washed ‘offline’ before being put back into production
* Enhancing product integrity as previously hard-to-handle powders such as whey powder could now be discharged without risk of segregation using the Matcon cone valve.

The Matcon team worked closely with the team at True Protein to determine the most process efficient layout tailored to its needs, and Matcon provided 3D model drawings to support this. The existing building structure was put to good use: the mezzanine floor was utilized for the sack tipping of raw materials into the IBCs and the side wall was used for raw material storage.

Together a system was developed and designed to increase flexibility and efficiency of production, while also addressing the following key areas for improvement:

• Reduce manual handling
• Reduce downtimes with off-line cleaning
• Rapid recipe changeovers
• Implement a system that enabled scalable growth potential and flexibility to handle a wider range of ingredients

The new Matcon system included the following process equipment:

* A raw ingredient IBC filling system that loads the batch ingredients into an IBC. These ingredients include whey powders, various flavors, and minor ingredients.
* Multi-sized IBC blender accommodating IBCs from 1,000-1,500 l
* Batch feed system discharging to a pouch packing machine
* IBC wet wash system
* 1,000- and 1,500-l stainless steel IBCs

Image courtesy of True ProteinTrue_Protein_MATCON.jpg

True Protein manufacture 100% natural protein supplements.

The Benefits of a Matcon System

Improved Product Security

IBCs are formulated off-line ready for blending. The 3-in-1 sack tip unit provides a closed transfer of material from sack to IBC with all ingredients being sieved and passed over a permanent magnet during the filling operation giving quality assurance. A dust collection system ensures that powders are processed in a dust-free environment, creating safe working conditions for operators and reducing the risk of product cross contamination.

Faster Recipe Changeover and Blending Times

Product changeovers are now much quicker than with vertical mixers. With blending taking place within the IBC itself, there is no need to clean the blender between recipe changes, as there is no risk of cross-contamination, even when using allergens. The product always remains contained in the IBC before being moved directly to packing. This offers the ability to mix any recipe, any time, and has given True Protein the full flexibility it needs to fulfil orders on demand. 

The ability to quickly load and unload the IBC blender when compared to a vertical mixer will also reduce the amount of non-value-added time or waste.

By using IBCs, cleaning critical equipment and product contact parts is done ‘off-line’. This IBC blending approach minimizes critical equipment downtime, improving the productivity and process efficiency and gives True Protein the flexibility to develop and handle a wider product range.

Packing Efficiency

By delivering IBCs (used for blending the powders) directly to a discharge position above the packing line, there is a total elimination of double and triple handling during the transition from blending to packing.

The Matcon discharge station is capable of interfacing with any number of packing systems and provides an automatic, controlled flow of product directly to the packing line, without the need for secondary feeding equipment to regulate the flow. This means that recipe changeover can be done with the minimum amount of downtime as cleaning is quick and easy.

The cone valve within each of the Matcon IBCs ensures that product is discharged without any risk of segregation. 

With the refilling of the infeed hopper being reliable and steady, the accuracy and speed of the packing machine is optimized while achieving a quality product in the final pack and reducing the risk of waste. 

The Results

Ben Kierath, managing director of True Protein, highlights the following key accomplishments since implementing a Matcon solution.

Process Efficiency and Cleaning
“Since going live with the Matcon IBC blending system, True Protein's manufacturing capabilities have become more streamlined and efficient. The Matcon system enables trusted cleaning procedures that gives us absolute confidence when it comes to changing from one formula to the next. Ensuring we eliminate any chances of allergen cross contamination is essential to our business.”

Safer Workplace
“Creating a safe working environment is our number one priority at True Protein and installing a Matcon IBC blending system has really contributed towards creating a safer workplace.” 

Rewards to the Business
“The Matcon IBC blending system allows us to blend much larger batches than our previous system, providing significantly increased efficiency due to reduced batch preparation, cleaning and blending times.”

For more information, visit www.matconibc.com

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