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The Art of the Perfect Mix

Operators, technicians, and mechanics provide the difference that can make every batch perfect.

Casey Bickhardt

January 29, 2024

3 Min Read
Casey Bickhardt
Casey Bickhardt, president, CEO, owner, GEMCOImage courtesy of GEMCO

In the fast-paced world of powder processing, with automation and digitization, where algorithms are buzzing, companies on the right track are perfecting the balance of technology with the art of human expertise.

It's not the alarm or the flashing sensor light that can fix the problem; it's the technician. With the right experience, they speak the language of failure, pinpointing problems before they become disasters and keeping the production line humming with smooth efficiency.

Understanding how all stakeholders are affected by technology is key to the technology’s successful development and implementation. Advocating for these conversations in the development stage has exponentially made automation and technology more adaptable and significantly more profitable. 

Automation as a Partner

The right question is: “How Did We Get Here?” During the design phases for capital equipment or retrofits, the stage belongs to an engineering concept. But concepts don’t simply become great new creations because we want to try them out. They are flushed out from the experience and ingenuity that reside within our engineering team and a host of different people. The thought generation and countless hours of testimony from end users take a concept to reality. This is what separates standard automation from custom and what is going to lead to exponential returns for your blending line.

Technology shouldn’t dictate your process; it should enhance it. That is why customers should have control. They should be able to choose what data they want to monitor, from real-time pressure and temperature readings to moisture and level insights.

For example, GEMCO’s PLC control system seamlessly integrates with sensors and software, adapting to your preferences and responding to your commands. It allows us to account for a variety of different processing parameter scenarios and recipes, to collect readings and then apply it by triggering automatic adjustments.

With high-speed encoders, you can accurately monitor the exact vessel orientation and position the vessel in the “home” or upright position when the batch is complete. This technology also allows you to create a level product bed when the batch is complete. By knowing the approximate angle of repose of the material, the vessel is rotated past the “home” position by an amount in degrees equal to the angle of repose. Once this angle is reached, the vessel reverses direction and rotates until it reaches the “home” position to complete the blend or drying cycle.

From a safety perspective, your facility can be equipped with various safety devices, from safety gates to light curtains and laser scanners. They can scan the area for both human and mechanical interference. Other safety interlocks protect more than just our coworkers, they protect the investment in the equipment and the product itself. 

An automated handling program handles the repetitive tasks, freeing your team to focus on the bigger picture. This should empower companies to apply operators' expertise where it matters the most, ensuring consistent, high-quality batches every time.

Harmony

Automation will continue to evolve, but I believe in the invaluable role of human expertise. Without ingenuity and dreams of skilled operators, we wouldn’t have many of the gadgets and technologies we have. Their complaints, their concerns, and their observations when working with equipment are pushing you to experiment with technology, try new things, and eventually get the right mix of automation on our machines.  

Automation brings us consistency and monitoring and control give us a new language to read powders. Our operators are becoming even more confident with the powders as we gather data and trends that empower data-driven decisions and confidence in our process. The operators, technicians, and mechanics provide the difference that can make every batch perfect; this is the art of the perfect mix.

Casey Bickhardt is president, CEO, and owner, the General Machine Co. of New Jersey Inc. (GEMCO) and Advanced Powder Solutions. She is the fourth generation of this family-owned business that has been operating for 108 years. GEMCO has an installed base of thousands of powder blending and drying units around the world in more than 40 industries. For more information, call 800-654-3626 or visit www.okgemco.com.

About the Author(s)

Casey Bickhardt

president, CEO, owner, GEMCO

Casey Bickhardt is president, CEO, and owner, the General Machine Co. of New Jersey Inc. (GEMCO) and Advanced Powder Solutions. She is the fourth generation of this family-owned business that has been operating for 108 years.

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