Do the benefits of automated dosing and dispensing solutions outweigh the cost of equipment?
Accurately dosing and dispensing chemical substances is the lifeblood of many plant processes.
Whether it be blending tablet ingredients, or chemically treating water, the benefits of choosing an automated dosing or dispensing solution can result in safer, more streamlined processes.
So why do so many operators hang onto their outdated, manual dispensing practices?
A key challenge with automation is that the plant operator can no longer see the dosing process occur, says Ashley Buck, coriolis product manager at flow measurement supplier, Bronkhorst.
“The main task is to convince somebody that the bucket of ingredients that they used to pour into their process, is still actually going in,” says Buck.
You have to demonstrate that to them somehow, and persuade them that if they spend less time doing that task, then the staff can spend more time doing continuous improvement elsewhere.
Ensuring high levels of accuracy is also an important factor in many industries, where ingredient costs are high or regulatory officials are demanding greater accountability, he says.
“The key driver for us and the industry is ensuring the accuracy of integrating ingredients or components into a system. For example, if you’ve got a fluid worth £1000 per kilogram, you don’t want to overshoot or under dose.”
Typical deployments for Bronkhorst flow measurement equipment include water, chemical and food industry dosing.
“The measurement technology that we promote is coriolis because that measures true mass of fluid rather than the volume,” he adds.
“Unlike weight, volume can be affected temperature changes.”
Some global process companies are now starting to standardise on a single type of dosing equipment to ensure consistent quality across widespread operations, says Buck.
“One manufacturer found they kept getting inaccurate colouration when making detergent products, and it was costing them a lot of money.”
He says the company’s production processes had involved injecting colour into water, heating it and then adding to the detergent.
A new automated dosing system allowed them to introduce raw ingredients directly into the main process, says Buck, removing the secondary process, which improved accuracy and helped them to cut costs.
However, some plant operators still prefer to view their dosing process occur, says Buck.
“It depends on the engineer and how their mind works. Someone from the older generation might not want a fully automated system whereas the new generation coming through may take the opposite view,” he says.
“We can work with the new school and the old school to make sure our products fit both situations.”
But the key motivators for change remain the same, says Buck.
“It is cost savings that drives people to look at their processes – so if you are overdosing or under dosing, then you really need to improve your processes to attain the required level of accuracy.”
He says the sizing of equipment is another factor that should be considered.
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