For a variety of foods – from chocolate and biscuits to ice cream and baby food – fat is a key component, helping to determine their texture, appearance, taste and smell. This fat does not come naturally. It is made up of several processes, during which raw materials such as palm oil, fish oil and animal fat have to be melted down and refined. The fat must then remain liquid so it can be pumped through pipes, and the pumps deal with temperatures ranging between 3°C for cooling and up to 250°C for heating.
International fat processor Nutriswiss takes all of this into consideration. At the company’s facility in Lyss, north of Bern, Switzerland, maintaining an infrastructure that guarantees production reliability is a costly affair that also consumes significant amounts of energy. Moreover, many of the company’s customers use a Just-in-Time production strategy. For Nutriswiss this means that its own production process needs to continue 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
It was only natural for Bernhard Gastl, Head of Technology at Nutriswiss, to look at optimizing the process and related costs when he started his job at the refinery in 2010.
Time for a makeover
“My primary concern is the market’s needs,” says Nutriswiss CEO Stefan Böhler. “It is obvious that our production machinery is a key asset to meet these needs. I worked with Bernhard to define the standards that we needed, and provided the required means, so we could safeguard this asset when he brought this project to my attention.”
After inspecting the infrastructure at Nutriswiss’s facility, what Bernhard Gastl found was a complex collection of pumps, gauges, valves, pipes and tanks that had been in place for many years. At the time individual suppliers, often with a poor understanding of the underlying processes at Nutriswiss, were contracted to replace faulty components.
“This created a vulnerable system consisting of more than 350 pumps in different shapes and sizes,” says Bernhard Gastl. Furthermore, alignment was absent, which provided for a waste of energy, water, and other resources.
Bernhard Gastl recognized that the infrastructure needed a makeover. Any part replacement threatened production stoppage, causing costly downtime. This meant that the infrastructure had to be redesigned from scratch so that it would support the processes better, cause less maintenance and use energy more efficiently.
"I knew right away that we would have to dig deeper than merely replacing a pump."
Grundfos Technical Sales Engineer Beat Senn
Bernhard Gastl began contacting the various suppliers to touch base with them. Nevertheless, some representatives couldn’t grasp what Nutriswiss demanded and thought this was just an opportunity for another sales pitch. What Nutriswiss was really looking for was an approach that addressed issues like energy efficiency, production reliability, support, quality and inventory maintenance.
“I knew right away that we would have to dig deeper than merely replacing a pump,” says Grundfos Technical Sales Engineer Beat Senn. The magnitude of this project meant that he had to spend quite some time at the Nutriswiss facility to fully understand the organization’s inner workings.
For Beat Senn, thoroughly understanding Nutriswiss’s refining process paved the way to major savings for the company. For instance, equipping the pumps with adequate frequency converters led to controlling their use, allowing Nutriswiss to shut them down when they were not needed. This not only cut down on the use of energy, but meant substantial savings in resources like acids, bases, and ground-, circulation- and drinking water.
Yet this was not the only critical issue regarding component assembly. Some systems required customisation to become more efficient.
“One of the conflicts I identified in terms of the pump energy efficiency was the non-return valves that they came with,” says Bernhard Gastl. “I always suspected that they were the source of a considerable waste of energy. After all, their whole purpose is to block the process water away from the pumps. So Beat and I had the idea to replace those with electrically controlled butterfly valves that work just fine, while consuming a lot less energy.”
Additionally, many of the systems that have been implemented at Nutriswiss are now equipped with electrical plugging devices so that replacing them is easy and takes significantly less time.
“It used to take us up to a day to have a pump like that replaced,” says Bernhard Gastl, nodding towards an old pump that was used to circulate river water in a two-stage cooling process. “Now, we need no longer than half an hour from the time of the alert to full replacement to get it done. The staff just needs the specifications of the component to pick up the replacement from our inventory. Afterwards, they take the faulty component back to the repair shop and fix it or order a new substitute. But we always have a replacement ready.”
A bright and cost-effective future
Inventory management was yet another area of concern that had to be dealt with because it was obvious there was room for improvement.
“There are three types of Grundfos pumps in use at Nutriswiss,” says Beat Senn. “We redesigned the motor and came up with one that fits all three of them. This means that each pump can be used for a variety of applications, and it makes logistics here at Nutriswiss a whole lot easier, since the company does not have to store as many spare parts.”
The outcome of this major redesign speaks for itself: Besides considerably less stress for the technical staff, easier processes, and enhanced production reliability, this project accounts for annual electricity savings of more than EUR 300,000. Nutriswiss has now suggested implementing similar changes at nine other locations.
“This successful makeover convinced us to similarly optimise the processes at other Nutriswiss companies,” says Bernhard Gastl. “With Grundfos’ help, we will basically copy and paste what we did in Lyss in order to standardise our process, refine logistics and ensure energy efficiency always remains a priority.”
"It used to take us up to a day to have a pump like that replaced. Now we need no longer than half an hour."
Bernhard Gastl, Nutriswiss Technical Director
Different pump types with the same MGE motor
The Grundfos MGE motors range from 1.5 kW to 22 kW in size.
They are fitted on these Grundfos pump types of several sizes and variants:
F&B-HYGIA I, F&B-HYGIA II
Nutriswiss in Lyss, Switzerland, has installed these and other Grundfos pumps for applications ranging from:
Nutriswiss In A Nutshell
Nutriswiss is an oil refinery that processes oils and fats to enhance their quality. It all begins with raw materials from around the world that start out as oil or fat at the source of origin. That has to be melted down to initiate the refining procedures and serve Nutriswiss’s clients in the biscuit, chocolate, and baby food industry. Nutriswiss processes a total of 40,000 tons of raw materials per year, out of which 85% are produced for the food industry.
Text: Axel Schmidt and Jean-Paul Small
Photos: Maurizio Camagna