The DMK group’s Zeven plant in Germany is one of the country’s leading producers of milk powder processing around 2 million liters of milk every day. In 2017, due to operational issues, the plant faced frequent powder build ups in the dryer outlet and around the cyclone filters. This required the plant to be shut down for many hours, up to three times a week, so that powder deposits could be removed manually. Andreas Stoeck, Plant Manager at DMK put it very simply: “We had to make the process stable,” he said.
The challenge: maintaining a stable operation
An initial analysis of the causes of the build ups showed operational difficulties in maintaining a stable operation while running the process with the required settings: recipe settings and operation parameters aimed at maximizing the production rate. When running a plant at its highest productivity, it is necessary for an expert operator to keep continuous watch to avoid the process becoming unstable. “This is why many plants with manual control are running the process with conservative settings to avoid problems, at the cost of lower productivity,” said Dr. Hassan Yazdi, GEA Digital Service Product Manager.
The solution: always top tuned for changes in the process
GEA worked closely with Stefan Geils, Continuous Improvement Specialist at DMK Zeven, to implement two separate initiatives. Using CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) technology GEA simulated a range of settings and selected the most operationally appropriate. Meanwhile, GEA developed and implemented plant-wide process optimization - from standardization to evaporators and the dryer – to allow the automatic operation of the plant, at the highest level, 24/7. Under a GEA OptiPartner contract, all the optimizers are monitored remotely from the GEA service center to make sure they are always top tuned for changes in the process.
Advanced process control solution must be continually updated based on process insight, otherwise it will degrade and objectives will not be achieved. That’s why we introduced GEA OptiPartner.” - Dr. Hassan Yazdi, Senior Digital Services Product Manager, GEA
The results: closer to the optimum level
The system is now running at 98% uptime with no shutdowns reported during the summer of 2018 and production rates up by 4.2% on the previous year. In addition, as the whole process is now stable it has been possible to bring the powder quality closer to the optimum level for parameters such as moisture and protein content. Overall specific power consumption in the drying production line has also fallen by 4.2% compared with 2017. The GEA OptiPartner process optimization solution is provided as a service without any capital expenditure. GEA and DMK Zeven have a long-term partnership to maintain and even improve the benefits long-term based on the GEA OptiPartner contract.
The future: working together for further improvement
GEA OptiPartner provides continuous process optimization so the partnership between customer and service provider is designed for the long term. As DMK product portfolio extends continuously and production become more complex, the system is adapted to maintain excellent results both in terms of product quality and productivity. As part of the service, GEA will work closely with DMK to identify potential areas of further improvement for the whole plant. Furthermore GEA and DMK Zeven are working together to develop process simulation for training new members of staff and for identifying hazards as part of the company’s health and safety policy.
The combination of a motivated DMK team and the support from the GEA engineers has been the key to achieving these outstanding performance improvements.” - Stefan Geils, Continuous Improvement Specialist, DMK Zeven
GEA OptiPartner - Process optimization as GEA Service
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GEA OptiPartner - Increasing process stability
Product Manager Hassan Yazdi presents the new GEA OptiPartner. GEA OptiPartner is a digital software solution that combines GEA’s process design and operational know-how for process optimization of production lines. Using advanced data-driven and machine learning technologies, GEA OptiPartner increases the efficiency and productivity with full visibility of process performance.