The Mepaco team engineers equipment and systems specific to the processing application in each thermal processing project. In mixing and blending operations, application engineering is especially important because product quality and efficiencies are at stake. The food product, viscosity, texture, cycle times, and thermal processing technology including agitator designs are considered in the best cooking equipment solution. Here are a few examples of challenges that were solved by cooking solutions customized to the processing application.
Challenge: A mega prepared foods processor needed to accumulate flowable product after the cooking cycle, while waiting for downstream operations.
Solution: Mepaco engineered heated Buffering Mixers which kept the particulates in various densities in suspension until downstream operations signaled for more product. A single agitator with an inner/outer ribbon was utilized to meet the products' homogeneous state required for quality targets for downstream filling operations.
Challenge: A chicken processor required a scaled tempering, tenderizing, cooking, and shredding solution to replace manual processes.
Solution: Mepaco provided a 75 gallon double agitated ThermaBlend Cooker with ribbon agitators that performed well in each processing stage. The cooker was controlled to temper the meat, massage, tenderize, cook, shred, and finally blend with a thickening sauce. All five processes were completed in the ThermBlend Cooker solution, removing manual operations.
Challenge: A fruit pie filling manufacturer wanted to streamline pie filling cooking and blending operations while maintaining product integrity.
Solution: Mepaco engineered a ThermaBlend Cooker that cooked and blended the fruit, then continued cooking when the sauce compound was added, then cooled the filling within a short cycle to maintain product integrity and increase efficiency. The agitator design was a single shaft with dual paddles and a scraper system to prevent product burn-on during the cooking cycle, and blended ingredients with minimal shear.
CLICK HERE for a video introduction to the ThermaBlend Cooker.
An uptick in the manufacturing economy, reduction of COVID restrictions, COVID vaccine availability and the Suez Canal crisis have made material sourcing and parts management unpredictable.
Apache’s material supply in stainless sheet and plate are produced in the United States. Pipes, fittings, and electrical components are often produced overseas. Further, some components such as motors and gear boxes may require parts from foreign suppliers to manufacture their products.
In 2020, many material suppliers and component manufacturers depleted inventory to manage budget during shutdowns and slow economic conditions. Now, these businesses are scrambling with staff and resources to support demand.
Apache is being proactive with all sourcing solutions. We are working closely to leverage our relationships and buying power with vendors to manage our sourcing needs. We are looking into other supply partners and manufacturers with flexibility and less dependency on foreign manufacturers.
We do not know when the situation will normalize, but we can offer our expertise and advise. If you haven’t done so already, switch from a “Just-In-Time” parts program to a “Just-In-Case” program. Make sure you have long lead items in your parts inventory, so you don’t experience downtime in your critical operations.
Long Lead Time Parts:
Please note that even short lead time components are at risk of delays.
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 920-356-7347.
The Metering Screw Conveyor with surge loading capabilities is the key equipment component in this (above) 24/7 formulation line.
In the system above, pre-broken frozen food products (red meat, fish, chicken, vegetables) are delivered to a designated metering screw on a traversing belt which locates the exact drop position. Once the recipe is established and the demand is made, the applicable metering screws deliver product.
Load cells are used to measure product displacement over a given time (loss-in-weight method). Mixers, blenders, or cookers signal for the raw materials in a given SKU, and the surge loading metering screw conveyors will deliver the correct quantity of product required through the primary grinder and then to the batch for final formulation.
Metering screws have versatile designs that are suitable for different food handling requirements:
Metering Screws provide the surge loading benefits required to fulfill production goals in the batch formulation system above. The clean-sweep Metering Screw has an off-set screw agitator designed to clear food product from the hopper between batches. This batch processing line reduced labor and eliminated downtime with continuous, 24/7 large batch production: utilizing real-time material availability and on-demand formulation.
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The main reasons that Mepaco Mixers have a legacy in Meat Processing is the Total Cost of Ownership, created by blend accuracy, sanitation efficiencies and proven safety features.
The overlapping paddle blender will guarantee a homogeneous blend that reaches ½% deviation in less than 90 seconds of blending, resulting in:
Mixers are designed to fully discharge contents of each batch which allows for traceability from batch to batch. Electropolished finishes on food contact surfaces creates an ultra-smooth finish that produces efficiencies in sanitation.
Equipment designs, safety grates and safety relays prevent staff from reaching into equipment.
The robust build and workmanship quality, combined with blend accuracy, safety and sanitation performance is why these Mixers are still in operation after 49 years.
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The type and viscosity of food product, thermal processing technology, desired texture, and cooking/processing cycle times are considered when specifying the agitator solution. Primary consideration for mixing or blending agitator solution begins with the ability for the food product to self-level. Agitator configurations also include scrapers with indirect cooking applications.
In some applications, the agitator itself may not significantly affect throughput improvement, but the overall solution does. The driving forces for throughput in batch processing is cycle times, loading, and discharging.
However, the wrong agitator solution will not mix or blend the product well. Solids need to be homogeneous and remain intact during processing operations. Further, the product must remain in a mixed state throughout the process and discharge operations.
During project discussions, Mepaco’s application team defines mixing as adding ingredients for the correct mix and consistency, while blending provides a change of the food product's properties.
The thermal processing solution is customized to the specific application. The PLC is programmed to include agitator speeds, pauses, and direction changes for the desired results. Further, the Mixer or Blender equipment will be sized for the batch volume required along with options (vacuum, cooling, searing, caramelizing) to meet the batch cycle times, quality and throughput goals for the processing solution.
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Large-volume automation in the meat processing industry brings a higher risk of foreign material contamination. Foreign material can include metal shavings and shards from grinders, mixers and dicers, wood and nails from pallets, and numerous other materials like plastics and glass.
The following are equipment options and proper maintenance practices that can help mitigate foreign material risk in food handling transfer areas:
Mepaco’s Meat Processors opt for dumping equipment features that provide the highest level of personnel and food safety, including:
Apache routinely conducts tests for customers and in-house studies on the benefits of electropolished surfaces on food contact surfaces.
Highlighted above, is a study that compares high-end finishes under 200X magnification:
It shows the RA (Roughness average) reading in four finish examples of 304 stainless steel. In the study, the electropolished finish is more than six times smoother that the bead blasted finish.
What makes this study significant is that food processors can leverage electropolished surfaces to increase food safety performance. Our customer’s who choose electropolished food contact surfaces tell us that food safety is significantly enhanced, and sanitation efficiencies are realized in time savings and water usage.
We received a request for a maintenance audit on a high volume meat processing line that is a supplier to fast food restaurant chains. The first round of inspection uncovered several maintenance issues:
A Pump Feeder motor kept tripping the breaker and caused constant down-time.
The gearbox bearings were bad and was causing excess loading. The gearbox was replaced which fixed the issue. Reducing down-time for that Pump Feeder.
Mixers on the processing line did not pull sufficient vacuum.
Both mixers had multiple vacuum leaks through cracked welds, worn out seals, incorrect seals and improperly installed seals The seals were replaces and the cracked welds were repaired which allowed the unit to pull required vacuum 2 minutes faster, decreasing cycle times.
Inspection uncovered possible catastrophic failure of the agitators.
Both mixers had agitators with cracked welds. They were repaired during scheduled maintenance.
Vacuum Stuffers were underperforming.
Two stuffers in the processing line were underperforming and producing poor quality product due to lack of vacuum. Both stuffers had worn out pumps that were rebuilt and worn out seals that were replaced. These changes gave the processor a 28% increase in throughput out of the stuffer and better-quality product without air bubbles.
The cost for the maintenance audit, including a detailed report was $2000, plus travel expenses. The result was savings in energy, down-time, batch turnaround and overall increased production. This processor in fact, contracts with Mepaco every six months for a maintenance audit to avoid unplanned delays and to make sure their line is running as efficiently as possible.
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Processors should be able to focus on critical operations and not have to worry about auxiliary equipment. That's what Mepaco's CD1000 Column Dumper delivers; a Column Dumper that is heavily built, engineered for easy maintenance, built to strict sanitary design standards, and like our processing equipment solutions, modifiable to meet specific production requirements.
The animation features a new option in Mepaco's Column Dumper, a 60 degree dump angle for applications where every particulate must be added to the batch.
For more information, download our Column Dumper Flyer.
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