Our equipment provides and services best fit customers who need customization for their application. In this ebook, "7 Steps to a Application Engineered Cooking Solution," our application and technical engineers outline our process from concept to delivery, focusing on the ThermaBlend Cooker with customization resource charts.
1. Scope Definition
Technical, experienced Mepaco® sales managers visit the customer site and meet with the project team, which may include operations, maintenance, and engineering stakeholders. Mepaco engineers may visit the site to create or verify the plant layout to include the flow of operations and how to configure equipment based on traffic, existing equipment, and utilities.
Through the site visit and subsequent conferences, application experts discover the customer’s goals for the system, the existing processes that need to tie in, and special customer specifications required in the proposed solution, including:
• Production and volume goals
• Sanitation requirements
• Food safety solutions
• Personnel safety needs
• Footprint availability
• Automation goals
• Equipment and controls integration
• Product parameters and quality criteria
2. Refining scope
Engineering performs calculations to size and select the parameters for the equipment, and components required to meet production and operational targets. The controls group also assesses the recipe and automation goals to determine a solution for programming and devices.
After a collaboration of the direction for the system, a formal quote is provided and presented to the customer’s project and purchasing team.
The sales manager will present the application solution to explain the benefits of the system and how the equipment selection, layout and controls would solve the goals of the project.
4. Engineering and Approval
After Mepaco® receives the project and purchase order, a kick-off meeting with operations, engineering and scheduling launches the project. A project engineer is also assigned to oversee the system project.
The formal approval drawings are provided to the customer to ensure all scope details have been met and discuss any additional requirements.
After the drawings are approved, Mepaco® engineers begin the manufacturing detail for the fabrication of equipment. Detailing included CNC and fabrication programming, assembly drawings, parts and finishing details.
As with all projects and orders, detailed processes are followed and tracked throughout the manufacturing cycle in Apache’s enterprise system.
Manufacturing is scheduled after engineering detailing, considering shop availability, and confirming with the customer.
The controls team works concurrently to program the recipe and automation controls for the system. Control panels are wired and tested when the equipment is close to completion in the factory.
The system can be set up in our plant for a FAT (Field Acceptance Test) if required. Customers are welcomed at Apache Stainless and Mepaco® to go through the system parameters with our manufacturing team and engineers.
7. Transport and Installation
The customer provides a time frame for equipment delivery to install equipment.
Apache Stainless delivers equipment with door-to-door transport service.
The Mepaco® field services group are often called for start-up assistance, supervision, and maintenance training.
Download our guide, “7 Steps to an Application Engineered Solution”.
Mepaco® cookers are designed with ASME thermal jackets. The jackets are pressurized and therefore regulated by ASME standards. The ThermaBlend® Cooker features an ASME stay bolt (also called stay-rod) constructed jacket. Mixer-cooker equipment may also have stay-bolt or dimple jacket construction.
Specifically, ASME engineering and construction requirements include approved calculations, ASME-certified techniques and fabricators, testing, and ASME stamps and documentation.
With indirect steam heating, pressurized steam flows through a wrap-around ASME thermal jacket that cooks the product through conduction. Since the potential exists for burn-on, Mepaco’s patented scraper system keeps the surface clean to maximize heat transfer and mitigate sanitation issues. Product applications for indirect steam heating include stews, sauteed vegetables, scrambled eggs, granola, ground beef, and other food products that do not require additional moisture. The indirect steam cooking option can also provide caramelization if needed for the application.
Stay-bolt rods are individually welded between the inner and outer jackets providing a robust jacket design. Due to expansion and contraction caused by heating and cooling with constant blending agitation, the 90+ psig, ASME-rated stay-bolt jackets are recommended for demanding applications of the ThermaBlend® cooker.
Thermablend® cookers are also offered with direct steam injection (DSI). DSI is quick and efficient and eliminates burn-on and the need for a scraper system. Since steam is directly injected into the product, culinary steam filters provide clean steam for your process. Application examples include moist pet food, thick sauces, soups, fillings, and spreads.
Thermablend® cookers can utilize direct, indirect, or both steam heating techniques. Using both indirect and direct steam options will substantially increase batch cycle cooking efficiencies. The viscosity and make-up of the food product, processing, and production requirements dictate which type of Thermablend® and agitator option is the best solution for the application.
Mixer-Cookers are designed with either ASME stay-bolt or dimple jackets that heat product indirectly. Dimple jackets utilize a thin gauge stainless steel layer welded to the tub shell in a regular pattern. The punched and spot-welded areas are called dimples, which create turbulence of the heating or cooling steam or fluid flowing through the jacket.
Mixers, Pump Feeders, and covered Screw Conveyors may utilize ASME dimple jackets to maintain temperature control.
An equipment nameplate will display the ASME stamp and compliance information, and the final certification will be registered with the National Board and made available to the customer. Pressured stay-bolt or dimple jackets over 15 psi, will require ASME compliance.
Should there be a need for refurbishment or repair, please get in touch with Mepaco®, so your ASME jacket will remain compliant and altered by certified ASME specialists who will validate an R-stamp repair. Mepaco® also has compliance expertise with CRN (Canada Registration Number).
The Mepaco® brand has been around for a long time. The company began in 1932 and operated out of Oakland, California. The name Mepaco® stands for Meat Packers Equipment Company. For the first 40 years, Mepaco® was a significant equipment supplier to deli meat, sausage, and smoked meat processors. Mepaco® offered loaf molds and slicers, cooking and cooling racks, smokers, brine tanks, manual cutting tables and workstations. Mepaco® also offered Mixers. One of their earlier Mixers was called a Buffalo Mixer and was engineered to automate the sausage making process.
Early catalogs highlight that the mixer was also offered as a customized solution to include a heat jacket. The company would develop more equipment products around mixing and cooking in the years that followed.
Apache purchased the Mepaco® brand in 1993. The assets were moved to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. It was an excellent fit for Apache’s fabrication specialists because of our expertise in manufacturing stainless steel original equipment for processing industries.
With a background in heavy industrial stainless equipment manufacturing and ASME expertise, Apache influenced the equipment designs, especially processing equipment like mixers, cookers, and blenders. The equipment transformed into strengthened frames and components. Heat transfer technology was engineered to the level of expectations within Apache’s critical industry processors. Under Apache’s ownership, Mepaco® processing equipment began serving red meat, dairy, poultry, baking and processed foods industries.
Today’s Mixers, Cookers and Blenders designed by Mepaco® are highly engineered and highly controlled systems for large-scale batch operations. It is not uncommon for batch sizes to reach 8000 lbs. in Mepaco®’s Mixers and Blenders. Mepaco®’s equipment solutions are seen in more industries including pet food, plant-based products, and prepared foods.
The ThermaBlend® Cooker, debuted in 2006, is a trademarked brand. A highly efficient cooking/blending solution, the ThermaBlend® has a massive heat transfer benefit with highly efficient agitators and a patented scraper system that proves fast processing times. True to Mepaco®’s value to processors, the ThermaBlend® Cooker is engineered for specific customer goals, and is capable of cooking, searing, caramelizing, chilling, sautéing, and blending.
Celebrating 90 years in 2022, Mepaco® is known for its formulating and thermal processing solutions. Our value to processors is our ability to modify and adapt designs, functionality, and controls technology to solve processing problems. The need for this level of customization has grown into engineering entire processing room systems. Mepaco® has designed coordinated systems integrated with high-performance equipment for small and growing processing companies as well as Fortune 500 food manufacturing corporations.
The Mepaco® team, works every day to provide:
What does the future hold? Through interviews, conversations, and surveys, we are listening to customers and learning about what they need from our company. We are looking at new equipment products and making improvements in service support and resources in 2022, a direct result of recent customer survey feedback. To our customers, thank you for your business and the valuable feedback that helps us strengthen our partnerships.
This featured system doubled cooking batches within a minimal footprint used well-planned equipment selection, floor layout, and controls customization. Mepaco®'s cooking system featured side-by-side ThermaBlend® cookers, with a shared maintenance and sanitation platform.
The multi-recipe prepared foods processor benefited from flexibility in production scenarios. The system can run two batches at once, staggered, or different batches in each cooker, all driven by production demand and recipe controls.
The ThermaBlend® Cooker supports quick homogeneous batch turn for their multi-recipe production requirements. The wrap-around heat jacket design, bi-directional scraper system, and an application-specific agitator create cooking and blending efficiencies.
Further efficiencies of the ThermaBlend® cooker include the variation of processing capabilities in one unit, such as cooking, searing, caramelizing, sautéing, and blending. A versatile unit, ThermaBlend®'s is designed for large-scale cooking operations. Customization such as integrating vacuum and cooling, also provides added efficiency.
The batches are discharged into a heated buffering mixer that maintains product temperature and consistency until signaled for release to downstream operations.
The opposite cover design on the dual cookers with the shared platform and the electropolished food contact surfaces create a high degree of sanitation efficiency.
The system is highly controlled and reliable. Mepaco's ThermaBlend®'s are engineered with extremely robust stay-bolt ASME-rated jackets. Cookers are customized to the application, including experienced agitator designs to meet rigorous production requirements.
Two column dumpers are used to add ingredients to two ThermaBlend® cookers. The Mepaco® Column Dumper offers a very heavy-duty design and is engineered for maintenance ease. Mepaco® often makes modifications depending on the application, such as column heights, dump angles to 60 degrees, dumper capacity, extended chutes, and stainless upgrade kit.
Mepaco® has a new test cooker for processors with new products or recipes requiring cooking and blending. The test cooker is a 75-gallon ThermaBlend® unit with steam injection, vacuum, pneumatic covers and doors, and dual ribbon agitators. Learn more about scheduling a trial.
The Mepaco® brand has been around for a long time. The company began in 1932, and we are well known for our blending systems. Mepaco®'s team of long-standing technical sales managers, engineers, and project leaders work with customer teams to solve for the best solution that fits the application and production goals. Our equipment and systems uphold increased yield performance, optimal designs for ease of maintenance and operation, single-source manufacturing capabilities, the highest sanitary equipment finishes available and vigilant compliance of food safety criteria.
Mepaco has a new test cooker for processors who have new products or recipes that require cooking and blending. The test cooker is a 75-gallon ThermaBlend® unit with steam injection, vacuum, pneumatic covers and doors, and dual ribbon agitators.
The ThermaBlend® is designed specifically for large scale batch operations. All of the components from the tub to the agitators are custom designed to meet the needs of the blending application. It is designed with wrap-around steam jacket, fabricated by ASME certified welders, which offers massive heat transfer efficiencies.
Inquire about a trial of this test cooker in your facility and experience:
The controls provided on the test cooker provide flexibility for a rigorous test, including:
Contact a sales representative today to schedule a test!
In some cases, there is a particular event that causes agitator damage such as a shovel or fork falling into a piece of processing equipment. However, there are several other signs that determine when an agitator is failing:
Here are some causes of agitator damage:
Agitators are part of Mixers, Mixer-Cookers, and ThermaBlend Cookers. This equipment is the most important part of the processing line and must be maintained for maximum uptime. Other equipment, such as Metering Screws with Hoppers have leveling ribbons that may also need to be included in the list for agitator maintenance.
Currently, there is a 3-to-6-month lead time for a new agitator. In some cases, agitator repairs can be made at the customer site. Mepaco Services may be able to use a sleeve or secure welds to get the machine back up and running. Sometimes, it is possible to make repairs for temporary production while the new agitator is put on order.
Contact Parts and Service at 920-356-9900 for more information.
There are various methods to heat and cool food product in cooking equipment. The application will dictate the best combination of methods and configurations ranging from stay-bolt or dimple jacket designs, to injected steam and thermal screw heating options. On equipment solutions that use a heating jacket, a dual zone design may add versatility to operations.
Heating zones can be engineered for two separate zones that heat or cool independently.
The first chamber forms the bottom of the cooker tub to the centerline of the agitator. This zone has independent controls and can be used for small batches. The upper chamber can be activated to heat when the batch size and application demand.
The best-use application for dual zones are test market runs, small recipe variations, and staged cooking. Zoned heating jackets provide savings in time, energy, and cost for partial batch production. Depending on the application, significant efficiencies can also be realized by starting the batch in the first zone and adding the second zone to finish the batch.
The advantage of dual zones heating jackets is versatility of batch cooking processes and significant savings in energy costs.
The tenured sales and engineering teams in the Mepaco group are driven and dedicated to solving cooking and processing problems for industrial food processing customers.
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.
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.
Visit Mixers or Visit Cookers
This ThermaBlend Cooker is available for customer on-site testing and we are glad to have it on display at Process Expo.
In the video, Tom Hoffmann takes you on a tour of the features of this machine in our "Ask the Expert" video series that we are posting daily at Process Expo.
Be sure to scroll through our blog for other "Ask the Expert" videos from Process Expo 2019.
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