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Impressed Ajinomoto Brazil standardizes its plants with BFM® fittings

Japanese-based Ajinomoto is a food and biotechnology corporation that began in 1909 when its founder, Dr. Kikunae Ikeda, patented the formula for monosodium glutamate, or MSG.  Since then, they have expanded to become a global player with more than 100 factories across 30 countries, manufacturing everything from flavourings and noodles to amino acids used in pharmaceuticals and animal nutrition.

Ajinomoto has had a presence in Brazil for over 50 years, and its plant in Limeira, northeast of Sao Paulo, is now the world’s largest producer of MSG.  It employs over 1800 staff spread throughout a plant area of 1,489,000m2.  

With a plant this size, the maintenance team need to ensure that they have reliable, long-lasting, and efficient equipment. This includes the flexible connectors at the transition points between the pieces of equipment in the production processes.  When these fail or need to be changed, manufacturing stops and the whole line is shut down.

When a challenging transition causes inefficiencies

One challenging transition point was the connection between a Conturbex centrifuge and a vibrating conveyor on one of the amino acid production lines. The single large connector was fastened with a traditional hose clamp which would wear quickly and leak product into the production area.  Because of the constant wear, it needed frequent replacement - a complex process due to the location of the connector (shown left) and the size of the connector itself.

Ajinomoto’s engineer in charge, João Paulo Camargo, recognized that there were numerous problems related to using a single connector in such a difficult-to-access location. Besides the hygiene and wastage issues, production downtime was not sustainable as each change required shutting down the machine for several hours.

“We needed to rethink the whole transition point between the centrifuge and vibrating conveyor to reduce the dust problems and the maintenance issues,” said João Paulo.  “The solution needed to be clean, safe and efficient when in operation and fast and easy to handle for replacements when needed.”

Redesigning the solution with BFM® fittings

Ajinomoto Limeira’s engineering team collaborated with BFM® fitting’s Brazilian Distributor, Suprir Industria de Metais, to develop a new project to redesign the connection, replacing the old, difficult to change single connector with the new solution of multiple BFM® fittings.  The physical location of the transition was also moved to a lower platform to allow better access for engineering staff.

The BFM® fittings installed (shown right) now provide visibility of the product flowing through the system and have eliminated any dust leaking into the production area. In addition, overall hygiene in the plant has improved, which has been beneficial for staff and improved overall efficiency, with fewer clean-ups required.

It’s also meant that instead of frequent stoppages due to unscheduled replacements, now only regular, scheduled maintenance is required, decreasing production downtime dramatically.

“The installation of the BFM® fitting connectors in this initial location has made a massive difference to our overall production efficiency,” said João Paulo.  “No more shut-downs to change failing connectors means our engineering staff can focus on more productive projects.”

The Ajinomoto management team have been so impressed with the results achieved at the Limeira plant that they have now decided to standardize all their plants in Brazil with BFM® fitting flexible connectors.

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