Tyson Foods Inc. is one of the world's largest processors of chicken, beef, and pork, and operates over 100 production facilities, mostly across the USA. Chicken processing is at the cornerstone of their business, and Tyson supplies chicken products to some of the biggest retail food chains in the country, including KFC, McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Wal-Mart.
At the Berryville plant in Arkansas, Tyson produces a range of different chicken products that begin as a liquid 'chicken slurry', transported via a large network of pipes by vacuum pump to various parts of the plant.
Hygiene throughout this extensive piping system is understandably imperative and the plant is required to be shut down after a maximum 12 hours of operation, fully dismantled, washed, sanitized and reconnected.
It’s a major undertaking each day and involves the removal and replacement of over 60 flexible connectors as part of the cleaning process. The previous flexible connectors (shown left) were standard ribbed silicon and hose-clamp connectors which were extremely difficult to remove and re-position correctly.
They also did not provide a 100% sealed solution, with leakage of the slurry commonplace, representing an additional hygiene challenge.
In an effort to contain the leakage, staff had resorted to using tape on the outside of the connectors – and this tape also then had to be removed and replaced during the cleaning process.
Tyson’s Senior Industrial Engineer for the Berryville Plant, Mark Bromley, had heard about BFM® fitting through a local engineering company, and contacted the local BFM® Distributor, National Filter Media (NFM), based in Louisiana.
NFM’s Technical Sales Team member, Kerry Dominguez, visited Tyson Berryville and worked with Mark and the team on the installation of three trial BFM® fittings.
“Initially, we trialled two BFM® fittings as a connection for transporting boneless chicken slurry from a large hopper to the suction port of a Sine Meat Pump, and another one in a 6" Vacuum system, pulling tumble marinated chicken from a large accumulation hopper to a scale batching system” said Kerry.
Challenge of a Mobile Plant Under Vacuum
To enable easy access during the cleaning process, much of Tyson’s equipment is actually mounted on wheels, which initially presented a challenge with small sections of piping being ‘sucked’ in together because of the vacuum’s effect on the flexible connector section. A simple clamp bracing system was developed by Tyson to keep the spigots apart (shown right), but still allowing access to remove the connector if needed between cleaning cycles.
“The system is 100% sealed during both the processing and cleaning operations which means there is much less general ‘housekeeping’ required” said Chris Clifford, Site Maintenance Manager at the Berryville plant. “The BFM® fitting system has also meant that the dismantling and reinstallation process is so much faster for each cleaning cycle. The simple snap-fit connectors are always installed correctly in exactly the right position.”
After the initial trial, Tyson were so impressed with the performance of BFM® fitting, they wanted to look at installations throughout the plant.
“It's an unusual application so we were interested to see the BFM® fittings in action at the Berryville plant” said Blair McPheat. He visited the site several times over the coming year, and he and Kerry also recently spent a day at Tyson's head office in conjunction with Tyson's Quarterly Operations conference.
"We gave the team there hands-on BFM® fitting demonstrations during conference breaks (left), and made a full presentation to almost 250 of their Plant and Operations managers as part of the day's agenda. The response was extremely positive - Kerry and the team at NFM are going to be very busy!"
Tyson Foods have calculated that at the Berryville Plant, they have saved over US$225,000 per year in labour costs alone since installing the BFM® fitting system – that’s a 90% saving. They have now replaced virtually all of their flexible connections in the plant as maintenance has allowed, and more Tyson plants will be installing the BFM® fitting system in the coming year.
"The opportunity at Tyson is massive - and how many more chicken and meat processing plants are there around the world? Plenty!" said Blair.
While powder processing is always going to be the BFM®'s key product use, it just goes to show where 'thinking outside the square' in terms of potential applications can lead to.
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