Finland’s biggest dairy company, Valio, recently boosted the production of its Lapinlahti whey powder plant with over 10 percent by implementing a smart software solution.
The 'proprietary NAPCON Controller solution (Advanced Process Control, APC, hereafter called software solution)' from the technology and engineering company Neste Jacobs showed such convincing results that Valio now in a similar way is optimizing a milk powder plant in Seinäjoki, Finland, consisting of both an evaporator and a spray dryer.
Reduce high energy consumption
Since whey and milk powder production is about drying fluids, the process is very energy consuming. The software solution balances the need of energy within the desired product specifications so that the energy consumption is minimized. "Valio ships over 60 million kilos of milk and whey powders annually", says Antero Ylitalo, Production Manager of Valio Powder Production. "That means we are talking big money when the productivity boosts with more than ten percent without higher energy consumption or costly hardware investments."
Predict moisture content
Another important benefit is that this software solution can predict the moisture content and in real time adjust the water balance. The optimization adapts even to changes in outdoor humidity. The moisture content is a critical factor especially at the final stages of the production line where a spray dryer removes the last part of the water, while still keeping the valuable properties of the milk or whey. In a milk powder production line evaporators are used to remove excess water before the concentrate enters the spray dryer. By controlling both of the drying stages simultaneously with the software solution, even more savings can be gained, and it is possible to ensure that both units continuously are run in an optimal way. This type of system has already been implemented at the Valio Seinäjoki plant. "Too large water content makes the powder sticky and disturbs the process", Vesa Strand, Production Manager of Seinäjoki plant, explains. "On the other hand, if the powder is too dry it generates dust and uses excess energy. With this software solution we can allow an increase in the average moisture content in the process and still keep the moisture content of the final powder product very close to its target value under all circumstances."
Valio (www.valio.fi) is a company owned by 18 milk production cooperatives, which refines and markets mainly milk based products. Valio is the biggest milk production company in Finland and receives 85 percent of the milk produced in Finland. The main product groups are fresh dairy products, cheeses, greases, juices, milk powders, demineralized whey powders and large kitchen products.
Emmy Koeleman studied Animal Sciences at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. She is the editor of Dairy Global and All About Feed.