Food and Beverage Why Power Quality is Critical to Safe and Profitable Production?

Published On: Oct 17, 2019


India probably has one of the most diverse range of cuisines in the world. But given the diverse and personalised tastes that appeal to Indian consumers the acceptance of processed food has always been challenging. However, that’s changing fast with innovations in food technology. The food processing sector in India is now a sunrise sector with one of the fastest growth rates. Traditionally, India is known to the world as an exporter of spices. With a large base of global Indian diaspora more and more ethnic foods are being processed and sold in world markets.

Clearly, the way we process and package food is bound to undergo a huge change in the near future. Food is a highly sensitive product. The increasing automation in food industry requires a high-quality electrical power for its success. Even a slight glitch in the electrical systems could translate to huge losses for the food industry. Good Power Quality is therefore fundamental to good quality of processed food. The problem is manufacturers are still learning this equation the hard way.

INTRODUCTION

According to a report by Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI), GoI it is estimated that

  • By 2024, the Food Processing industry is likely to attract $ 33 bn investments
  • By 2030, Indian annual household consumption of processed food will potentially treble, making India 5th largest consumer
  • The policies in food processing have been friendly with FDI permitted under the automatic route in Food processing industries and 100% FDI is allowed through government approval route for trading, including through e-commerce in respect of food products manufactured or produced in India
  • Several mega food parks are on the cards

Most of the Food Parks intend to provide facilities for storage and processing which are heavily dependent on quality of electricity supply. The range of technologies include Ultra-High Temperature (UHT) processing and aseptic packaging for dairy products to cold storage facilities for frozen and processed foods. For the Tier II suppliers the food park guarantees uninterrupted water and electricity supply, storage facilities and 24×7 security. All of these are fundamentally dependent on good power quality.

THE TRUE COSTS OF SUB-PAR POWER?

What does an Aaloo-Bhujia (Indian snack) plant have with a high-end electronics factory? Well, both use sensitive, automated manufacturing and may require the same level of reliability when it comes to electrical supply. Like in case of most high-end manufacturing environments, even a slight power disruption can lead to huge losses. It’s not just the cost of lost production time but layers of losses at several levels. From discarding the entire batch to long set-up times – the losses come in several direct and indirect forms.

A study conducted by APQI some time back at a leading food processing unit observed 250 instances of unbalanced voltage and unscheduled power supply interruptions in four months. With cost of each event being INR 10,207, the plant lost around INR 25,51,750 (INR 25.51 lakhs) during the same period.

Symptoms of PQ issues in Food and Beverage facilities

  • Contactors, release switches, fuses etc. fail to operate correctly
  • Machinery breakdowns, faults or malfunctions occur frequently
  • Transformer overheating; reduced life for motors
  • Sensitive controls such as PLC/SCADA, Sensors, PCs, Ethernet Cards damaged frequently
  • Data losses of regulatory process records due to communication interference failures
  • Light flickering may affect processing

Physical consequences

  • Unscheduled interruptions lead to lost material, production units
  • Non-delivery of the product as per the schedule
  • Hours of extra work to clear and clean before restarting the production line
  • Possible contamination issues that are often very expensive to detect and address

The disruption of automated equipment and production lines in food processing and cold-storage can result in large quantities of food products being burnt, spoiled, contaminated or generally rendered unsafe for human consumption.

FOOD SAFETY...AND POWER QUALITY

In 2018, FSSIA – India’s apex body to develop and implement regulations for the food industry asked the country’s top 200 processed food manufacturers (https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/fssai-asks-top-200-companies-for-details-of-their-food-recall-plans/article23358133.ece) to submit their food-recall procedures. India’s biggest previous food recall was in 2015 for the Maggi range of products by Nestle.

With this, manufacturers will have to define the in-process food-recall events and procedures in detail, further increasing the risks and costs of any disruption in power. The stringent regulation also means a need for comprehensive data collection on food production at every stage.

PRODUCTION EFFICIENCY ....AND POWER QUALITY

The processed food markets are highly competitive. The production, storage and transport of food items is an energy dependent and energy intensive process. As a result, food manufacturers are trying to reduce the energy consumption while trying to improve safety and reliability of food processing at the other end. This means new and innovative technologies, greater automation and use of renewable energy sources wherever possible.

The case of laser micro-perforation
Take the example of packaging – one of the most crucial and busiest line in any processed food set-up. Laser micro perforation has been found to slow down respiration rate and also reduce transpiration losses for fruits and vegetable produce. The laser micro-perforation equipment uses lasers to create tiny and evenly spaced holes in the packaging – typically plastic or its biodegradable version. However, these systems need highest power quality for cost-efficient operations. As the technology is gaining immense popularity, the corresponding increase in awareness about its power quality requirements is still lacking.

The laser micro perforation equipment uses high frequencies that can affect legacy power supply systems. Often, voltage fluctuations which are common in power supply can adversely affect the performance of machine and the quality of packaging. If the food packaging ends up less breathable than as it should be, it could lead to inaccurate best-before dates, rejection and a possible risk to health and consumer safety. Electrical managers must ensure an effective SMPS for the UPS to meet the specific demands of such applications. Voltage and current should be maintained correctly for this equipment to perform consistently.

REDUCING WASTAGE ....AND POWER QUALITY

Reducing wastage is key to ensuring profitability for processed food manufacturers. To reduce wastage, food manufacturers typically invest in sophisticated electronic controls. The performance of these sensitive electronics is highly influenced by reliability of electrical systems. The modern food processing plant, which relies on sensors, PLC SCADA Controls and intelligent software to improve monitoring cannot function as desired with grid disruptions due to power quality events.

Poor power quality in a bottling plant for soft drinks could lead to frequent power disruptions. This in turn causes large losses through in various forms. A slight change in ingredients or ph of the product in the manufacturing process can alter the taste of the product and render the entire batch to be rejected as waste. Such instances are not uncommon today, however, the root causes related to power quality are not understood to the required depth.

ADDRESSING POWER QUALITY ISSUES IN FOOD PROCESSING

Processed food and beverage production are a 24 hours process which needs much greater precaution to reduce wastage and ensure safe product quality. A majority of Power Quality best practices remain same as any highly automated production environment. Here is a quick summary of the first level solutions for improving Power Quality. Further measures can be identified and planned on a case to case basis:

  • Installation of harmonic filters, capacitors and other protective equipment to improve Power Factor, efficiency and reliability of the electrical network
  • Installation of UPS to ensure 100% availability of critical controls, data security and other compliance-essential processes
  • Routine assessments and studies to ensure proper good PQ at various power distribution equipment and components such as transformers, breakers, cables etc.
  • Consider installation of PQ Analysers to monitor key assets on an ongoing basis to identify issues in advance and prevent power disruptions

The future of monitoring PQ in Food and Beverage will see emergence of IoT based applications designed specifically to improve the reliability and quality of power.

CONCLUSION

Changing consumer demands, stringent regulatory requirements, greater scale of manufacturing are posing new challenges for processed food manufacturers. The power systems in the plant have a critical role to play when it comes to addressing these challenges through improved reliability. Investments in power quality are at the core of ensuring long-term reliability of the power systems.

Food and Beverage manufactures at every scale of production and automation stand to benefit from good power quality. Reduced food wastage and energy consumption are two immediate benefits. Longer equipment life, assurance of compliance to regulatory requirements and safe food products are the long-term benefits. However, lower awareness level has meant the manufacturers have been learning the importance of Power Quality after the damage has been done. With greater awareness among both, equipment/system suppliers and manufacturers of processed food, holds the promise of greater profitability for the processed food industry.

Providing street and public lighting is one of the most expensive responsibilities of a municipality and can account for a significant energy consumption. The LED Street Light replacement programs in India are planned at a vast scale and breakneck implementation speeds. The road for most of these projects comes with point of no return. Given the investments and other stakes, the options are also binary – either succeed or enter a long dark tunnel of failure.

REFERENCES

  1. Food Processing Industry Trends and Investment Opportunities – https://www.investindia.gov.in/sector/food-processing
  2. APQI Study on PQ status in Food and Beverage Industry – https://apqi.org/case-analysis-distribution-network-voltage-related-power-quality-issues-in-a-food-and-beverage-industry/
  3. A Study of Trends in Food and Beverage Industry by NABARD – https://www.nabard.org/auth/writereaddata/tender/0803190230NSP%20on%20Food%20and%20Agro%20Processing.pdf
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