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Drum Dryer Safety, Savings, and Simplicity: An Interview with Aaron Hickman

Aaron SMFood processors using drum dryers and flakers face different challenges than other process industries. However, some solutions developed for other industries can work for food processing. I interviewed Aaron Hickman about food processing challenges, and how solutions developed for the pulp and paper industry have improved safety and increased yield in food manufacturing. Aaron is a business development manager for Kadant Solutions and has been working with food processing mills in the U.S. for eight years. During his tenure, Aaron has focused on food processing with an emphasis on drum dryers and flaking.

V:    What is a challenge you see across the board in food processing plants?

A:    The most common challenge I’ve come across is getting dry product off the drum more effectively and efficiently. Even if the plant is generating good product, blade changes are cumbersome and taking too long, wearing too fast, or not removing product correctly.

V:    How are plants dealing with this issue?

A:    Many plants use homemade tools that tweak the blade profile during production. Some plants have developed intricate maintenance jigs to help change blades more rapidly. Other plants experience an increase in routine drum resurfacing while trying to reuse expensive metal knives by sending blades out to be re-sharpened.

V:    What, if any, concerns are there with these homemade devices?

A:    While none of these things are bad, safety can be a concern. The homemade devices require a certain amount of skill from operators to make sure equipment doesn’t get damaged. With these types of tools there’s an inherent amount of risk a company takes on when trying to make good product for as long as possible.

V: What’s your advice for a plant considering a new drum dryer scraping application?

A:    If the blade holder is limiting you to one style of blade, you owe it to yourself to consider the opportunity costs associated with converting to a floating blade holder system. The AccuFlake™ PRO holder is one of the simplest conversions on the market and enables customers to easily try a variety of blades including the ProFlake™ long-life, metal blade.

So, start by determining what is most important to your plant. Once you’ve identified whether it’s safety, changing blades faster, reducing blade changes, increasing efficiency, or a combination of all of these, work with an expert to calculate the return on investment (ROI) based on the top priorities. At Kadant Solutions, we have an ROI calculator which I use to help a plant find an appropriate solution.

V:    Can you provide any ROI examples?  

A:    Yes, in one mill reducing safety hazards was the primary goal. We looked at providing a longer lasting blade that required fewer blade changes and ultimately reduced the safety hazards associated with blade changes that occurred twice a day for each process drum. Think about this for a moment: two blade changes per day times 300 production days a year resulted in 600 inherently risky operations on an annual basis. Additionally, these blade changes were happening in the middle of a continuous process so there was implicit pressure to complete this risky process as quickly as possible. In finding a blade that would last a full week in production, we eliminated 90% of these risky evolutions. Also, the time it took to conduct a blade change using two people, dropped from 30 minutes to two minutes! The improved safety more than justified the project. The simplicity of what a floating blade holder can do from a blade changing perspective provided even more cost savings.

But, at the end of the day, most of my customers find that the combination of safety, simplicity, and savings produces the compound effect of a more efficient process which converts more raw material into finished product at a lower conversion cost.

You can connect with Aaron via LinkedIn.

  • Written by:
    Vicki Hunsberger

    Vicki Hunsberger

    Marketing Manager, Kadant Solutions

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