Like most family-operated firms, Strathmore Foods places sustainability at the heart of its business. When the company set out to improve its process efficiency, it hadn’t anticipated all the benefits that could be gained from the installation of a compact heating device.
Scottish food manufacturer Strathmore Foods is one of the UK’s leading ready-meal manufacturers and produces a wide range of chilled and frozen products. Renowned for its Macaroni Pie, Strathmore Foods’ portfolio caters for the modern lifestyle, offering tasty meals in minutes at affordable prices.
In a world where efficiency is king, plant managers and operators are constantly looking to improve the energy efficiency of heat transfer and maximise savings – and Douglas Nisbet, Operations Director at Strathmore Foods, is no different.
“To remain competitive, we believe that we must invest in appropriate areas and this philosophy will sustain our growth for generations to come,” says Douglas.
As food manufacturers are notoriously large consumers of water and energy, fuel costs will always represent a high proportion of their overheads. Strathmore Foods predominantly uses hot water for wash-down and clean-in-place (CIP) processes. Douglas explains: “Our site has expanded over the years but our existing hot water heating solution remained the same. It came to our attention that we were struggling to deliver a suitable flow-rate and temperature, which was causing inefficiencies in the amount of time spent to clean everything effectively.
“We knew we had a problem but we didn’t know how to solve it, so we decided to conduct a plant audit to better understand the efficiency of our equipment.”
Strathmore Foods worked with Spirax Sarco to identify opportunities for improving process efficiency and energy savings. “We completed a ‘walk the plant’ to check the health of the steam and hot water system, including the associated equipment. We worked together to identify areas that would improve our plant’s performance in terms of health and safety, process productivity and sustainability. The ultimate goal was to find ways to achieve savings in water, fuel, chemicals and CO2,” says Douglas.
Following the audit, Strathmore Foods made the decision to upgrade the plant’s current steam/water mixing unit with a more suitable alternative – one that would not only improve efficiency, but reliability too.
The decision was made to replace the seven mixing units with a single, more compact packaged plate heat exchanger. Douglas explains: “Following the survey, we were advised to upgrade our existing heating solution with the EasiHeat™ system as it was more appropriate for our hot water generation requirements. The new unit has the ability to deliver hot water instantaneously, enabling CIP and wash-down to be completed in a much more productive way.”
A packaged plate heat exchanger is a compact unit that captures and reuses heat, which may otherwise be wasted, to deliver a constant supply of instantaneous hot water at a stable temperature. This reduces the amount of steam required, which in turn cuts fuel demand and the associated CO2 emissions.
"We’re already seeing improvements over our previous solution. What’s more, the new packaged plate heat exchanger unit supplied to Strathmore Foods generates increased volumes of hot water and provides the business with an opportunity for expansion when the time is right."Douglas Nisbet, Operations Director at Strathmore Foods
“As you can imagine, a single unit is much easier to manage than it was before, therefore maintenance time and costs have been cut dramatically, as has downtime. While the packaged plate heat exchanger certainly doesn’t eliminate the need for annual servicing, its requirements are much simpler to manage. “Our new system is part of an existing service agreement we have with Spirax, which has made our annual servicing procedure a fairly effortless one. All of this helps us to keep the system running at optimum efficiency all year round, which is our main objective,” Douglas adds.
Since updating its steam/water mixing units, Strathmore Foods has even greater control of the amount of water they are using.
“We’re already seeing improvements over our previous solution. What’s more, the new packaged plate heat exchanger unit supplied to Strathmore Foods generates increased volumes of hot water and provides the business with an opportunity for expansion when the time is right,” says Douglas.
“We now have the ability to cope with high and low capacity and we can tailor the output we require on demand.”
Douglas concludes: “At the early planning stages, we were quite simply looking at ways to improve our wash-down process, but we have gained a lot more than we bargained for. Our primary aim was to improve process efficiency, and not only have we achieved that, but we’ve also secured a sustainable future for the business as this device will allow us room to grow.
The fact we now have a reliable and consistent supply of hot water is a huge benefit to the business in terms of time and cost, while the flexibility of the system enables us to run more confidently. Spirax is a trusted partner of ours and we have the peace of mind that, with this solution, we can ensure everything is cleaned in an efficient and effective way. They say great things come in small packages. In this case we can wholeheartedly agree!”