Primo Smallgoods is one of Australia’s largest producers of ham, bacon, salami and smallgoods. Their facility in Queensland relies on a centralised vacuum unit from Busch Australia for its vacuum supply, which guarantees the necessary vacuum on all packaging lines around the clock.
Primo Smallgoods was founded in 1985 and today has manufacturing plants and abbatoirs all across Australia. In 2012, the company built a new manufacturing facility in Wacol, Brisbane, which is planned to be Australia’s largest smallgoods manufacturing facility, with the second stage of construction already started. The Busch unit utilised on side is an important part of production and guarantees that the meat products are hygienically, quickly and reliably packaged, so that they can make their way to their destination as quickly as possible.
Primo Smallgoods produce a variety of ham products, including triple smoked leg ham, bacon, salami; Italian specialities including prosciutto, smoked speck and pancetta; and a variety of packaged meat including a free range selection. The national company supply Australia’s major retail groups and cater for both the domestic and export markets. Many of these products are produced at the company’s manufacturing facility in Brisbane. Primo found an ideal partner in Busch, as their main criteria for using central vacuum supply were its hygienic aspects, the dispersal of waste heat created by the vacuum pumps in the packaging room, as well as easier and less frequent maintenance.
Construction of the central vacuum supply
In order to run each of the packaging lines with minimal energy expenditure whilst keeping the number of cycles as high as possible, the packaging rooms are evacuated in two stages. The critical drop in pressure is utilised and therefore a quick evacuation is made possible. The first stage of evacuation is done by a low vacuum pump stand and the second with a medium vacuum pump stand. The change-over valves with the corresponding re-routing electronics are directly attached to the individual packaging machines. They control the transition from a low to a medium vacuum. A third vacuum pump stand provides the forming stations in the packaging machines with vacuum. There, the base film of the packaging is heated and thermoformed with a vacuum and compressed air, and thus the packaging depression is formed. This vacuum pump stand works independently of the low and medium vacuum pump stands.
This separation of different vacuum stations is necessary for the supply to packaging machines, as these have a thermoforming and a sealing function that have to run with vacuums of varying degrees. The pipe work serves as a vacuum buffer with over 850 linear metres of piping in the roof. This buffer is necessary to keep the packaging pressure at a constant level, even when all the packaging machines are running with the same number of cycles. The central vacuum unit is fully automated and runs as required, which means that when a vacuum is required, it switches on and it switches off when the packaging machines are not in use. If a problem occurs in a vacuum pump when it is in low, medium or thermoforming mode, then a reserve pump is automatically activated. Thus, the reliability of vacuum supply to the packaging machines is maximised at the same time as ensuring it is as energy efficient as possible.
The centralised vacuum unit is integrated with the control technology at Primo Smallgoods, which controls and monitors the entire utility supply. This ensures permanent access to the operating data of each individual vacuum pump in the unit. This data is automatically archived, meaning that it can be analysed over extended periods of time. The system capacity of the rough vacuum at 15,000m³/hr at 50 mbar and the fine vacuum at 12,500m³/hr at 5 mbar provides very fast evacuation time, therefore reducing the cycle time and increasing production rates. The system capacity of the system while on standby is 3,000m³/hr. The Busch central vacuum system ensures economic efficiency by offering approximately 140kW of power reduction.
The packaging lines at Primo are classified as ‘high risk’ hygiene areas; products are cut and portioned immediately before being packaged. Thus the surface of the product is at greatest, and therefore most probable, risk of contamination in this area. With regard to hygiene, having the centralised vacuum supply outside the production and packaging rooms minimises this risk, as this precludes the possibility of the meats being contaminated with any emissions from the vacuum pumps. A further advantage is that no maintenance of the vacuum pumps is required in the production and packaging rooms and therefore no maintenance personnel need to access these areas.
Preventing waste heat
The central vacuum supply prevents waste heat by keeping the vacuum pumps in a cooled room. This means that the climatisation in the packaging room is less costly in regards to air conditioning. Thus savings are made with the air-conditioning itself as well as with the energy costs. In addition to this, by centralising the vacuum pumps, approximately 33 kW of heat load can be removed from the packaging room, saving money on refrigeration costs and reflecting the energy savings of the central vacuum systems.
Modular unit construction
The central vacuum unit was constructed modularly by Busch, which makes it possible to adapt the unit to differing production conditions. In the beginning, the vacuum unit was configured conservatively. But even as early as the production start-up phase, rising demand became apparent, which meant that the central unit was expanded by several modules to deal with the current daily production and to be able to cope with output peaks.
The system is cost effective due to reduced maintenance costs, as there are fewer vacuum pumps installed – the installed vacuum pumps decreased from approximately 85 units to 24. To further minimise the risk of high costs and outage of the running plant, Busch has offered to take care of the maintenance. This involves controlling the maintenance intervals and the work and services that need to be done, at the same time as providing a basis for an extended warranty for the vacuum unit. In practice, maintenance work is carried out by Busch customer services twice a year. Incidentally, Busch are able to provide fast support in an emergency due to the close proximity of their service locations. Maintenance takes place whilst the unit is running, without having any adverse effects on production. This is another advantage of a modularly constructed central unit, as the modules in the vacuum system control can be individually disengaged. A reserve pump stand is automatically activated if a module is switched off. Busch customer services record the data from the vacuum pumps, maintenance work and the results of vacuum level and energy usage. Primo is therefore informed of the current condition of, and possible necessary changes, to the vacuum unit.