Delivering solutions for sustainable baby formula manufacturing at Danone

Manufacturers in every industry today are working hard to achieve the highest possible levels of environmental sustainability, as well as meet increasingly stringent regulatory requirements for safe, high-quality processing.

Here at GEA we understand that our customers operate in a competitive, global manufacturing landscape that is focused on reducing resource and energy consumption, and cutting emissions and waste. But to remain competitive they must also increase efficiency, and offer discerning consumers the highest quality products. We have been privileged to work with Danone, one of the leading baby formula manufacturers, on the design, installation and commissioning of a new, environmentally sustainable state-of-the-art Danone Nutricia plant at its greenfield site in Cuijk, the Netherlands. We have previously partnered with the company on the installation of GEA equipment at other Danone dairy sites.

It is vital that baby formula manufacturers can guarantee reliable, reproducible production of high-quality, consistent powders. Coupled with this, Danone’s goal for the new plant was to improve sustainability, while retaining world-leading quality, and increasing productivity. It was a tall order, but the company engaged with and trusted GEA as a true collaborative partner to configure and supply processing solutions that would rise to the business and technological challenges of establishing a future-proof manufacturing facility that will stay flexible and agile to react swiftly to market and consumer demands.

Danone Nutricia plant at Cuijk, in the Netherlands

Danone chose to work with GEA on this project because of the very strong track record we have working on other Danone sites, the impressive reputation that GEA has in the marketplace, and also the very high-quality technical solution that GEA brought to this project,”– Liam Carmody, former Project Director at Danone Nutricia.

– Liam Carmody, former Project Director at Danone Nutricia.

Food quality, safety, and hygienic design were key components, Carmody stressed. “The challenge that we faced on this project was to put in place a facility that met and delivered on the very high food safety requirements that we have in the factory, making very complex recipe portfolio for a very sensitive consumer segment. The project needed to be cost-effective, and it needed to be delivered on time. Not just the end date, but also the critical milestones along the way. We were confident that we could trust the [GEA] people across the table from us that indeed they could deliver on all those things.”

Nutritional formula powders comprise a precise mix of key components, including proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and other constituents, to match every dietary and nutritional requirement. The basic process for producing milk powders with highly defined properties involves mixing the liquid milk, oil, and dry ingredients, and then removing the excess water, before spray drying to form powders with defined physical, structural, taste and nutritional properties.

Multiple GEA teams worked seamlessly with Danone stakeholders from the earliest concept stage, to design, configure and supply the latest green technologies for the new Danone Nutricia plant. GEA configured and installed five MVR evaporators and two GEA Niro MSD® spray dryers, together with four Ariete Series high pressure homogenizers, which together provided an ideal solution for manufacturing a varied nutritional formula product portfolio.

Nutritional formula mixes are concentrated by evaporation to remove water. The GEA evaporation systems have been developed so that customers can expect consistent product quality and optimized energy efficiency, but at the same time reduced operating costs and faster return on investment. The compact, energy-saving MVR solutions feature fast start up and operator-friendly visual inspection. Precisely controlled direct contact heating reduces heating time, and allow specification of WPNI values for the nutritional powders. The hygienic design in addition supports extended run time thanks to faster, more cost-efficient cleaning.

The high pressure Ariete Series technology combines homogenizer and pump in a single machine, so the homogenized formula product can be pumped directly to the spray dryer nozzle. And all GEA homogenizers are equipped with the NiSoCLEAN compression block, which has been designed specifically for the highest hygiene and CIP.

The homogenizers feed the downstream GEA Niro MSD® 500 and 1000 spray dryers, which further remove excess water. These state-of-the-art GEA Niro spray dryers can operate continuously for several days, resulting in improved plant efficiency and productivity. The GEA Niro spray dryer technology produces high-quality powder with reproducible structure and physical/solubility characteristics, under the most stringent microbiological control. The equipment is designed with energy recovery built in, and to ensure that there are minimal deposits of residue, which reduces product loss, and means faster, more efficient and resource-friendly CIP, and ultimately increased productivity.

Installing additional evaporation and feed systems means that when one set is being cleaned, there is always another evaporator and feed system in operation to supply the spray dryers at full capacity. This results in 3-4 extra hours of uptime for the spray dryer daily, which increases the overall plant output and OEE. Fewer production cycle starts and stops also significantly reduces the risk of creating powder deposits on the surfaces, and so contributes to longer operation cycles between the need for CIP cleaning of the entire spray drying plant.

Danone was intimately involved in the design process from the earliest stage. The GEA Energy Team executed a pinch analysis to examine the complete utilities process and explore how to meet key environmental goals. GEA then drafted a 3D model that captured all the evaporator and spray drying processes, allowing Danone to carry out detailed design reviews, so that any conflicts between the building and layout, equipment and piping could be identified and solved up front.

“GEA was then able to convert that 3D model into isometric drawings,” Carmody explained. This meant that a significant amount of equipment construction could be carried out off site, reducing downstream complexity on site. “Because of the 3D model and isometric drawings, we were able to conduct more than 35 FATs [factor acceptance tests] off site in the workshop. This allowed us to be much faster in construction, reduce complexity of supplier interactions on site, and ultimately deliver a higher quality end product. We were impressed with what GEA was able to bring to the table. Everything from heat recovery on the spray dryer to low energy consumption motors, to the MVR technology in the evaporator process.”

“Three core teams from Denmark, France and the Netherlands worked on the project with support from colleagues in New Zealand,” said GEA Project Director Cédric Malletroit. “As always, with large and complex installations there were tough discussions along the way, but this was always done with a constructive and collaborative mind-set. We’ve managed to build a solid relationship, particularly through different team building events we organized with the customer and there is no doubt that this will get even stronger.”  



NisoCLEAN is a compression block with a specific hygienic design conceived for food industry products, especially for probiotic foods containing fibers and solid parts, baby food, viscous dressing and protein-rich foods.
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