Shampoo manufacturer doubles capacity with cost-effective impeller mixing technology
With less finance available, the ability to fund new equipment to increase manufacturing capacity has caused issues for many UK producers. The experience of the UK’s largest own brand manufacturer of hair products suggests that through close co-operation and using the expertise of a leading agitator producer such as EKATO, cost-effective solutions with short ROI periods are possible. Using an existing vessel and by upgrading the agitator assembly, Herb UK will see a return on its investment in under eight months, reduce energy consumption and solve product aeration issues.
Since its foundation in 1990, Herb UK Ltd has manufactured a range of products that are safer for hairdressers to use than traditional ammonia-based colours. Growing demand meant the firm needed to increase its capacity cost effectively. The firm was using a two tonne vessel to manufacture shampoos and cream peroxides. “Our shampoo was taking three days to mix and is the most challenging product to produce,” says Mark D’Arcy, Herb UK’s operations manager. “Our existing mixing equipment with large blade impellers was also leaving too much air in the product, causing delays at the bottling stage.” The firm experimented with recirculation pumps but the increased power consumption, product aeration and inconsistent results led the firm to look at improving the agitator.
Since 1933, EKATO Mixing Technology has been developing mixing technologies for a range of industries including food, pharmaceutical, petrochemical and cosmetics. The firm recently developed the ability to accurately simulate mixing performance using scale models with a three litre model able to reproduce the process of a 4000 litre vessel. “The most striking aspect of complex mixing operations is the extent to which conditions can change during the course of production,” says EKATO UK’s managing director John Smith. “There are large viscosity ranges from minimum shear to intensive dispersion. Using a range of tools including CFD, we are able to identify improvements, many of them quick to implement.”
According to EKATO, Viscoprop agitators are frequently the answer in demanding process conditions such as these. “They can make it possible to combine previously separate process steps in a single vessel, reducing cost,” adds Smith. EKATO’s EM-based solution offers Herb UK a variable speed with the opportunity to also reverse direction, ‘pulling’ liquids off the floor of the vessel and distributing them evenly through the batch. “Variable speed gives the operator better control,” suggests Smith. “And for smaller batch sizes it helps minimise splashing.”
The results achieved provided an immediate benefit. “We have been able to reduce process time by 50 percent,” says factory manager Brian Crouch. “We can achieve 100,000 tonnes per manufacturing year. In addition the new process is removing much of the air, reducing bottling time and the need for a recirculation pump.”
The multi stage Viscoprop impellers helped to solve another specific issue Herb UK had been facing. Correcting the pH value is normally done by adding an adjuster at the end of the process but being thinner and lighter, this tended to float on the liquid surface. Typically, more would be added to ensure consistent values through the batch. EKATO’s powerful multistage impellers distribute the adjuster through the entire batch resulting in better consistency from the top to the bottom of the vessel. “Mixing different densities of constituents can be a real issue, increasing mixing time that is not value added,” suggests Smith.
Herb UK is benefitting in other ways that it hadn’t expected. “The new impellers are much smaller,” says Crouch. “This makes the tank more accessible for removing the product and a shorter cleaning process reduces changeover times when we switch from shampoo to activators.”
Herb UK is already talking to EKATO about optimising Tank Two. “We achieved what we wanted to do with Tank One,” says D’Arcy. “The customer support is second to none and is keeping us ahead of the competition who are finally realising that natural products can work in the salon.”