Bühler Aeroglide to assess industrial-sized conveyor dryers for food production

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

Joe Tordello
Joe Tordello

Related tags Food

Convection conveyor dryers can be a major source of lost revenue in food production and industrial applications with some operating 30% below their efficiency level, according to Joe Tordella, manager, Field Engineering, Bühler Aeroglide. 

Speaking to FoodProductionDaily, Tordella said most of the operational challenges he sees stem from a limited understanding of the drying process itself and the specific technology being used. 

Three-day seminar

The company is inviting plant managers, project managers, plant engineers, quality control personnel and dryer operators to its three-day seminar called The Conveyor Drying Theory Put to Practice in Barcelona, Spain from September 24-26.

The firm which manufacturers dryers, ovens, roasters, toasters and hot air expansion systems for the food processing industry will explore drying basics such as parameters, balancing, evaluating and mechanical inspections with a dryer simulation.

Participants will then learn how to apply its drying theory to enhance the performance of their conveyor drying equipment.

My goal is to help the customer address the challenges and identify ways to increase production rates and improve energy efficiency, by teaching them how to inspect and correct problems in the day to day operations​,” said Tordella. 

This means explaining the basic theories of drying and how they relate to an application like processing cranberries, for instance, or potatoes. I spend a lot of my time interacting with customers, observing, understanding their needs, and helping them learn how conveyor dryers operate so that we can suggest and implement specific changes​.”

Bühler Aeroglide is the thermal processing division of parent company Bühler Group in Uzwil, Switzerland. Tordella and his team is based in Raleigh, North Carolina, and they travel to manufacturing facilities around the world to help plant managers assess industrial-sized conveyor dryers used in food production, pet food processing, and industrial applications. 

Identical technology - different problems

Assessments are performed on both Bühler Aeroglide equipment and other manufacturer’s equipment.

I travel approximately 110-120 days per year supporting customers. I also manage a team of three mechanical engineers and they travel to customer sites as well​,” he added.

One day I’m helping customers with improvements in the fruit, vegetable or cereal industry.  Another day, I may be teaching drying seminars to 20-30 customers from different industries or commissioning new dryers​. 

I never see an identical piece of technology equipment with the same problem. While many of the challenges are similar with regard to the science of drying, the applications are completely different. A large part of Bühler Aeroglide’s business supports the food industry. I like to try out a new cereal or sample apple crisps after working with the customer to find the perfect crunch​. 

The company helps customers bring new food products to market by developing pilot scale configurations in our testing lab, and we use these to manufacture the appropriate equipment for the processing site. We consider every possible variable like product shrinkage, product density and temperature. In the end, I visit the site to train processing operators and to observe​.”

More than 1,300 attendees have participated in the Bühler Aeroglide seminars since they began in 2002. Most recently in North Carolina, Indonesia and Brazil.  

The techniques and education we provide is relative to any dryer make or model and enhancing the drying operation is the primary goal​,” said Tordella. 

“I consider a site visit successful when I can save a customer 10%-30% a year on the dryer’s energy bill, reduce variability or if I’ve helped increase production capacity. 

The hardest thing about this jobis working with a customer who is hesitant to deviate from what has been done historically, especially when I know from experience that our suggestion has been successfully proven​.  

It can be frustrating to know how to help but not being able to make the changes needed because the customer fears lost production time and raw material​.”

Tordella added recently, he was at a food manufacturer’s site where they pushed the boundaries beyond what it had considered normal for the maximum temperature used for drying a specific product. 

We had great success and increased the production rate. Relaying this back has allowed other engineers to experience similar results​,” he said.

The most recent visit, last week, saw a lot of trials to determine the maximum bed depth before we started plugging the bed plate perforations and reducing airflow too much. This was an iterative process over the course of several days to ensure slow, sustainable changes were implemented​.” 

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