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Remaining proudly independent in an industry that’s widely consolidated, the Mt. Olive Pickle Company in Mount Olive, N.C., maximizes uptime and minimizes labor using a new self-cleaning filter system that eliminates production stoppage due to filter cleaning and blocking.
As the largest privately held U.S. pickle company in an industry that’s undergone widespread consolidation, the Mt. Olive Pickle Company understands it must operate more efficiently than the competition while producing product of the highest quality for consumers. Packing more than 90 million jars of pickles, relishes and peppers annually for distribution in more than 45 states, one required process is running fresh pack product through a brine wash solution sprayed by nozzles at a salt bath.
To keep the spray nozzles from clogging with bits of product debris washed off in the process, the brine wash solution must be filtered before each reuse. Previously, however, the traditional filter bags used had distinct drawbacks.
“Depending on the product running, filter bags on each production line had to be changed about once an hour, during which time production had to stop for about five minutes,” says Steve Whitman, production manager for Mt. Olive.
Furthermore, filtering efficiency could vary depending on how full the bags were, leading to potential spray nozzle blockage and line shutdown. To determine when to change filter bags, workers had to spend time and attention monitoring pressure gauges.
“As the outlet pressure gauge dropped and the inlet pressure gauge increased, workers knew they needed to get in there and change their bag out,” says Whitman.
Cleaning the strainers and changing out the filter bags by hand was a wet, messy job, and purchasing, storing, handling and disposing of the bags added to production costs.
Based on the recommendation of its salt bath supplier and its own research, Mt. Olive turned to a self-cleaning system called Eco Filter from Russell Finex of Pineville, N.C.
Manufactured at the Russell Finex plant, the Eco Filter is a self-cleaning system that integrates directly into the pipeline and completely eliminates the need to change filter bags or clean filtration baskets. By means of a unique spiral wiper design, the filter element is kept continuously clean, ensuring optimum filtration efficiency. Because of its self-cleaning design, cleaning the filter between batch runs is quick and easy with minimal disruption during production changeovers.
“We no longer need to shut down production or baby-sit filter bags,” says Whitman. “Because we’re getting all the particulate pieces of product out of the brine solution, we’re not stopping up our nozzles and we’re getting good brine flow into the system.”
Mt. Olive now uses a number of Russell Eco Filters in production. These have a unique Q-Tap valve that allows the sampling of freshly filtered material so quality can easily be monitored on the fly without interrupting production. The filters also feature the Russell Filter Management System, a technology that automatically opens the oversize discharge valve at a specified differential pressure or time interval. The system enables the filter to be operated efficiently without operator involvement.
“Production is streamlined because the system automatically flushes and cleans itself when needed, and there’s no need to monitor, change or dispose of bags,” says Whitman.
Compared to the previous filter bags, these filters are saving the company a substantial amount of downtime and labor.
“We’ve had zero downtime with the Eco Filters,” says Whitman. “Because they’re virtually maintenance free, they’ve helped us meet our production targets while saving labor.”
As companies like Mt. Olive are discovering, the self-cleaning Eco Filter fits neatly into existing production lines, in many instances adding significant capacity without requiring excessive space. Because it’s totally enclosed, it also prevents outside pollutants from contaminating product and protects operators from any fumes or spillage. Users see substantial improvement in product purity as well as throughput and waste elimination.
“With more production uptime and lower labor costs, the Eco Filters are helping us stay productive, competitive and grow into new markets,” says Whitman. “They’re part of our winning team.”