How a Multidiscipline Engineering Approach to Batch Retort Design Saves Time, Cuts Costs, and Reduces Waste

Multidiscipline Engineering

At Matrix Technologies, we do more than simply provide the services our clients request—we also look for ways to save our clients time and money. One of the ways in which we are able provide time and cost savings is through our ability to offer multidiscipline engineering services. As a single-source supplier of mechanical, process, civil, structural, architectural, and electrical engineering services, Matrix acts as a one-stop shop for the varied needs of large-scale industrial manufacturers.

These coordinated services are particularly helpful for companies in the food and beverage industry with complex problems to solve. Recently, one of the largest retail private-label soup manufacturers in the United States approached Matrix to create an Automated Batch Retort (ABR) cook room using industrial cookers they had already purchased. Matrix engineers were responsible for process design, including material flow diagrams, Process & Instrumentation Diagrams (P&IDs), and equipment specifications for the retort cooling system. The engineers designed foundations for the nine retorts, shuttle rail, unloading lifting device, sump structure, cooling tower, storage tank foundations, HVAC, and all necessary support structures.

Though completing these tasks required engineers from our civil, process, electrical, and industrial solutions groups, Matrix was able to keep costs low by providing an onsite construction manager to supervise all contractors and coordinate services between the different groups. In addition to keeping the process running smoothly, the presence of a single contact saved the client time by eliminating the need to contact multiple contractors and ensuring smooth communications between all the engineers.

Batch Retort Design

During the process of designing the ABR for this soup manufacturer, Matrix engineers saved time and money by applying novel approaches to two design challenges: optimizing user control and communication between devices, and creating a method for cooling the soup cans to an acceptable temperature.

Using Existing Infrastructure to Optimize Communications and Save Money

Part of the process for building the ABR included developing programming and configuration of PLC, HMI, and VFDs for the retort cooling tower system and conveyors. Matrix engineers used the existing ethernet network, which allowed our team to put the controllers and devices out at the cookers and use the existing plant network to communicate. In addition, our engineers piggybacked off of the manufacturer’s existing HMI server system and added more operator stations to their Rockwell platform. By using the infrastructure the manufacturer already had in place, we were able to not only make the process easier but also save the client the time and expense of developing new systems.

Leveraging Design Innovation to Cut Costs and Conserve Water

Though all elements to the batch retort design were important, the key to ensuring the safety and integrity of the product and facility was the cooling towers. To remain compliant with all safety regulations and produce a safe, quality product for consumers, soup manufacturers use industrial cookers to guarantee their product is sealed properly, heated to the correct temperature, and cooked efficiently. To do so, the cooker, once loaded with cans, is filled with water heated to around 285-300°F, pressurized, and cooked. However, when cooking is completed, these cans must be immediately cooled without releasing pressure too quickly (otherwise, the cans might burst).

To address this problem, Matrix engineers designed the automation of the cooling system that releases cool water (68°F) kept at the same pressure as the hot water being drained. While designing this process, our team recognized an opportunity to also cut costs for the client by reusing the water already going through the system. The client is charged by the city for the water coming in and going out of the plant, and in the past, the water in the system was constantly being pulled from the city’s supply, used to cool the cans, and released to the drain that feeds into the city’s waste water facility. Our team designed a system that captures the water used in the cooling  process and runs it through the cooling towers (rather than pulling new water in), creating a closed loop for reusing the water. The reuse of the water helps reduce the cost the client pays for water from the city. In addition, the cooling water absorbs the heat energy from the cans increasing its temperature. By using a series of heat exchangers, we designed a system to pull the energy from that water and use it to heat other water sources that are part of the manufacturing process. This has the added benefit of reducing the client’s natural gas bills as well. The overall result is not only a significant cost savings but also a substantial amount of water conservation.

The Result: A Showcase-Worthy System

For this soup manufacturer, our multidiscipline engineering services provided effective solutions to a large-scale project, eliminated hassle, and reduced costs. The result was a finished system the client now uses as a showcase system to show the level of sophistication and quality in their operations to their customers.

Matrix Technologies is one of the largest independent process design, industrial automation engineering, and manufacturing operations management companies in North America. To learn more about our industrial automation services, contact Daniel Crisman, Department Manager.

© Matrix Technologies, Inc.

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