Nigel Knight from Evoqua Water Technologies highlights how key priorities such as traceability, operational efficiency and sustainable best practice can all be met by implementing an effective water management strategy.
Today’s production environment is one in which operational efficiency and waste reduction is key. While the quality of water has to remain the key consideration for dairy manufacturers, by undertaking a thorough audit of their water management, plants not only ensure that water used during the production process meets high quality standards, but also significantly reduces wastage and maximises efficiency.
By taking a proactive approach to water management and gaining in-depth insight into how it’s being used, plants can also determine the right technology and solutions to boost their operational efficiency and sustainability. For example, by using technology that allows regular and consistent analysis of water at various stages of the production line, manufacturers can ensure high quality water levels are maintained at every turn, enhancing their traceability credentials – an ever increasing factor considered by retailers and consumers.
When it comes to considering options for waste water, such as recycling, plants should first look to reduce a site’s water usage. Here, manufacturers can simply look at where wastage may be occurring by analysing overuse (eg staff wastage and checking for leakage, through damaged or ageing infrastructure).
Another key area for potential excessive water use is in cleaning processes across dairy production sites, so this element of operation needs to be carefully analysed.
Plants that are in control of their usage can then consider options for water recycling, and there’s a range of uses open to the dairy industry. For example, water can be treated to a high quality for specific reuse in the wider production process, or just ‘cleaned up’ for lower grade usage.
Due to the stringent hygiene levels within the dairy sector, plants can be guaranteed water is safe for reuse by following a process of pretreatment, membrane filtration, disinfection and polishing.
In addition to high-purity treatment, water can also be recycled for use in boilers, cooling towers and cleaning-in-place (CIP) systems.
As well as being able to guarantee a hygienic and safe end water product, technology is available in specific models for the dairy industry that meet sector standards. For example, hygienic design is incorporated in skid and pipework systems. Methods for sanitisation are also a key consideration and there are now products available for hot sanitisation instead of using chemicals, which also offers a cost saving.
Through simpler measures that smarten operations, such as educating staff about water wastage and checking for leakages, there are also significant gains to be made in terms of corporate social responsibility and environmental commitments. For dairy plants, which often operate in rural areas and smaller communities, this point is perhaps even more poignant.
For ultimate operational efficiency and sustainability, water management and treatments should be considered as a part of a site’s integrated water system. While many dairy processors may look at their requirements on a need-by-need basis, true operational and cost efficiencies are reaped from operating an integrated system that is carefully and intelligently designed.
Every dairy manufacturer is different and use of water can vary drastically from site to site. However, as it plays such a vital role in operations, the savings that can be achieved could potentially run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, so dairy manufacturers would be well-advised to take advantage of these bottom line benefits.
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