Optimised separation and clarification vital to smaller capacity dairy competitiveness
The continued volatility of UK dairy pricing means smaller dairy manufacturers should optimise existing processes to better compete in a challenging market, according to Alfa Laval.
According to an April report published by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), milk delivery quantities last month totalled 1.5% more than March 2022, totalling an estimated 12.39bn litres delivered in the now-finished 22/23 season. Key factors behind this included greater milk production in the latter half of the year following high milk prices, leading to year-on-year production increases from September 2022 to March 2023.
However, though the AHDB is expecting yields to remain strong throughout spring and deliveries to increase over the 23/24 season, this hinges on how milk prices decline following tightening farm margins. With these fluctuations in mind, Ian Forrester, business unit manager for Separation and Food Systems at Alfa Laval, is advising smaller capacity dairies to review existing separation and clarification processes to ensure they remain robust and profitable and replace inefficient equipment with newer models if necessary.
He said: “The dairy market is extremely price-sensitive, which can place smaller manufacturers at a disadvantage when it comes to weathering fluctuating trends – especially those manufacturing smaller quantities of high-end products using older machinery. Consequently, identifying equipment optimisations, including minimising unit floor footprints or reducing time spent on tasks like cleaning, are vital to remaining competitive and maximising ROI. Additionally, updating separation and clarification equipment with new plug-and-play models, including our own H3 and D3 separators, could streamline ongoing operational and servicing efforts that become more demanding as existing, long-standing machinery naturally deteriorates and performance declines.
“But with owners and production managers at smaller dairies often time-poor due to work pressures and smaller staff headcounts, it is far harder for these SMEs to build resilience without a supplier’s help. This is especially when standby equipment may not be available due to space being at a premium, meaning primary machinery must be as hardy as possible to enable continuous, uninterrupted operation.
“As such, reviewing existing skimming and clarification processes and machinery alongside experienced consultants can help these businesses make the most of their milk, reduce downtime, and specify best possible process solutions.”
Alfa Laval’s new D3 clarifier and H3 skimmer are the latest models of the H-Series and D-Series separator ranges. With both models including self-discharging separators instead of traditional solid bowl models, cleaning is a less labour-intensive process. Similarly, the top-fed design with pairing disc outlets allows for max flow rates of 3,000 l/h and 5,000 l/h for the H3 and D3 respectively, resulting in efficient and profitable processing that exceeds performance demands.
“Our key aim is assisting small dairy producers in optimising every resource in their process in their facility,” concludes Ian. “It is for this reason that our high-efficiency dairy equipment has been designed with a compact skid that includes an automatic CIP for hygiene requirements, while further streamlining product waste and consuming less energy and water.
“The H3 and D3 embody that aim of helping dairy smaller-capacity dairies deliver top-quality products through boosting efficiency and eventual ROI, while remaining simple to maintain and service. By partnering with suppliers such as Alfa Laval, these SMEs can improve resilience and competitiveness, while ensuring they meet crucial food grade compliance demands.”