The almost magical art of transforming raw milk into delectable cheeses is centuries old. But today's intense interest in locally produced and unique offerings is unprecedented. As artisan cheesemakers enter the market or expand production to meet demand, they face multiple manufacturing challenges.
“We have supported the artisan cheese movement for more than a decade,” said Marie Giguère, director of marketing, Qualtech. “Our manufacturing solutions are designed to meet the immediate needs of both large and small producers – and help them grow cost-effectively.”
In fact, Qualtech has implemented more than 150 cheese plant expansions during the past 20 years.
Headquartered in Quebec, Qualtech provides stainless steel equipment, process engineering and turnkey project implementation for a wide range of pharmaceutical, food and dairy applications. The company's extensive expertise in cheese processing technology encompasses the complete manufacturing line – from milk intake through curd transformation and pressing.
Qualtech also supplies the Clean-in-Place (CIP) systems that are integral to efficient cheese making. Instead of disassembling process equipment to clean and sanitize it, CIP systems circulate water and chemical solutions throughout the equipment and pipework. Typically, cheesemakers run the CIP system at least once each day – or after a production batch is complete.
To avoid cross-contamination, each cheese production facility must have at least two CIP systems. One system cleans the equipment that carries the raw milk from the intake to the pasteurizer. The other cleans the equipment that handles the pasteurized product. The pasteurizer's cleaning system is self-contained.
A typical CIP system includes three or four tanks to store the rinse water and alkaline and acid solutions used for cleaning. Pneumatic valves release the solutions into the system based on the prescribed cleaning sequence.
“Depending on the customer's requirements, we can use different methods to control the chemical concentration of the solutions – and the duration of each cleaning phase in the sequence,” explained Dominique Roberge, director of engineering, Qualtech.
For example, a relatively simple CIP system will use a time-based injection process to manage chemical dosing. More sophisticated systems incorporate additional instrumentation and determine proportional dosing based on flow and actual conductivity.
“The simpler systems are oftentimes most efficient and affordable for our smaller cheese producers,” said Giguère. “But as these cheesemakers grow, they often find they must improve resource management.”
As plants expand, Qualtech helps customers build on their initial investment and incorporate more precise measurement technology to better control chemical and water consumption – and meet environmental mandates.
“We also supply CIP systems that include a recovery tank,” Roberge added. “These systems allow cheesemakers to recover costly chemical solutions used in the cleaning process.”
The scalable Qualtech CIP portfolio is based on an equally scalable Rockwell Automation control and information platform, featuring Allen-Bradley® CompactLogix™ controllers. Allen-Bradley PowerFlex® 525 AC drives provide precise, energy-efficient variable speed control of the system's water pumps, while Allen-Bradley PanelView™ Plus 6 graphic terminals enable local monitoring.
The pneumatic valves throughout the system are supplied by Festo Corporation, a Rockwell Automation Encompass™ Product Partner.
The solution is integrated on an EtherNet/IP™ network and includes Allen-Bradley Stratix 2000™ unmanaged Ethernet switches. Ideal for small control networks, the Stratix 2000 switches enable easy integration of the CIP system with the cheese processing equipment throughout a plant.
“At Qualtech, we know every detail counts – from the initial design of our equipment to the sharpness of our measurement instrumentation to the programming and control system,” Giguère said. “We pride ourselves on delivering CIP systems that are cost-effective, efficient – and environmentally responsible.”
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