The food manufacturing industry follows distinct development flows or a combination of the two. These two production techniques are known as the batch process and the continuous process.
In the early days, major food production facilities almost exclusively relied upon a large-scale batch process to avoid investing capital into the upgrades required to outfit their operations for continuous processes. As time went on, the ability to mass-produce goods became increasingly vital to achieving sustained profits. So, for decades now, large bakeries and food production plants have long since scaled their facilities up to support a continuous process.
Nonetheless, specialty items and a diversified product portfolio focused on unique customer demands, traceability, food security, and quality kept the batch process significantly in play. The degree to which each process is typically used will vary. However, by most estimates, of all food manufacturing plants operating today that use batch methods, these low processes are still deployed almost half the time.
What, then, are these two processes exactly, and how do they differentiate from one another?
What defines the batch process?
Whenever a batch process is used, it always entails a combination of ingredients and a sequence of production steps that follow a pre-established order. These steps could be several or as little as one. The production process starts with raw materials while finished products render after a specified time. By the end of each sequence, a set amount of goods is developed to comprise a single batch. Subsequent batches can only start after all of the established products have been created to complete the batch process.
In general, batch processes produce limited quantities in comparison with the continuous method because many raw materials must process over a considerable about of time before the batch completes. During the batch processing time, necessary equipment to produce new items remains occupied. Therefore, any subsequent batches planned must necessarily wait out all the processing activities before production starts again.
What defines the continues process?
The continuous raw materials begin the process, just like the batch technique. But instead of waiting for those raw materials to complete, they’re fed continuously through each production step until achieving the final outcome. This allows the facilities to constantly produce additional product units without having to wait on processing activities.
As implied in the process name, the flow of materials into production is continuous. This is also known as the non-stop production cycle. Individual units are moved in intervals throughout the line without breaks for processing, with each machine operating continually, fulfilling their designated functions. Well implemented continuous processes enhance product quality, reduce manufacturing errors, increase productivity while cutting down on waste. Similarly, this method is more efficient at implementing changes to individual food items than batch processing.
The batch process and continuous process compared
Upon evaluating which process to use, identifying the advantages and disadvantages of each approach becomes necessary. A majority of the time, the decision boils down to cost. Before getting started, the continuous process requires an investment in substantially more expensive hardware than the low batch process.
On the upside, employee downtimes inherent to the batch process drastically reduce in the continuous process. Your facility will operate much more efficiently following a non-stop production cycle method. Moreover, if you’re challenged for manual labor, the continuous process demands fewer operators than its counterpart.
Because the non-stop production cycles rely upon industrial automation solutions, which brings a lot of ease to the manufacturing process, it is not nearly as resource intensive as batch-orientated production. Yet withal, both processes, batch and continuous, are crucial to the manufacturing cycle. A keen understanding of each of them is essential and goes a long way in helping determine which approach is best for the task at hand.
The key benefits of batch processing
The benefits to the batch process are numerous and diverse. Here are just a few of them:
- Better quality control and improved traceability
- Low cost of equipment
- Utilizes sanitary production techniques
Although specific batch processing procedures require regulatory approval, they do account for effective production methods at many facilities across the globe. In many respects, the batch approach is easier to facilitate and trace than the continuous method.
The main challenges of batch processing
We’ve established that there are upsides to batch production. A few downsides ought to be mentioned as well. They are as follows:
- More required storage space for the lengthy processing stages
- Errors can add up and lead to waste
- Increased production downtime attributable to waiting and quality control
- Bottlenecks along the production line that limit facility capacity
- The key benefits of continuous processing
Continuous processing, while more expensive to implement, benefits most facilities in these ways listed below:
- Real-time process monitoring with enhanced processed control
- Less required warehouse space
- More efficient processing and holding time
- The main challenges of continuous processing
Continuous processing is generally more efficient, but not without its limitations. These are just a few downsides to the continuous approach:
- Inflexible processes and high setup costs
- Frequent employee training on automated software and web applications
- Contamination issues if the equipment is left unsanitized
- Increase your visibility into your production process with EzSoft
Irrespective of whether your facility uses a batch or continuous process, EzSoft can help gain more visibility into your product manufacturing through unique toolsets such as ControlBuilder®, capable of generating countless outputs that are fully importable into your control system. ControlBuilder® can swiftly produce a range of functions and data for a project of any size.
Are you wondering to yourself, “where can I find industrial automation companies near me?” Look no further than EzSoft, a premier, full-service integrator of control systems in Malvern, Pennsylvania.
To learn more about process automation solutions for your manufacturing operations, reach out to a dedicated client specialist at (484) 568-5040 today.