How to make sure a new product goes through the customer's plant

Paul Boughton
When a manufacturing process for a powder or granular material changes, it can affect the handleability and flow of the material through downstream process plants. This is what happened when Imerys wanted to change the format of the clay used in papermaking around Europe from a spraydried clay with 5 per cent moisture to a granulated clay with 18 - 20 per cent moisture. The natural question was: Will this new material flow reliably through our customers' plants?

Imerys worked together with The Wolfson Centre for Bulk Solids Handling Technology to carry out a comprehensive series of tests, using the existing product and prototypes of the new product. In response to identified differences in behaviour between the old and new product form, some adjustments were made to the new manufacturing process, and the improved material re-tested.

Imerys worked with their customers to advise them how to readjust their plant and limited 'preview' shipment trials were undertaken at a number of plants, to show that the predictions made about the behaviour of the new material were accurate and give customers confidence that the new material would behave well in their plants.

By managing the change-over in this way, the risks were isolated and dealt with before they became real and when the new material started to go to customers it flowed without trouble in their handling systems.

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The Wolfson Centre for Bulk Solids Handling is based at University of Greenwich, Chatham Maritime, Kent, UK. Imerys is based in Par, Cornwall, UK.

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