Flexible flow sensors for sustainable manufacturing

Arla Foods analyses energy consumption using flow sensors

Dairy cooperative Arla Foods has, for the first time, created transparency over the energy consumed in cottage cheese production at its Falkenberg, Sweden location. This involves the use of the Baumer Flex-Flow sensor, which is able to measure the temperature of the medium as well as the flow rate. The cost reductions this could achieve in the future quickly made this a worthwhile investment. 

At its Falkenberg location, Arla Foods produces 20,000 tonnes of cottage cheese every year equivalent to 76.9 tons per day. An impressive quantity indeed. The firm satisfies almost the entire cottage cheese demand on the Swedish market and also exports to Finland, Denmark and Greece. Production volumes of this magnitude call for a resource-efficient manufacturing process, and Arla Foods is a forerunner when it comes to sustainability: the dairy cooperative intends to be making its products completely CO2-neutral by 2050. A key element of this journey is energy efficiency. Mattias Abrahamsson, production system manager at Arla Falkenberg, reports: “In recent years, we have placed an increasingly strong focus on monitoring the energy consumption of our plants. In certain areas, however, we simply didn´t know where exactly the energy was being used.”

FlexFlow, the calorimetric flow sensor from Baumer achieved the breakthrough: Arla installed these sensors at the neuralgic points in the cooling and heating system and used the measurement results to obtain, for the first time, a clear image of the energy consumption. The dairy producer can now derive concrete measures for reducing energy consumption.

Sustainable manufacturing challenges

Cooling and heating – these were the tricky points in the energy consumption for Arla Foods. Because of its commitment to sustainability, the food manufacturer had already made a great effort to reduce the energy balance when the plant was designed. It uses to the greatest possible extent, for example, the low external temperatures of the Swedish climate to achieve a cooling temperature of 0.5° for the cooling circuit, which cools the produced cheese from 60 to 30°C. Yet energy losses that Arla had been unable to localise for some time occurred here as well.

“The benefits of the FlexFlow sensor caught our attention as soon as we heard about them. This sounded exactly like what we had been looking for,” says Abrahamsson. Baumer has been collaborating with Arla Foods for many years, reports Martin Leupold, product manager for process sensors at Baumer. 

New connection created for sustainable manufacturing

The cooperation has seen the development of a new process connection for milk production called Baumer Hygienic Connection, and this has effectively optimised the cleaning times. The temperature sensors from the CombiSeries product range were also created under the close collaboration between Arla and the Baumer Development Centre in Aarhus in Denmark. “This close collaboration is allowing us to get to know our customers´ pain points,” explains Leupold. “And we can use that knowledge to develop or suggest products that actually optimise their processes in a sustainable manner.” To solve the problem of monitoring energy consumption, the choice fell to the FlexFlow sensor because it could easily be integrated into the existing plant and is able to measure both flow and temperature.

The simple installation of the sensor is down to the symmetrical and centred design with one sensor element ahead of the sensor tip, which allows the sensor to be optimally installed in the process regardless of installation position and orientation. “We want our portfolio to make commissioning as easy as it can be for our customers,” says Leupold. “This allows them to spend their precious time on what actually needs to be done.” The flow sensor has a robust stainless-steel housing that accommodates all the electronics, so there´s no need for complex wiring or control cabinet installation.

It also meets the requirements for protection class IP 68 (Baumer proTect+), making this sensor, together with the materials used, an ideal solution for hygienic applications.

A noteworthy feature is its maximum temperature range to 150°C, which also qualifies it for sterilisation-in-process (SIP) tasks.

Arla has installed 15 of the flow sensors in the cooling circuit and heating system. The plan is to also integrate the sensors into the CIP return line to monitor and optimise the energy consumption there as well.



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