Building Client Relationships: Understanding the value

Acuity Process was founded with the goal of adding substantive technical value to the customers we serve. Following is a shining example of the kind of relationship that we strive to build with those that we are proud to call clients and friends:

Over the past four years, Acuity Process has been working very closely with a major manufacturer of nutritional supplement products that are extremely difficult to handle and pump. One of their products must remain hot at all times or it will harden into a thick paste that cannot be transferred as a fluid. It must also be handled very gently or the texture and nutritional value of the product will be adversely affected and can’t be reconstituted. Acuity has enjoyed working with their engineering department and maintenance teams to find products and methods to enhance their throughput and minimize downtime, all while maintaining product integrity.

Our first project at the plant involved heated transfer hoses that are used on expensive filling machines. The plant was built to utilize hot water external jacketed hose to keep the internal process flowing, but the jackets were failing. This could potentially cause contamination of the product by heating media, along with uneven temperature holding ranges. In addition, there was the danger of releasing perilously hot water, and the related safety and cleaning concerns. We were called in to discuss alternatives. The company expressed a desire to move to a more reliable alternative that minimized the potential for catastrophic failures. In addition, they had machinery that had come from outside the United States and had end connections that were not standard domestic sanitary fittings. We went to work with our supplier, Ace Sanitary Hose to find an answer.

Renovate for the right reasons

We ended up supplying Ace Sanitary EHH hoses (Electrically Heated Hose), which are based on the Ace Sanitary TSC super-flexible smooth-bore Teflon hose. The smooth bore was a great choice because it minimizes areas in which product can pool and solidify. Ace encases the TSC with a very high-integrity electrical mat-style heater that utilizes an RTD on top of a protective heat-distributing layer designed to spread heat evenly over the entire hose at the target temperature. The assembly is further wrapped with a flexible insulation and the entire hose is jacketed in white silicone extruded outer shell that maintains flexibility and offers a surface that is easily washed down. We finished the hose ends with Swedish Milk Fitting (SMS) connections to correctly fit-up to the equipment.

They installed the first hoses on a multi-lane piston-pump filler that pulsates frequently (which is challenging for a hose to handle!) Since the first installation almost four years ago (and a few bumps as we ‘got it right’!), we have more than 20 units in service that have been in operation 24 hours a day, 5 days a week, with no failure to date. It was a major win for the client.

The next focus was their pumping systems. Prior to Acuity’s involvement, the client had been using industrial gear pumps to convey their product. This process had been problematic, as the pumps were binding up, overheating and crystallizing the product. There was also a problem with mechanical seal leakage. Reliability was a constant issue. In addition, the product must be maintained in the pump at a constant temperature or it solidifies to a state that is virtually impossible to clean. Also, the pump must be extremely gentle and impart very little shear, or the product texture and integrity can be adversely affected. Acuity turned to ITT Bornemann Twin-Screw pumps to help provide a solution. ITT offered their SLH-1000 pump, which uses a twin-screw positive displacement design. The twin-screw is self-priming, and provides extremely smooth flow even in high viscosity applications. We offered a heat jacketed head so that the product would remain hot in the pump, and mounted it all on a clean stainless steel base. It’s an expensive pump; to give our client confidence, ITT-Bornemann offered them a fantastic guarantee: if the pump failed to meet expectations they would take it back at no charge. With the guarantee in-hand, our client moved forward and purchased their first pump in 2015.

The first pump performed beautifully on initial start-up but experienced seal issues shortly thereafter. ITT stood behind the product and flew two service technicians to the site to troubleshoot and install an alternative seal design. The second design performed even better than expected.

Over the past three years the client has replaced more than 15 pumps and they have been running with no issues or failures, requiring only routine maintenance. There were no more delays in morning startups as the heated jackets performed as promised.

Since then, we have worked with them and their installing contractor to design and install a custom piping system that maintains product temperature. We have provided heat jacketed magnetic trap solutions to remove any metal particulate from their process, which was difficult to achieve due to viscosity concerns. As testimony to Acuity’s relationship with the factory, they recently expedited an emergency line trap order in less than half the lead-time as a new line was brought up early. We’ve connected them with other companies that could help them clean and passivate their piping systems. We’ve provided instrumentation solutions. The list goes on.

Since that first opportunity for heated hoses, the Acuity team has built an extremely strong relationship with their engineering and maintenance groups. We enjoy working closely with them on the ‘difficult things.’ We know their process well and we keep our eyes open for innovative and new products that can bring them real value. They realize that value often costs a little more money in the short-term. They also know that they can rely on Acuity to provide solutions that will offer total cost-of-ownership savings while eliminating their headaches and downtime. It’s a win-win situation and an example of the sort of relationship we seek to build with all of our clients.

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