With more than 50 years of experience backing its high-tech conveying solutions, Piab is a trusted provider of automated process equipment and product handling solutions for the food, pharmaceutical and chemicals processing industries.
Foodprocessing-technology.com spoke to the president of Piab’s vacuum conveying division, Kajsa Ryttberg Wallgren, to learn more about the company’s mission and industry-leading material handling solutions.
Tell us about Piab. Piab has just announced its new vision and mission – how is this going to affect the company and its customers?
At Piab, we believe in an automated world where no resources are wasted, and no humans are injured. We alone cannot create that world; our mission is to evolve automation through progressive gripping, lifting and moving solutions, but we believe that without us, our vision about the world will not be possible. Our new vision and mission take the focus away from components and individual transactions to how we can help our customers solving their challenges related to energy consumption, industrial working conditions and productivity, on their journey towards fully automating their production lines and eventually moving into Industry 4.0.
Tell us more about yourself. What is your role and how did you decide to work with an industrial company? What are you excited and passionate about within the company?
I joined Piab about 1.5 years ago as President of the Vacuum Conveying division, following about 13 years of work in other Nordic industrial companies like Yara International, Sandvik and Sapa (today Hydro). I am a curious explorer with a true passion for the convergence between technology and business, and how this intersection can solve global societal problems, as well as everyday challenges for the individual. When I got in contact with Piab for the first time, I realised it was a perfect match for me due to the company’s innovation power, customer centricity, technology leadership and global presence. In addition, I am a true believer in the importance of diversity and inclusion in terms of mindset, background, gender and culture. Looking at the managerial levels in my division, we have nine nationalities, approximately 30% women, and wide range of theoretical and practical experiences – a recipe for success!
Why are the solutions Piab offers interesting and how do they benefit your customers?
It is a fascinating field since we touch a lot of different industries and impact peoples’ lives. It might be that our conveyor has moved the coffee beans through the production line of the coffee you had today.
In a simple way, what we do is moving powders, granules, or other type of dry products from one process step to another using vacuum, allowing companies to automate their processes. We are leaders in vacuum technology in Food, Pharmaceutical and Chemical industries and through the years we have gathered knowledge on how different materials behave. We are able to test different products in our global network of labs and based on that offer tailored solutions. We have tested sugar, beans, coffee, salt, cereals, cinnamon, egg powders, additive tablets – you name it. That lead to specialised solutions for example gentle conveying of fragile candies and pastilles and increased productivity on our customer’s manufacturing sites.
Can you share some success stories from customers that use your products?
One could say we are a best kept secret – in a lot of companies the structure of their production line and technologies they use are trade secrets, so they are not willing to share how well we have addressed their challenges.
Thankfully sometimes we manage to convince them, so here are some examples: In one German manufacturer of organic sweets we have increased sugar sieving output by 30%. We have replaced technology they have been using and eliminated long downtime due to cleaning. Our conveyors are designed to be easy to clean and have very few parts, meaning it is easy to disassemble, clean and assemble back.
At a large coffee manufacturer, we have improved productivity and working conditions for operators. They had to carry heavy bags of reclaimed coffee three floors to the start of the process. They started with one conveyor, but the business grew and now they have several units doing the job.
In general, powders and ingredients in food production is quite dusty so we see some of the facilities all covered in dust; introducing vacuum conveyor to handle the powder can eliminate all this dust. Imagine how relieved the employees are – no more sneezing or multiple showers to wash the dust off.
What is the future of material handling in factories?
The future is automation – not only moving away from manual handling but also implementing smart technologies. Replacing manual labour with automation increases productivity and removes dependency on the personnel. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has shown some manufacturing companies that they have to invest in automation. Moreover, with the shift to Industry 4.0 it is crucial to have automated processes to benefit from the advancement in technology. One of our products, piFLOWp SMART, is able to replace an experienced operator and tune itself based on the material it is conveying, the humidity and the temperature in the facility or application. It takes maximum ten minutes to change parameters for new materials conveyed whereas it would take an experienced operator one hour. Imagine how many hours it would take just to set the system if one is using multiple materials or recipes. This technology is available right now. We will get even SMARTER solutions in the future. The possibilities are unlimited but to benefit from those one must take steps towards automation already today.