Hose pumps improve and lower Anheuser-Busch Inbev facilities’ production costs

Aug. 8, 2015

Anheuser-Busch breweries in China and the U.K. used hose pumps to optimize filtration processes, reducing maintenance time and lowering costs.

A pump manufacturer provided technology to help optimize processes in two Anheuser-Busch InBev breweries. The application in China was a diatomaceous earth, or kieselguhr, disposal process following filtration. The other replaced conventional piston pumps to dose kieselguhr in slurry form into a filter to form a "bed" on a plate and frame filter.

Diatomaceous earth disposal in China

When Anheuser-Busch InBev needed to reduce labor costs at a Chinese brewing facility, it turned to hose pumps. The pump automated manual operations, reducing labor and filter press downtime.

The technology offered considerable cost savings and provided an improved environmental solution. The company now plans to modify three additional filter presses to use the hose pumps.

Since Anheuser-Busch InBev first entered the Chinese market in 1984, the company has established 36 plants and hired approximately 25,000 employees. The Putian brewery in Fujian province is one of the largest, with annual beer output of about 1 million tons.

The plant’s production method relied on manual processes, including four plate-and-frame filter presses for filtration of diatomaceous earth. They added considerably to labor costs. Workers collected waste diatomaceous earth after it was emitted into stainless steel boxes under the filters. Then two workers were required to shovel the diatomaceous earth into bags, which were then carried to a truck for appropriate disposal.

The process required heavy labor and was time-consuming. Because shoveling the diatomaceous earth into bags relied on human judgment, some of the material always ended up on the brewery floor. Workers had to spend extra time washing down the area, which had a big impact on production planning and scheduling, particularly during the peak season.

To find a solution to the problem, the facility turned to a pump manufacturer that had 14 successful applications in the moving of diatomaceous earth.

An application engineer suggested that the production facility install a cone-shaped tray with a screw propeller under the filter to feed the waste diatomaceous earth to the hose pump. From there the diatomaceous earth could be pumped to a collection tank stand outside the plate and then loaded on a truck for transfer and disposal.

The idea was successfully implemented on one of the filters. Operations personnel estimate the hose pump has saved the efforts of two workers and the associated labor time. Furthermore, the pump can be set to run at the same time as diatom unloading in the press, reducing filter downtime and helping maintain production schedules. The pump has also reduced environmental impact since cleaning water is no longer required.

In addition, no maintenance has been required since the pump began operations. As a result, the Putian facility of Anheuser-Busch InBev is finalizing plans to modify its three other filter presses on-site.

Kieselguhr dosing in the U.K.

When conventional piston pumps threatened the quality at one of the most productive breweries in Europe, the solution arrived in the form of a direct-coupled peristaltic hose pump. The pump was so successful that Anheuser-Busch InBev, the U.K.’s Magor Brewery in Monmouthshire, South Wales, now has six models on-site.

Kieselguhr, a sedimentary rock/mineral, is used by brewers as part of the critical beer filtration process. In this operation, a pump is deployed to dose kieselguhr in slurry form into the filter so it creates a "bed" on a plate and frame filter. However, the unreliability of the piston pumps might lead to the introduction of dissolved oxygen (DO) into the beer.

"Even the slightest traces of DO in beer can change its flavor, making it taste stale," said Paul Evans, Tech Services’ first line manager at Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Magor Brewery. "This can be catastrophic for both our reputation and sales. It is critical for us to monitor the ingress of DO into our beers — we strive to achieve levels of less than 10 parts per billion, which is incredibly difficult over the entire brewing process where the potential for exposure to oxygen is high," says Evans. "Unfortunately the stainless steel non-return valves on the discharge side of our piston pumps began to stick [because of] the abrasive nature of the kieselguhr slurry. As a result, we would end up maintaining or replacing the pumps, which would inevitably expose the beer to the atmosphere."

This peristaltic pump doses kieselguhr slurry in a filtration application in the U.K. brewery.

With three filter mains on-site at the Magor Brewery, InBev decided to trial a peristaltic (hose) pump.

"The peristaltic operating principle intrigued us because it seemed there would be no way to introduce oxygen into our process," said Evans. "However, the proof is in the pudding, so we introduced [a pump to] one of our filter mains."

Peristaltic pumps have no valves, seals or glands, and the fluid contacts only the bore of the hose or tube, eliminating the risk of the pump contaminating the fluid, or the fluid contaminating the pump. The pump, which features a rugged hub with a twin-bearing rotor at its core, combines the advantages of bare-shaft construction with those of a close-coupled pump. The pump bearings absorb the forces occurring in the pump centrally, placing no load on the gear-box bearings, which means no coupling, no alignment and no heavy-duty base plate — resulting in shortened installation time, less maintenance and lower costs.

At the Magor Brewery, extensive trials were completed with success, an outcome that led to the acquisition of the pump, along with two more models for the other filter mains.

"The pumps are linked via an inverter to our programmable logic controller using a supervisory control and data acquisition interface so that we can ramp the speed up and down as required," said Evans. "We also find the running signal to be extremely useful so that if we come anywhere close to the 2,000 hours recommended by Watson-Marlow, we can change the hose as part of a planned and [preventive] maintenance schedule."

Because of the pump’s success in the filter mains project, the company acquired three more peristaltic pumps for use in a different, but similar, application.

"What price do you put on quality?" said Evans. "You can’t put a figure on the value of brand reputation and customer satisfaction. The peristaltic pumps have provided the ideal solution to guaranteeing the quality our customers and consumers expect from Anheuser-Busch InBev."

Chuck Treutel is the U.S. food and beverage sales manager for Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Group. He is a registered professional engineer and has been engineering, selling and marketing peristaltic and sinusoidal pumps for more than 25 years. Treutel may be reached at [email protected] or 608-883-6851.