A number of industries make good use of valves, pumps, tanks, and pipes to move a lot of liquids, and the contents may vary widely. Some models of pipes and valves are designed to carry thick liquids and sludge, which means having tough pumps with strong motors. Other pumps and sanitary check valves are designed for thinner liquids, such as water, soft drinks, or even diary, and they can be made of plastic or softer metals. Sanitary pipes valves and sanitary strainers are vital for dairy in particular, and the United States is indeed home to a robust dairy sector today. So, how might those sanitary check valves and pumps be built, repaired, or maintained? What might go wrong?
Dairy Pump and Valve Basics
It should be noted that the dairy industry has particularly high standards for hygiene during work, and this reflects in sanitary check valves and sanitary fittings of all kinds. Often made of stainless steel or even plastic, these parts should not only move a large volume of dairy, but do so correctly. Such pumps and valves are designed to be gentle on the products; that is, move a lot of material quickly, but also minimize the amount of shear. If there is too much shear, the pump may alter the liquid’s viscosity or other properties, and that might ruin the final product. A fluid milk plant’s receiving bay may feature a 1,750 RPM centrifugal pump, with high flow rates at over 1,000 gallons per minute.
What are these pumps and sanitary check valves made of, anyway? Such valves are often made of stainless steel, and their job is to prevent any backflow of the product. They can assist closure pressure and create a positive shutoff, vital for any dairy processing plant. Such stainless steel pipes and valves can last for a long time; in particular, steel pipes may last for a full century. Meanwhile, some dairy pumps may be built out of plastic, to make them affordable and lightweight. After all, dairy is easy to move, as opposed to thicker liquids such as sewage, and a plastic pump with a relatively modest motor is all that is needed to move the materials.
Meanwhile, flow control valves are used in plants with a pasteurizer/HTST system, at the end of the holding system tube to either redirect the product back to the balance tank, or diverts it to forward flow. The latter happens if the dairy meets all pasteurizing requirements, such as temperature. So, this valve acts as the border between pasteurized and unpasteurized dairy. Naturally, this valve undergoes regular inspection to check for any problems, or unpasteurized milk might get mixed in with the other milk and make it to the final product.
Maintenance and Cleaning
Such valves and pumps need routine cleaning and inspections, and a plant manager is responsible for setting up a schedule for just that. Correct repairs and cleaning allow the pumps and valves to continue to operate re4liably, and workers can even access online videos for reference. The manager should also refer to the equipment’s original manufacturer for guidance on repair schedules, and once enough preventative repairs and inspections are done during downtime, the odds of equipment failure may be made very low. Another useful reference is the noise, pressure, and flow rates of all involved pipes, pumps, and valves, so the manager and workers can tell if a piece of hardware is not functioning normally. This allows for the early diagnosis of a problem anytime such an issue pops up.
As for cleaning, regular cleaning and sanitizing work should be done right after production and before the leftover dairy inside has a chance to dry out. The lines should be rinsed first, to remove larger particles and patches of residue. For valves in particular, cleaning crews should pulse those valves at a proper pressure so they can clean out all residue found in the seats.