With refurbishments, retrofits and upgrades, Hosokawa helps its customers save money.

When Plantextrakt reported difficulties with its ageing mixers, Hosokawa Micron’s service department was only too happy to help. Two brand-new mixers would have been the most lucrative option, yet instead, this manufacturer of mechanical and thermal processing equipment recommended a refurbishment.

Upgrades, retrofits and refurbishments

“Honesty is always the best policy,” comments Rudi Aalders, sales engineer to Hosokawa Micron’s German-speaking client base, “and if we can offer an alternative to a brand new machine and save the customer money, we will.” Upgrades, retrofits and refurbishments are three of the options available. The first is recommended when equipment no longer satisfies current (inter)national standards, FDA, GMP or ATEX for example. The second, a retrofit, is needed when mechanical parts cause repetitive and expensive maintenance costs, and the third is a combination of the two. In other words, a complete overhaul.

"A good example of a successful refurbishment is an engineering project we completed for Plantextrakt in Kleinostheim, Germany,” Aalders continues. “Klaus Knapp, head of the technical department from Plantextrakt came to us with two Nauta mixers and two drives that were constantly in need of maintenance work. They were causing expensive, regular downtime, not to mention their fair share of frustration for the company’s process engineers.” In addition to the mechanical failures and maintenance costs, the mixers had also failed a customer audit. It was time for change.

It’s all in the preparation

“The mixers had been mixing herbal extracts at our production plant in Kleinostheim for some 30 years, and we were fed up with the continuous mechanical failures. The costs were mounting and to top it all off, one of our customers refused to work with us until we upgraded our mixers to current food-grade standards,” tells Knapp from Plantextrakt. “We were hugely disappointed of course, and know full well how important health and safety standards are in the food and beverage industry. Once we were aware of the severity of the problem, we took immediate action.”

“Hosokawa Micron came to our facilities to assess the situation and were quick to identify the problems. Cleaning the mixer with its flat cover was no longer up to food grade standards, the drives needed a food-grade lubricant and to be made leak-free. The bottom bearing needed replacing, as did the mixer arm.” Knapp continues. “This is where our engineering expertise comes to the fore,” adds Aalders, the sales engineer in charge of this refurbishment project. “Once we knew what we were dealing with, we made a start on the sketches, budgets and scheduling the shutdown period in cooperation with our client. We sent our engineers for a second inspection, after all, we need to be sure we have taken everything into consideration.” The project needed to be carried out on site, which meant cranes, hoists and scaffolding. “We knew from the start that it wasn’t going to be an easy project... The position and size of the mixers meant that the engineering work would be carried out on site!” According to Knapp, Hosokawa thought of everything.

A process, not a product

“We don’t just provide a product or even a service,” Aalders continues. “We provide a process.” The application, the market sector, the industry standards and of course the customer’s wishes are all taken into account. The logistics, planning and then finally, the engineering work. “In this case, we worked closely with Plantextrakt’s engineers to ensure everything would be ready for our arrival. We organised the logistics as well as the new products, spare parts and brought in a team of own expert engineers. We replaced the flat cover with a semi-domed cover; the bottom bearing was removed because of the cantilevered screw construction and the different drives were replaced by two identical ones.” “With the exception of a slight hiccup with the new screw, everything went quite smoothly,” adds Knapp from Plantextrakt. “We had worked together on the specifications for the new parts but Hosokawa’s engineers ended up grinding a few millimetres off the diameter of the screw and adding an extra screw flight in situ. We certainly kept them on their toes but were very pleased with how thorough they were and how quickly Hosokawa managed to complete the project.”

Project completed

With the project completed two days ahead of schedule, Hosokawa and Plantextrakt were pleased with the result. “Our engineers worked hard to keep downtime to a minimum. Out of the five months it took from start to finish, the installation and repairs took a total of 8 days instead of 10. And the final result was exactly what we had in mind: two good-as-new mixers that will last for another 25-30 years! My motto: a happy customer equals a happy engineer, equals a happy Hosokawa,” concludes Aalders. Whilst for Plantextrakt, the project had proven to be an economical and effective solution. “Before we started on this venture, Rudi told us that a refurbishment, upgrade or retrofit can turn out to be easier and more economically sound than specifying and buying new,” Knapp adds. “With the project completed I can honestly say that I agree!”