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Herb UK, a manufacturer of hair products, is using an agitator assembly and impellers from Ekato Process Technology to increase its capacity and remove production delays.

Herb UK manufactures a range of products that are safer for hairdressers to use than traditional ammonia-based colours.

Growing demand meant the firm needed to increase its capacity cost-effectively.

The firm was using a two-tonne vessel to manufacture shampoos and cream peroxides.

Mark D’Arcy, operations manager at Herb UK, said: ‘Our shampoo was taking three days to mix and is the most challenging product to produce.

‘Our existing mixing equipment with large blade impellers was also leaving too much air in the product, causing delays at the bottling stage,’ he added.

The firm experimented with recirculation pumps but the increased power consumption, product aeration and inconsistent results led the firm to look at improving the agitator.

Ekato recently developed the ability to accurately simulate mixing performance using scale models with a three-litre model able to reproduce the process of a 4,000-litre vessel.

John Smith, managing director of Ekato UK, said: ‘The most striking aspect of complex mixing operations is the extent to which conditions can change during the course of production.

‘There are large viscosity ranges from minimum shear to intensive dispersion.

‘Using a range of tools, including CFD, we are able to identify improvements, many of which are quick to implement,’ he added.

According to Ekato, Viscoprop agitators are frequently a solution to demanding process conditions such as these.

Ekato’s EM-based solution offers Herb UK a variable speed with the opportunity to also reverse direction, ‘pulling’ liquids off the floor of the vessel and distributing them evenly through the batch.

Smith said: ‘Variable speed gives the operator better control.

‘For smaller batch sizes it helps minimise splashing,’ he added.

The results achieved provided an immediate benefit.

Brian Crouch, factory manager at Herb UK, said: ‘We have been able to reduce process time by 50 per cent.

‘We can achieve 100,000 tonnes per manufacturing year.

‘In addition, the new process is removing much of the air, reducing bottling time and the need for a recirculation pump,’ he added.

The multi-stage Viscoprop impellers helped to solve another specific issue Herb UK had been facing.

Correcting the pH value is normally done by adding an adjuster at the end of the process but, being thinner and lighter, this tended to float on the liquid surface.

Typically, more would be added to ensure consistent values through the batch.

Ekato’s multi-stage impellers distribute the adjuster through the entire batch resulting in better consistency from the top to the bottom of the vessel.

‘Mixing different densities of constituents can be a real issue, increasing mixing time that is not value added,’ Smith said.

Crouch said: ‘The new impellers are much smaller.

‘This makes the tank more accessible for removing the product and a shorter cleaning process reduces changeover times when we switch from shampoo to activators,’ he added.

Herb UK is already talking to Ekato about optimising tank two.

Ekato Process Technology

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