Planning Installation and Start-up of the Sonolator Homogenizer

By |February 9th, 2021|Homogenizer|

Planning Installation and Start-up of the Sonolator Homogenizer

Sonic has been operating continuously since the start of COVID. Most of our customers and therefore Sonic have essential operations. Providing mixing equipment to the chemical, personal care, food and pharmaceutical industries means we support manufacturing and we are a manufacturer. Sonic equipment is used to produce many essential products such as hand sanitizer, disinfectant, disinfectant wipes, hand soap and more.

Since the start of COVID demand for our continuous and semi-continuous mixing and blending systems has been strong. Increasing capacity and reducing cycle times have always been attractive goals for producers. Now with increased demand across a number of different products these goals are not just attractive, but have become critical. Liquid hand soap is a good example of the increased demand since COVID. One estimate found a 575% increase in demand for hand soap.

COVID has introduced many new questions  for our customers and Sonic. One of the more important questions is how do we plan and execute system start-ups and training during a global pandemic. After we custom design and build a mixing or blending system these systems need to be installed, started-up, tested and customer personnel need to be trained to operate the equipment. The question then arises: how do we best start-up the systems once they are at the customers site?

Here are three points to consider:

  • Complexity of system and installation
  • Known variables
  • Sonic experience

At Sonic during 2020 we have had great success with using remote tools such as FaceTime, Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Our customers have enjoyed live streaming lab tests! In fact, many of them have commented that they are Zoom fatigued, but the lab test is better than a good Netflix movie. Let’s face it, your involvement while watching your material going through the Sonic lab equipment is much more heightened than say your concern over whether or not the baby Yoda is safe on the Mandalorian series. The new tech tools everyone uses help Sonic to better serve our customers while keeping our employees safe and ready to build new systems. Let’s examine how we are approaching start-up and training in era of COVID.

Complexity

In addition to remote lab trials, we have also performed remote equipment start-ups and training. To be sure, Sonic is still traveling to customer sites for more involved start-ups while taking all the necessary precautions. However, there are now opportunities to use remote technology to perform the more routine start-ups and help plan complex start-ups.

Above image is HMI screen for a relatively complex 4-stream system that Sonic personnel started-up in person.

For example, we recently had a customer who wanted to rent a colloid mill for onsite trials and development work. Normally, this would involve an in person start-up and training. However, because the colloid mill is a relatively simple rotor/stator device, it was agreed we would attempt a remote training. This worked great. The customer is now 3 months into a 12 month product development cycle and we have routine contact to discuss progress. The initial start-up was straight forward. Once they worked with the system and generated more questions, they have been able to contact Sonic technicians to help answer questions and brain storm additional methods/procedures to enhance their development work.

We are scheduling a single-feed Sonolator start-up for remote start-up in the next few weeks. It is expected that this system start-up and training will be straight forward. If however, questions or concerns become too great to support via remote methods, then we have also blocked out dates to travel for an onsite session.

The two examples mentioned above both involve(d) simple and straight forward start-up/training. Therefore, consideration must be made to understand and assess the projected complexity of the system. If it is determined to be relatively simple, then a remote session may make for a safe and more efficient start-up for our customers.

Known Variables

When considering known variables for a start-up it is required that the customer have a certified electrician to put power to the system in advance of Sonic involvement. This is recommended whether the start-up is in person or remote.

Everyone plans for the best possible start-up, however, it is very common for the preparations to be delayed or insufficient. In the past, this has often led to delays while Sonic personnel are waiting on site or at a nearby hotel. In this new environment, Sonic is trying to encourage customers to perform all preparations for start-up and training before Sonic personnel begin to travel to the customer site. Minimizing the amount of time at the customer site is to everyone’s benefit.

Above left is image of Sonolator system and 3-D drawing prior to shipping to customer.
Above right image is the same Sonolator system installation that was reviewed via
remote technologies and then started up in person.

So, to help define and address the known variables Sonic has been using remote tools to review installation and set-up. Customers have appreciated the advance pre-startup remote reviews which cover important variables such as: power connection, motor rotation, inlet conditions (correct diameter, distance from source to unit, etc.) and destination conditions.

Of course, the more complex the system the more important this preliminary remote work and the more likely the need for in person startups. In person start-ups are also valuable to help tackle any unknown variables.

Sonic Experience

One of the reasons our customers develop long term mutually beneficial relationships with Sonic is because of our extensive experience with various mixing and blending applications. Remote review whether for a complex or simple system is often made easier because of Sonic’s experience with a particular application and general manufacturing practices.

For example, the startup of the colloid mill mentioned above was handled by one of Sonic’s technicians who has been with Sonic for over 35 years. The president and owner of Sonic, Rob Brakeman, has over  30 years of experience. I have 17 years of experience and there are other long time resources at Sonic.

The bottom line is our experience, whether it is specific to your application or relies on the years we have spent inside manufacturing facilities around the world, means Sonic can and will be able to help. Whether remotely, in person or a combination of both Sonic is prepared to help solve and/or enhance your mixing and blending.

While the world has been greatly challenged during COVID, we at Sonic have continued to strive to serve our customers while staying safe. It is interesting to note, as of January 2021, while we have continued to perform in person start-ups there have been no COVID cases within Sonic. We look forward to continuing to serve our customers and will utilize all available tools such as remote video conferencing, PPE and in the near future vaccines to help keep all of us safe. Supporting our customer’s operations is always our priority and we look forward to working with you to help improve your mixing and blending.

If you would like to discuss your application and/or production please do not hesitate to call 203-375-0063 or email me at jim.conroy@sonicmixing.com

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