Ekro, one of the veal processing companies within the VanDrie Group, uses a significant amount of compressed air every day. Anjo Kaatman, foreman at Ekro's Technical Department, explains: “We work according to the customer's requirements within our company, which means that the demand in our company changes regularly. Demand may vary from a chilled carcass to portioned veal and everything in between, which presents our planning department with a daily puzzle. All calves delivered each day from our own calf husbandries are processed the same day.“ In accordance with the applicable legislation and regulations, the carcasses are cooled after slaughter to a core temperature lower than 7 ° C. The carcasses are then subdivided and packed according to customer requirements. In recent years, more and more meat has been deboned and produced as a consumer product. This task is essentially taken out of the hands of customers, and requires a high degree of quality, hygiene, traceability and innovation.
One of the innovations is the generation and use of compressed air. In the production process, compressed air is used, for example, to regulate valves and cylinders, various controls, and to generate a vacuum. These are essential activities for producing a food-safe and high-quality end product according to customer wishes. Maintenance has been scaled up considerably in recent years in order to meet these requirements now and in the future. Anjo: "'We are committed to maintaining a high level of reliability of our production environment on a daily basis. Given the fluctuating planning within our company, it is therefore rather difficult, if not impossible, to schedule maintenance activities during the week. It was therefore decided to implement maintenance weekends.”
These maintenance weekends are essential when it comes to ensuring good continuity in the working week. Ekro's technical service does not have sole responsibility for this maintenance. Said maintenance is meticulously prepared by specialists. Pim Duterloo is one such specialist. As director of Airsave, he is responsible for pneumatic maintenance at Ekro. Pim explains: "The most important principles for the maintenance weekends are 'fewer disruptions' and 'guaranteed continuity'. I therefore prepare such maintenance weekends in great detail. Logistical and technical issues are all worked out before the maintenance team starts on site after a toolbox meeting''.
Thorough preparation and a detailed plan have proven to be a winning formula. Pim continues: “By the time we’re on location it’s really just a matter of finishing and ticking off the planning list. If an activity has been performed correctly, the employee concerned can proceed to the next action on the list. I also take all precautions in advance for all supplies, including spare parts needed to perform such actions."
Asked why Ekro opted for Airsave, Anjo Kaatman replies: “Pim was no stranger to us. After all, he did an apprenticeship here in 2017 and, as a young man, already had his own pneumatics maintenance company at the time. As an internship assignment, he performed an energy scan and an audit for Ekro in accordance with ISO 11011. This assignment gave us thorough insight into the status of our pneumatic installations. This provided insight into the compressed air consumption, compressed air quality, pressure drop and energy efficiency. With this, Pim demonstrated that a lot of energy could be saved and further steps could be taken to make our production environment more sustainable.” Pim explains: “When I conducted this research, it soon became apparent that the compressors were not properly matched due to an incorrectly set pressure regulator. In addition, Ekro had insufficient capacity to provide sufficient compressed air to all pneumatic equipment and tools in the factory. The installation of an extra compressor and the replacement of an older model currently saves a lot of energy."
By specialising and intensifying maintenance and Airsave's expertise, Ekro is assured of sufficient compressed air in an energy-efficient manner to continue to meet its customers' demands.