Batch process vs continuous process for food manufacturers

Whenever a new food product is developed, its production process typically follows a batch process or a continuous process, or some combination of both. Depending on the complexity, the volume created, and the regulatory risks associated with producing a product, the degree to which each process is used can vary.

What is a batch process?

A batch process involves a set of ingredients and a sequence of one or more production steps that follow a pre-defined order. A set amount of product(s) are produced at the end of each sequence to make up a single batch. The processing of subsequent batches will only begin once all of the set amounts of products have been produced.

All of the raw materials are introduced at the beginning of the production process, and the finished products are completed after a certain period.

What is a continuous process?

The continuous process moves raw material from the start of the process through each production step to a final product. Rather than waiting until the unit of product is complete, raw material is fed and processed continuously to produce additional units of product.

Continuous has a constant flow of raw materials into production, generating a constant flow of products, and is also known as the non-stop production cycle.

Benefits and challenges of batch vs continuous

Companies often use some combination of batch and continuous because both have different benefits depending on the production stage and product requirements.

Benefits of Batch Processing

There are several benefits to batch processing in food industries:

  • More control over quality and better traceability

  • Shorter production time

  • Lower cost equipment

  • Lower chance of contamination since all products move along the production process at the same time

With regulatory approval, Batch processing can be a well-established production method that is easier to manage and trace than continuous.

Challenges of Batch Processing

Although there are upsides to processing products in batches, there are also the downsides:

  • Greater storage space needed for in-between production stages

  • Batch errors can lead to greater waste and production cost

  • Increased employee downtime due to waiting between processes and meticulous quality control

  • Improperly planned batch processes can lead to bottlenecks that limit production

Benefits of Continuous Processing

On the other hand, there are different benefits to continuous processing in food industries:

Challenges of Continuous Processing

  • Less flexibility and longer to set up

  • More risk in production startups and shutdown

  • Requires frequent employee training and education

  • The high initial cost of investment

  • Higher chance of contamination with products moving through the same process each time

Which process is better for the food industry?

Both batch and continuous processing are well suited for food industry operations. Whether one is better than the other depends on product maturity and the product development stage at which the company is.

The batch process can provide for better tracing and higher product quality for specialty products or highly diverse product sets. For operations that produce large quantities of products, the continuous process allows for larger-scale production. And depending on the regulatory requirements and the equipment capabilities, a set of steps can follow batch processing, while the overarching production flow follows the continuous process.

Batch ProcessContinuous Process
WorkforceSmaller WorkforceEither Automated or Large Workforce
Shutdown/ DowntimesFrequentRare
Equipment CostLower Equipment CostHigher Equipment Cost
Production SchedulingScheduling is required to reduce the processing timesThe production line can work at a steady-state continuously
Product Life SpanShorter since batches have to wait before moving to the next stepLonger since products are fully finished and packaged

Tracking production through batch or continuous

No matter which process a production facility uses, tracking production is crucial to minimizing the shortcomings of each of the processes and maximizing operational efficiency.

And one way of doing that is having real-time production data at your fingertips. Sure, existing systems may track various information already, but being able to immediately understand the true source of issues can help operators problem-solve faster.

Batch Process and Continuous Process Tracking with Tulip

Tulip's Production Tracking Dashboard app, designed to be displayed on a large screen visible to everyone at a production line, offers operators what they need to know at a glance: hourly production level, performance against hourly and daily goals, the count of defects reported, and where in the process issues occurred.

Tulip’s Production Dashboard integrates with the frontline operations apps you use in production, such as the Tulip Terminal or other custom work instructions app. The Production Dashboard works by pulling in data on process completions and defect reports from your apps. The data updates automatically in real-time, so supervisors are relieved of the need to manually update a production board.

Digital History Record for Batch and Continuous

Digital History Records and Batch History Records can be used to gain visibility and traceability into the creation, update, and deletion of tables and process records. Using Tulip’s History Widget, operators can track all the log changes over time, such as: what information was recorded, who recorded it, and what changes were made. Keeping track of all changes can help minimize the burden of a compliance-driven activity and provide a valuable source of information for root cause analysis.

Digging Deeper with Real-Time Analytics

Finally, the production data is automatically recorded, so supervisors, process engineers, and managers can gain deeper insights into production using Tulip’s Analytics. Data can be visualized, incorporated into reports, and shared with stakeholders across the organization.

Live-updating data visualizations allow operations team leaders to discover and respond to problems in real-time.

The Production Dashboard is designed to be easy to configure to your production line needs. It comes pre-integrated with the Tulip Terminal, but it can easily be adjusted to work with different frontline operations apps.

See Why Food & Beverage Manufacturers Trust Tulip

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