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Corporate Social Responsibility

Being surrounded by acres of farmland in south central Pennsylvania has its benefits – beautiful scenery, historic parks, mild winters, and thoughtful neighbors to name a few. At the end of each summer, the farmer down the street from our manufacturing warehouse brings by several dozen ears of corn. Enough actually, for each member of Team Readco to take home a dozen or so. We’re talking good fresh local sweet corn, the kind you might buy from a roadside stand; instead of off a truck, unloaded from a plane, and harvested last week in some far away place. Unlike the much traveled corn, the carbon footprint of this local transaction is negligible.

A few months back, we had a sales pitch meeting with a [high profile] cosmetics company. The idea discussed was to utilize our evaporative processor to reclaim and reuse waste materials created from mascara production – specifically carbon black. Carbon black is a primary ingredient from which mascara is made and to which pigments are added. Without going too much into detail on how mascara is made – there is a liquid waste created from the process which contains residual carbon black that did not make it into the final product. Through a continual evaporative vacuum process, this carbon black can be separated from the liquid and added back into the product stream. Having recently enacted a ‘zero landfill’ initiative, this company was interested in ways to reclaim waste materials used in mascara production. Government regulators stipulate rules, methods, and quotas for industrial production, resource allocation, and by-product and waste disposal; however, what drives these types of initiatives? Consumer demand? Profit maximization? How about Corporate Social Responsibility?

Corporate Social Responsibility is defined as a corporate initiative to assess and take responsibility for company effects on the environment and impact on social welfare. The term generally applies to corporate efforts that go beyond what may be required by regulators or environmental protection groups. Also referred to as ‘Corporate Citizenship’, activities may involve incurring short-term costs that do not provide an immediate financial benefit to the company, but rather promote positive social and environmental change. So what does “positive social and environmental change” mean to the bottom line? Well, there are two aspects to consider in regard to Corporate Social Performance 1) initiatives that affect primary stakeholders which studies show positively affects market value, 2) social/environmental issue initiatives which may have the opposite effect. Reusing, recycling, and reclaiming can pay long-term dividends; whether in social/environmental impact or corporate value maximization. Smart business managers will seek to reconcile these two factors through careful measurement and analysis – attributing short-term losses to long-term investment.

Getting back to the farmers corn. We don’t buy this corn, nor is this some type of medieval food rent; instead we help feed the farmers pigs! Almost every week in our pilot plant, we mix, extrude, blend, and process multiple ingredients for clients looking to better their production process and gain a competitive advantage. While most of this processed material is taken back to be analyzed by our customers, much of it is left behind. The versatility of our processor is nearly limitless; however, much of what goes into (and then out of) our machines is food. These left over food items are then picked up by/delivered to our neighbor who feeds the edible mixture to his pigs and in return, we enjoy farm fresh sweet corn!

Investopedia. (2014). Corporate Social Responsibility. Retrieved July 2, 2014, from Investopedia:

Achieving a Healthy Bottom Line

It is no secret that as the world gets smaller; the people who inhabit it are getting larger. Our jobs and our lifestyles, no longer warrant the inexpensive high calorie diets so readily available to most of us. Developed industrial nations especially, are prone to sedentary lifestyles wherein most people spend their 9 to 5 behind a desk versus behind a plow. While exercise and a well-balanced is diet is still the best prescription for healthy living, often time’s fresh fruits and vegetables are often out of reach – physically for city dwellers living in food deserts, and/or financially for lower income families.

We are all as guilty as the next guy when it comes to eating right or exercising regularly. Family, work, friends all occupy our time. Fresh foods can cost more, may take longer to prepare, and have a shorter shelf life. We find ourselves between soccer games and commutes grabbing a quick bite or snack to tide us over until the next meal. However, instead of grabbing that bag of chips, what if we reached for something with more substance and nutritional value.

The food industry (often in conjunction with the federal government) has for decades looked for ways to incorporate vitamins and minerals into our diets. Iodine in salt, vitamin D in milk, fortified cereals, and fluoridated toothpastes are some examples of early offerings. Vitamin supplements and electrolyte replacing liquids have been around for decades. Vitamin enhanced water and protein rich smoothies are a few recent examples of ‘enhanced’ products from the consumer food industry as well as many entrants from the rapidly expending nutraceutical industry.

What is nutraceutical? Is that even a real word? Well yes, not only is it a real word – it’s a billion dollar industry! The term nutraceutical is a combination or ‘portmanteau’ of the words nutrition and pharmaceutical and is defined as a “… fortified food or dietary supplement that provides health benefits in addition to its basic nutritional value.”

A lot of work goes into sourcing ingredients, extracting nutritional components and processing raw material into a usable form – whether it’s a dry powder, a paste, or liquid slurry. Extraction can be done in a variety of ways including ‘old fashioned’ methods of drying; grinding; and pressing, to new techniques that may include ultra-sound and microwave assisted extraction; accelerated solvent extraction, and my favorite – supercritical fluid extraction. Continuous evaporation and drying machines – such as the Readco SCP – efficiently utilize heat and vacuum to separate liquids from solids so that one or both of the outputs can be utilized or recycled.

A common method in supplement and nutraceutical manufacturing after extraction is to mix ingredients together in what is known as a V Blender – essentially a “V” shaped mixing apparatus that contains an impeller and spins on a horizontal axis. V-blenders are common because they are relatively inexpensive. However, inefficiencies in the design as well as those inherent to batch mixing eventually get passed down along the supply chain – ultimately being paid for by the end user. Unlike a V blender, or batch mixer in general, a continuous processor allows for an almost infinite number of impeller or mixing arrangements based on the paddle and screw arrangement. Additionally, processors with VFD – variable frequency drive – motors are better able to control throughput. Also, many continuous processors are self-cleaning and can mix both wet and dry ingredients in the same mixing chamber.

Utilizing continuous extraction and processing in the nutraceutical industry can achieve tremendous economies of scale -which any executive can tell you – leads to a healthier bottom line. Something to think on the next time you reach for that vitamin and mineral packed health bar made with extracted ingredients from the latest tropical island wonder fruit and infused with the nectar of that unassuming desert cactus flower.

Supercritical Fluids (SCF) & Supercritical Fluid Extraction (SFE). University of Illinois, Chicago. Last viewed 11/3/14

Nutraceutical. Last viewed 10/16/14

Chocolate Lover’s Edition

With Valentine’s Day upon us, we thought we’d share some thoughts on most everybody’s favorite confection – chocolate! While it’s true that many more confectionaries can and are made using continuous processors, we think chocolate deserves its very own forum. We will discuss a bit of the process science involved; some health facts, and finally a little history just for some fun.

Below in italics are some excerpts on chocolate from an article on chocolate conching as seen in Food Processing Magazine.

Process Science

The powder used to begin conching derives from a set process in which cocoa beans are roasted, crushed, blended and then ground. During grinding, the “nib” – or meat – of the bean liquefies into a paste known as cocoa liquor, which contains cocoa butter, a natural fat, and the dry matter of the bean. The cocoa liquor is then mixed with sugar (and milk for milk chocolate) and refined to a powder.

In simple terms, conching transforms chocolate mass from a powdery aggregate to a fluid. “Traditionally, it’s been associated with low-shear operations of long duration, though shear rates have increased over the years to shorten the process” (Ziegler  2003).

First, let’s define what low-shear operations are. Low-shear operations in regard to conching refer to the slow process wherein some sort of mixing and/or rolling device kneads a ground chocolate paste until the desired flavor, texture, and consistency is achieved. This process in a non-continuous machine takes anywhere from several hours to several days – depending on the desired quality. Continuous processing outputs can achieve the same results for high-quality chocolate in a matter of minutes.

Health Facts

Few confections are as shrouded in myth, mystery and misunderstanding as chocolate. It’s sinfully delicious, to be sure, but is chocolate really as guilty a pleasure as it’s purported to be? Apparently not, in recent years, science has done much to melt some of the myths surrounding chocolate and health.

Take the assumption that chocolate raises cholesterol. Although saturated fats typically increase cholesterol in our bodies, stearic acid, the main saturated fat in chocolate, does not raise blood cholesterol levels. In fact, studies suggest that chocolate not only doesn’t raise low-density lipoprotein levels (LDL or “bad cholesterol”), but actually increases high-density lipoprotein levels (HDL or “good cholesterol”).

To the added advantage of chocolate’s health benefits is the fact that the Continuous Processor is a closed system which utilizes USDA sanitary standards. Batch mixing on the other hand is an open system with multiple opportunities for foreign materials to enter into the process stream.

Chocolate History

Chocolate was originally enjoyed in liquid form by first the Aztecs and Mayans of the per-Columbian America’s, and then by the Spanish, English and French during the age of exploration. It wasn’t until mid-1800 that chocolate was made for eating, and another 25 years until milk was added to balance the bitterness of the bean. 

Another milestone in chocolate’s sweet history is that Readco processors have been continuously churning it out for over 40 years!

Gregerson, J. The low – or is it high? – shear of a process known as conching helps enhance the flavor and texture of chocolate. Or does it? Food Processing Magazine. (2003)

Daylight Saving

Does Continuous Processing have its roots in Daylight Savings?

Among many things, Ben Franklin is credited with the concept of Daylight Saving Time. It does appear rather Franklin like to want to ‘make the best use of daylight hours.’  Franklin witnessed firsthand the productivity and innovation inspired by the industrial revolution taking place in England in the early 18th century. He understood the economic advantage that efficient productivity could bring to world markets and wished to emulate British ingenuity in his commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

“You may delay, but time will not” Ben Franklin

Continuous processing utilizes innovative technology capable of an infinite number of process set ups to produce virtually any mixture or compound in a fraction of the time compared with standard batch mixing.

As it turns out, the city of York, PA not only served as the provisional capital of the Second Continental Congress after the British army occupied Philadelphia, it has served as a major manufacturing center since the early 19th century.  In 1825, the first iron steamboat in the United States is built in York. Six years later, the first coal locomotive in the United States is built in York. In the early part of the 20th century, York becomes one of the nation’s top automobile manufacturers and is currently home to a major Harley-Davidson motorcycle plant.  

“Time is money” Ben Franklin

In manufacturing there aren’t any other ways to process material faster than continuous.  Even a smaller machine is capable of continuously processing 2,000 lbs. of material per hour.

In keeping with the rich manufacturing history of York, PA and in the spirit of increased productivity and efficiency, Readco developed the continuous processor in 1961 as an efficient alternative to batch mixing.  Many of which have been in operation for over forty years.

                                      “Energy and persistence conquer all things” Ben Franklin

What is more persistent than continuous operation? Continuous Processing means energy and persistence in and consistency and reliability out.

What drives Innovation?

What drives innovation? Any business major or company exec knows what a SWOT analysis is. A simple internal brainstorming session can produce a laundry list of strengths, weaknesses, and threats, but what about those opportunities? Do you know what they are? Do you know how to obtain them? Are they attainable? Discovering opportunities often requires a deep understanding of both the internal (company) and external (market/industry) environments.

“Innovation is taking two things that already exist and putting them together in a new way.”

Tom Freston

The definition of innovation is the action or process of innovating. Well, duh! Ok, so what does innovating mean? To make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products. Ok, so now we’re talking – making changes and introducing something new. In a process lab, for instance, Readco’s pilot plant; old or ineffectual processes must be continually tested, changed, modified, and restructured until a process arises that is new and better then what came before.

“Innovation comes from the producer – not from the customer.”

W. Edwards Deming

Do you know what your company’s core capabilities are? Are you playing to your strengths or are you catering to external influence. There’s a good chance that what scares you, also scares your competition. How do you turn you fears into challenges and then those challenges into opportunity? Can you really make lemonade with only lemons?

“Mindless habitual behavior is the enemy of innovation.”

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Education and professional development allow employees to not only expand their knowledge base and skills sets, but also shake off the cobwebs, and grease the gears that churn out innovation. Additionally, by constantly working with our customers to solve their process problems, Readco embodies a culture and business model that necessitates innovative thinking.

“Innovation is this amazing intersection between someone’s imagination and the reality in which they live.”

Ron Johnson

Special Edition: Take way from BMA15

I recently had the pleasure and the privilege to attend BMA15, the Business Marketing Association’s annual conference in Chicago, IL. This year close to 1000 marketers from over 400 companies arrived in Chicago excited and ready to be inspired by the latest marketing trends, learn from the newest insights, and of course – to network.

Though the coined terms ranged anywhere from Face-2-Face marketing to Growth Hacking to Experience Marketing, the note I jotted down during one of the sessions simply said Theme of 2015 Conference is Marriage of Technology with Marketing. Under this cryptic note was a crude Euler diagram showing 3 circles overlapping together like a clover with labels of: Marketing, Technology, and Strategy

As I struggle to make sense of all this days later after consuming 48 hours of rapid fire content, I realize that what I thought was a theme of marriage and technology was merely the necessary result of a much deeper transformative theme. I’ll preface this by listing in addition to the usual CEO’s, CMO’s and senior VP’s of Marketing some of the C-Suite titles that presented at the conference: Chief Technology Officer, Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Strategy Officer, and Chief Experience Officer.

Though often times silo’d, marketing and sales departments typically formed the core of an organization’s marketing functions. However now, social media, automated marketing, predictive analytics, cloud marketing, and corporate rebranding strategies have caused firms to create new working teams to analyze, predict, align, and collaborate in the complicated new matrix of marketing functionality. In some cases creating new titles and whole departments just keep up with the rapid advances in marketing technology and trends.

The same holds true for product offerings, employee engagement, and customer experience – all the way up to business strategy. In order to compete in this ever changing, ever evolving global economy, firms must rely on cross-functional teams in order to hit moving targets. Employees must be Macgyver’s of the business world – able to seamless maneuver between the traditional institution and a digital world foreign to most boomers and many X’ers. Leaders must be able to manage up as well as manage down while maintaining a cohesive, collaborative network with their peers. Strategic innovation stems from these cross-functional teams of problems solvers. The next generation of products and services, ideas and trends no longer takes a generation. Instead, businesses must be modern day alchemists looking to turn lead in to gold. They must be ready to find that combination, that marriage that will move them forward through this new world economy.

It’s all in the Understanding

Recently, one of our sales engineers made a trip overseas to help in a process test utilizing one of our 5” Continuous Processors (CP). The machine was being used to process a Sheet Molding Compound (SMC) consisting of calcium carbonate, thickener, epoxy resin, peroxide, and 1” chopped fiberglass strands. The goal for the SMC was to add 25-33% (a finite percentage of) fiberglass into the mix during the process and then mold it as it discharged from the CP.

A typical process for a SMC is to add (drop) chopped fiberglass into a mold containing a resin paste. Fiber is added to SMC to add strength and weight reduction. Then, after the fiber has ‘settled’ into the resin paste, a second sheet of resin is placed over top – thereby encapsulating the fiber between the two sheets. By utilizing a continuous processor, the fiber can be better distributed throughout the resin mixture and dropped in to a mold directly from the machine – eliminating the two step process.

Utilizing two loss-in-weight feeders, the calcium carbonate and thickener were introduced into the processor directly above twin co-rotating feed screws at the feed end. A gear pump was used for the resin blend which was added into an injection port on the top barrel about 3 inches forward of the feed inlet. The fiberglass was then introduced in to the process two thirds down the barrel at a vent port that was about three inches in diameter. The fiberglass feeder consisted of a double row chopper gun with a moving belt about six inches wide – both controlled by a potentiometer. The combination chopper/belt feeder was highly effective for this application and performed without problem the entire test.

Due to maximum limitations of the resin pump in use, the test was begun running at roughly 100 lbs. of product per hour. Afterward, there were a couple of issues that needed to be addressed in order to continue with the test. One of the first issues was the paddle arrangement in the test machine was found to be ‘loose’ and needed to be tightened. Secondly, the supply amperage was too low to allow the machine to start. After locating another disconnect, the machine operated as purposed. Additionally, the small diameter of the vent port – for introducing the fiber – was an ongoing problem throughout the test. This would need to be addressed before actual production could begin.

Shortly after the test began, it was discovered that the discharge end of the machine became hot enough to ‘kick off’ the peroxide causing the product to begin to harden in the vessel. A firm understanding of the CP led our sales engineer to check to see if the packing glands had been correctly installed. As suspected, they were running above 180 F. With instruction from our engineer, the barrel was disassembling, and the client was shown how to pack the machine so that it would not get hot. Additionally, the glands were measured to make sure they never exceeded 125 F.

The next two days, 20 panels were made with glass loading between 25-33%. The panels themselves indicated excellent strength and surface finish. The customer commented that they have been looking for a machine that can do what our CP can do for several years. Their previous method of running their material through two extruders had caused the panels to crack and break very easily. Without the expert knowledge of a Readco engineer on-hand who understood the intricate capability of the machine, it is highly possible that the test could have been a failure. Instead, with a few minor adjustments, Readco was able to demonstrate the full versatility of the CP while meeting and exceeding our customer’s expectation.

A Day in the Life: Readco’s Service Team

Recently, a member of Readco’ service team travelled to a client’s production facility to oversee the replacement of several key components of a Readco 8” Continuous Processor, installation of new elements, and support the start-up operations. The top end of the CP’s transmission needed to be rebuilt due to normal wear and tear of continuous 24/7 operation. Among the parts being replaced were paddle shafts, feed screws, paddles, bearings, and spacers.

Shafts typically have keyways cut into them to hold in place the interchangeable paddle arrangement which is specific to the process. Additionally, the transmission end of the shaft is keyed to be driven by the drive gear inside the transmission. Often times in order to accept a new paddle arrangement, one of the gears – in a dual shaft configuration – must have a new key way cut into it so that the shaft can be rotated to accommodate the new arrangement in conjunction with its partner shaft. While the hardened gear was being re-keyed, the service staff took the time to replace the bearings, keys, and seals.

Once the gear was re-keyed, the unit was reassembled and ready for start-up. Start-up consisted of a cleaning process with the machine running to flush any foreign material or metal out of the unit before being added into the production line. Once switched over to production, the operators ran through the typical rates and sequences. During this, it was noticed that the machine was using more horse power than usual and the necessary RPM needed to be higher than normal to achieve the preferred loading and agglomeration. This was likely due to the change in radial clearance from the installation of new paddles – preventing the machine from reaching the previous top rate of production. Additionally, while trying to achieve this top rate, the motor faulted out due to overdraw and the RPM was decreased in order maintain operation.

An anomaly during the second shift run caused the run process to lose agglomeration and the system self-faulted. Upon start-up a coupling was sheared – which needed replaced -and the gear motor sounded abnormally loud. It was discovered that the operators erringly started the machine with a full load. Our service engineer recommended a procedural step to avoid this from happening again for future start-ups. Once the machine was run through the revised start-up procedure it was initially put back into production at the reduced rate to avoid over-loading. Throughout the next couple of hours the operators were able to steadily increase horse power and RPM, however, it was noticed a near proportional increase in temperature.

Our service engineer advised that they continue to maintain process and watch for stable operation. This is where Readco’s experience and expertise really came in to play. It was determined that the newly installed elements were very slow to reach thermal equilibrium due to the discharge temperature change. Additionally, the horse power and RPM change was be due to the same factor causing a slow closing of clearances until the elements were at uniform thermal expansion with the CP’s barrel. Shortly afterward, discharge temperature stabilized as did the horse power and RPM of the CP. After a full 12 hour shift runtime, all on hand were very pleased with the operation and production of the CP.

Employee Spotlight – Trisha Love

For this month’s Readco Kurimoto, LLC employee spotlight, Trisha Love is being recognized. Trisha has been with team Readco team for for just over a year now. Trisha’s current title is Controller and in this position she is responsible for Human Resources, Finances, and she also is involved in the Safety Committee. Prior to coming to Readco, Trisha worked for a security firm in Hunt Valley. When asked what the favorite part of her job was, Trisha stated that she enjoyed the monthly routine of making the “figures match” and “helping determine how best to move the company forward and keep Readco profitable”.

Trisha’s most memorable day at Readco was during Readco’s Thanksgiving luncheon shortly after she started. “Sitting in an office by myself all day, this was the first time I was really able to socialize and get to know everyone”. Outside of Readco Trisha enjoys traveling, outdoor activities and most of all, spending time with her daughter. A favorite activity of theirs is cooking for each other as well as watching some of the cooking shows and trying to replicate the recipes in the kitchen!

Employee Spotlight – David Sieglitz

For this month’s Readco Kurimoto, LLC employee spotlight, David Sieglitz is being recognized. David has been with team Readco since 2006 and will begin his eleventh year with Readco this June! David has been President at Readco since 2011. Before becoming President, David managed Readco’s engineering department. As President of Readco, David is responsible for the company’s leadership, direction and overall performance. When asked what the favorite part of his job was, David stated that “I always enjoy meeting with potential and current customers as well as our Sales Reps in our lab.” David enjoys proving to highly doubtful perspective customers that our machines can process their material continuously within minutes what normally takes hours with a common batch process. “When we are successful, not only do we have a new Readco Champion, their excitement is contagious and the groups immediately starts to think of all the other possibilities there are using our machines.” When asked about a favorite application, David could not limit it to just one. “I really enjoy learning new things and each day I strive to learn something new. There have been so many new and exciting applications that we have worked with – many of them I never even realized existed before learning about them from our customer.” In regard to his most memorable day at Readco, David offered two: In December of 2010, he was in his office in engineering and was told to meet the retiring company President, and Chairman in the conference room. His first thought was “am I going to be fired?” You could imagine his surprise when he was offered the position of President. Another memorable day was when Readco ran the factory acceptance test (FAT) for a radioactive waste remediation project. This was a monumental feat and the company was uncertain we could be successful. We ran two 10” CPs individually over the period of 2 days. Each machine was continuously fed 9,600 lbs./hr. of dry materials and 7,560 lbs./hr. of liquid or a total of 17,160 lbs./hr. of material! What made this impressive was how well everyone worked together to first assemble a structure to support the entire process, then continually refill the hoppers and totes using all of the labor in our shop and lab as well additional help from engineering and sales. Nearly a thousand 5 gallon buckets were needed to continuously fill a 2,777 gallon cask twice in order to perform the test. Upon completion of the test, everyone was exhausted, dusty, and celebrating their success as a team! David enjoys practicing yoga with his daughter as well as hiking, biking, fishing and camping with my wife and two beagles. He also enjoys writing music, singing and playing guitar with his band. David also notes that although he works in York, he does not ride a Harley; instead he rides a Yamaha V Star 1300. When asked if there was anything else he would like to add; David stated that what he enjoys most about working for Readco Kurimoto is the people and the machines. “I work with some of the most talented and dedicated people that I have ever had the pleasure to do so in my life. They are passionate about what they do and put their hearts into their jobs and it really shows.” David is also proud of Readco’s machines and the fact that he personally designed and engineered several of them during his first few years with the company. David went on to say that “knowing that these machines will continue to make superior products for decades to come is important to me. In the last five years, our engineering department has made even more advancements and continues to increase our technology while building on our solid history. This is something that is truly important to each of us in every department of Readco Kurimoto.”