Food ingredients

The importance of bench, pilot plant and industrial trials

A company’s research and development sector is the heart of innovation. A place where new ideas and strategic plans are developed to conceive new products that better align with the market needs and the demands of consumers.

With the need to create, combined with the kind of care involved in this operation, it’s necessary to embrace some industrial procedures to optimize and certify R&D work.

We are talking about the bench trials application, pilot plants and industrial ones. All these procedures are the base for safe products development and that have the expected quality by the company managers and consumer market.

As from now, you will have the opportunity to learn more about the tests mentioned above and how they are fundamental to Research and Development of products in food industry.

1. Bench trials

Experiments performed using simple equipment are considered bench trials. They are far from the reality applied to the industrial production.

The product’s analytical capacity is reliable, although this type of test does not include any issues regarding mass production.

What defines very well the concept of bench trial is the raw material quantity used during the test. If it’s a small amount, it is a bench trial. This type of test is very efficient in the following scenarios:

 

Fast prototypes

 

When the company is still starting a new project, and intends to have constant experimentation. The speed is the main goal of this type of test, therefore, it is done in reduced scale and far from industrial reality.

The bench trials are good to investigate the development team performance with the received briefing.

 

Initial formulas adjustments

 

The simplest trials, such as the bench ones, are already enough to point out problems in a product’s initial formulas. Adjustments of color, texture, acidity, salt or sugar content, can already be detected and applied with bench trials.

 

Observation of functionalities

 

The functionalities’ observations are related to basic aspects of the product, such as taste, palatability, texture and visual aspect. In a bench test, the R&D team is already able to analyze most of these aspects. The next stage of a product development can only start after que confirmation that the expected functionalities had been achieved.

2. Pilot plant trials

The pilot plant trials differ from the ones on benches in one pretty important factor: they reproduce, even if it’s in reduced scale, the production and its processes, as well as the tools used.

In summary, it’s as if a kind of “model” of production process has been developed in which specialists analyze how the product behaves within this process.

Attention: pilot plan trials require the use of similar equipment and processes, and because of that, it’s not simply a better bench trial.

To be considered a pilot plant trial, it is necessary to reduce the scale and include no major deviations in the production system.

The main positive results the company has with the pilot plan trials, are:

 

Refining and definition of processes

 

When a simulation of industrial production is done, the company can evaluate how are defined the production processes and if there are adjustments to be made in order to optimize the production chain.

The pilot plant gives flexibility of tests for the process conditions and the impact of them in the basic functionalities of the product.

 

“Product stress”

 

By reproducing the industrial model, the company is able to investigate the capacity of product stress, that is, the production conditions and when the processes are nearing their limits. This kind of analysis is used to check the product’s stability and if there are changes in the functionality when the production scale is next to the maximum, and how it behaves in extreme or emergency cases in the production line.

 

Tests performance in more developed prototypes

 

If the bench is an ideal place for prototype tests that are just being created, the pilot plant allows the test in advanced production test prototypes. In it, all or almost all expected functionalities are active, which helps to extend the realism involved in tests.

It is in the pilot plant analysis that the R&D team will be able to analyze the project’s viability in all stages.

 

Extended functionality analysis

 

As the pilot plant is similar to the industrial reality, the tests done there are also good to investigate the extended functionalities of the product in analysis.

It is possible to test if problems such as separation of fat, texture change after a few days, processability of ingredients, additives analysis and sensory evaluation will occur.

It is possible to have many tests, it will all depend on the aspects the company intends to analyze before taking the next step, that is the industrial trials.

3. Industrial trials

Finally, there are the industrial trials. In logical progression of R&D tests, it’s evident that this test is an analysis with the same conditions as if it was a large scale production.

Here, simulations and superficial analyses are cut to give place to a more precise test. Precision is the main word for industrial trials, after all, what researchers want to know is the product’s actual condition during the entire production process.

The industrial trial must be big enough to reproduce reality, so they are usually more expensive for the company.

Even if it has a high cost, it is needed, and in many cases more than one will be necessary in order to get to the desired analytical precision.

The main positive results the company has with the industrial trials, are:

 

Higher processes definition

 

The level of detail of the production processes is broad in the industrial tests. Because they are the most reliable simulation the company performs, it gets very clear what are the processes adopted and their impacts.

 

Complete evaluation of functionalities

 

The industrial trial will allow a company to ask final questions, and make its verdict regarding a product’s functionalities and how it behaves in the production line.

 

Shelf-life tests

 

Shelf-life tests have the goal of analyzing how the product behaves in the expected conditions in shelves, that is, after the production process is finished. This allows for a precise analysis of the product’s shelf-life, as well as its deterioration rate and what the changes are in the main functionalities of the product.

Conclusion

All these tests aim at one single fact: to create a quality product. The market claims for healthy products, reliable and that supply the needs of consumption. It’s up to the industry to perform the inspection procedures that it believes are necessary to get its products to shelves in the same way as they left the factory.

The trials are an indexable part of the food production process. It is therefore essential for any R&D professional to know which the types of tests are, how it is conducted and which analytical criteria are involved in this process.

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