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Prime Inc opens impressive foodgrade wash rack in Decatur IN

Prime Inc opens impressive foodgrade wash rack in Decatur IN

IT CAN truly be said that Prime Inc's newest foodgrade wash rack was designed by wash workers for wash workers. Named Decatur Kleen, the new wash rack in Decatur, Indiana, commenced operations in mid-November 2011.

A brainstorming storming session by wash rack workers at Prime Inc's other foodgrade cleaning facility (Savannah Kleen in Savannah, Georgia) launched the design and development effort for Decatur Kleen. The result is a worker-friendly state-of-the-art wash rack built for efficiency, safety, productivity, and environmental sustainability.

“We put a lot of thought into this new wash rack,” says Chad Clay, manager of special projects for Prime Inc. “We wanted something that could deliver at least a 50-year life and had plenty of growth potential. We worked closely with our own experienced wash personnel, with our customer (Bunge NorthAmerica), and Decatur city officials, who welcomed us with open arms.

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“We got great cooperation from everyone, and we were able to get this project up and running in a relatively short amount of time. We went from an RFP (request for proposal) from Bunge in mid-2010 to an operational wash rack by late 2011. We're very happy with the end result, a foodgrade wash rack that can clean up to 300 trailers a week.”

Currently, Decatur Kleen is washing 20 to 22 tank trailers a day. A six-person cleaning crew keeps the wash rack running 20 hours a day (6 am to 2 am) six days a week and 10 hours on Saturday. The Decatur Kleen crew also includes a wastewater treatment operator and two loaders who shuttle Prime Inc tank trailers between the wash rack and the Bunge plant.

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The wash rack is kosher-upgrade certified. This means the facility is qualified to upgrade to kosher status tank trailers that have handled non-kosher products.

Bunge contract

Tank cleaning was just a part of the Bunge contract with Prime Inc. Under the long-term agreement, Prime Inc's foodgrade tank division was awarded most of the edible oil shipments from Bunge's Decatur and Morristown, Indiana, and Bellevue, Ohio, plants.

“This contract was a complete package,” Clay says. “In essence, we are managing their edible oil shipments from all three local plants. Building the wash rack was part of the deal, but Bunge also wanted truck and trailer maintenance, a driver lounge, and plenty of parking. In addition to our trailers, we clean some other tanks that are hauling loads for Bunge. However, the wash rack is not open for general commercial cleaning of foodgrade fleets.”

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Prime Inc's foodgrade tank division runs 226 tractors and 310 tank trailers, and 40 tractors and 65 tanks are based in this regional operation. The fleet operates throughout 48 US states and Canada. Edible oils account for 95% of the liquid bulk shipments, but the fleet also handles some other foodgrade liquids. Prime Inc is a diversified carrier that also hauls refrigerated, dry, and flatbed freight.

With a multitude of food processors in the area, most of the shipments from Bunge's Decatur plant go to customers within a 300-mile radius. A majority of those loads are handled by 18 Prime Inc owner-operator drivers based at the Decatur Kleen facility. Longer hauls are handed off to Prime Inc over-the-road drivers.

Ramp up

Prime Inc began ramping up after being awarded the transport contract for the Bunge Decatur plant in October 2010. Prime executives scrambled to find land on which to build the cleaning facility, and a job fair was scheduled to select local truck drivers, wash workers, truck mechanics, and operations personnel.

By January 2011, Prime Inc's transportation capabilities were in place, a site for the facility had been found, and the facility design was ready. “We began hauling Bunge loads in June 2011, and we cleaned tanks at an existing single-bay wash rack near Bunge's Decatur plant,” Clay says.

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With the help of Decatur city officials, Prime Inc found a 14-acre plot in a brand new industrial park on the south side of Decatur. The location is slightly more than two miles from the Bunge plant.

Approximately six acres have been developed so far for the Dacatur Kleen wash rack, and that includes an 18,000-sq-ft building and five acres of paved parking. “We have plenty of room for expansion,” Clay says.

The facility is completely fenced for security and key cards are required for access. Plenty of outside lighting has been installed — also for security. Heated pads keep snow and ice from building up around the wash rack and maintenance bay doors.

From the very start, the Decatur Kleen building was envisioned with pre-cast concrete walls. “We wanted a building that would be durable and last for decades,” Clay says. “We see pre-cast concrete as a much superior building method to the steel building construction used by many wash racks.”

Improved layout

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The design and layout of the building is based on Prime Inc's Savannah Kleen location, and the staff at Savannah Kleen contributed plenty of input to the Decatur Kleen project. “We got all of the Savannah Kleen workers together for a brainstorming session on the Decatur Kleen plans,” says Miranda McCorkel, who was facility manager of Savannah Kleen at the time and now runs Decatur Kleen. “We suggested changes and improvements based on our experiences at Savannah Kleen. For instance, workers suggested electric hoists for spinners and electrically powered spinners with variable-speed controls.”

Workers also recommended wider wash bays with plenty of working room and plenty of lighting. For safety, they suggested a stoplight system to indicate when a work platform has been lowered onto the tank trailer manway. The stop light stays red as long as the work platform is down, and the light doesn't change to green until the platform is raised.

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The end result of the preplanning provides a safe and comfortable work environment, according to McCorkel. “This is all part of our effort to set the industry standard for foodgrade cleaning with Decatur Kleen,” she says.

The two wash bays are 105 feet long and total wash bay width is 45 feet. The ceiling is 24 feet high. Between the wash bays is a work platform and stainless steel tank hardware cleaning station, all supplied by The Peacock Company Inc.

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Positioned over the rear work area are radiant heaters for worker comfort. Additionally, the concrete floor contains a radiant heating system to keep workers warm during cold days and melt and snow and ice that may be brought in. The floor is topped with a urethane coating and slip-resistant texturing for safety and durability.

Wash system

Tank cleaning is done with Peacock's single-pass, high-pressure, low-volume cleaning equipment, and initial planning called for a single wash unit. “We started with a single-pass system at Savannah Kleen, and it has done a great job for us,” Clay says. “We would never do food cleaning with anything but a single-pass wash system, primarily because there is zero risk of prior product cross contamination.”

McCorkel adds that one wash unit quickly became two. “We realized right away that we would need to units to deliver the level of service our customer expected,” she says. “That is the only way we can clean tanks simultaneously in both bays and avoid maintenance-related shutdowns.”

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Decatur Kleen bought two of the largest wash machines offered by Peacock. One is the Model 660, which is the largest in the Peacock line, and the other is the Model 636, which is the next to the largest. Decatur Kleen also has two Model 7156 pressure washer units that serve both the tank cleaning bays and the truck maintenance shop.

The Peacock tank wash machines were specified with stainless steel heating coils for long life and cleanliness. Both units have one-micron filters on the discharge side to remove any residual particles in the water before they reach the trailers being cleaned. These filter elements are replaced daily.

Both of the tank wash units produce 200°F water for cleaning at 22 gallons per minute and 600 psi. The pressure washer units supply 180°F water at five gallons per minute and 1,800 psi.

Controlled process

All edible oil tank trailers are washed for 25 minutes minimum with 200°F-plus water. While tanks are washed, workers disassemble pumps, hoses, and other product-handling hardware for cleaning, sanitizing, and inspection.

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The tank cleaning process is set automatically with programmable logic controllers. Every wash is monitored by computer, and the data is downloaded to a flash drive. Every wash ticket is archived electronically.

Heels and wastewater are carefully controlled throughout the cleaning process. Waste management is very much a part of Prime Inc's environmental sustainability program — entitled “Go Prime-Go Green!”

Key highlights of the program at Decatur Kleen include extensive employee education on environmental management and sustainability, high-pressure/low-volume cleaning to minimize water usage, energy recovery in water streams, product residuals recycled back into the energy chain, high-efficiency lighting and motor systems, material recycling (paper and aluminum cans), and low-water-use sanitary facilities.

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“In tank cleaning, this starts with getting every bit of product out of the trailers,” says Michael Boyer with Agribusiness & Water Technology Inc, the company that designed the wastewater treatment system for Decatur Kleen. “Anything that goes into the water has to be removed by the wastewater treatment system.”

This means tanks transporting viscous cargoes such as palm oil sometimes must be scraped clean before being washed. In fact, Decatur Kleen wash workers must manually scrape oil products from about one in 10 trailers prior to washing them.

Edible oils also are captured during the cleaning process by a skimmer and separator in the wash bays. The oil goes to two recovered oil tanks and is recycled back into the energy chain.

Water management

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Water used in tank cleaning also is carefully managed throughout the process. In-bound city water goes to a 7,500-gallon holding tank and is warmed about 30 degrees by a passive heat exchanger before being sent to the Peacock wash units. The heat comes from equalized wash water that is being sent through the waste treatment process.

“This is essentially free heat that helps lower energy costs for the wash rack,” Boyer says. “We're using a simple plate-and-frame heat exchanger, and it will pay for itself in about a year and a half.”

Wash water from the cleaning process is drained from tank trailers into a sump in the floor of the wash rack. Edible oil residues are removed, and the water is sent to an equalization tank outside the wash rack.

“Equalization is important, because we need a consistent waste stream for effective treatment,” Boyer says. “The system is sized to treat 50,000 gallons of wastewater a day, and we are handling 12,000 to 14,000 gallons a day right now.”

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Equalized wastewater flows back into the building into two agitation tanks, where pH is adjusted and coagulants are added to capture solids and any oil residue. The next stop is a dissolved air floatation (DAF) unit.

“We've used DAF successfully for many years at many wash racks and food processors,” Boyer says. “It is a very good and reliable treatment system.”

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The last step in the process is biological treatment, which takes place in two sequential biological reactor tanks outside the building. Air for the biological treatment process comes from two large Tuthill blowers. Treated water is then sampled and released into the city sewer.

With all of its features, Prime Inc management believes the new Decatur Kleen wash rack raises the industry standard for foodgrade tank cleaning. It's a standard that will be repeated and continuously enhanced as Prime Inc opens additional wash racks under what it is calling the “Kleen Team” banner. ♦

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