Corporations and small businesses have long sought better approaches to material processing. One of the main topics of debate is that of batch processing vs. continuous flow. 

Batch Processing

Batch processing involves the processing of bulk material in groups through each step of the process. Processing of subsequent batches must wait until the current is finished. 

Perhaps the most definite advantage of batch production is the lower initial setup cost. It’s considered easier and cheaper to implement a holistic system of batch processing equipment (although this is not always true). Batch processing also allows you to set up each process uniquely, to adapt to the materials you’re working with. If your foundry, mining operation, or bulk processing facility needs to differentiate the flow for each “batch,” this may be ideal. For example, batch processing is often used with rare and sensitive metals, like raw titanium. Raw titanium must have its usable materials extracted before being used to manufacture products, for which batch processing via the Kroll Process. This process is ideal because the current batch must be finished before subsequent ones can take place. 

Batch processing may also be required in pharmaceutical or packaging industries where federal oversights dictate the quality and standards for processing (learn more in-depth here in a separate blog). However, continuous flow is becoming a more viable option for these industries, thanks to advancements in design and technology.

The downside to batch processing

Because batch processing goes much slower, the overall cost of processing goes up. Starting up and using batch equipment can also increase energy consumption and the quality discrepancy between batches goes up. This can lead to lost production and compromised quality if the batch process isn’t monitored closely. 

Continuous Flow

The continuous flow process involves moving one work unit at a time between each step of the process — with no breaks in time, sequence, substance, or extent. For most applications, continuous flow saves time, energy, and costs and when implemented correctly, it can:

  • Reduce waste
  • Save money by reducing inventory and transportation costs
  • Increase productivity by completing more units in less time
  • Improve quality by making it easier to spot and correct errors
  • Cut down on overhead via increased stability and reduced lead times
  • Adapt to customer needs more effectively than batch processing

Potential Roadblocks With Continuous Flow Processing

While continuous flow is an ideal process for many applications, certain materials, such as titanium, demand a batch processing approach. Continuous flow may also increase the risk of contamination of materials, which matters more in industries such as pharmaceutical, food processing, or others. However,  these risks mostly increase due to improper implementation and use. Thanks to better design and technology, continuous flow processing can offer much faster operation, better materials quality, and scalability to support your operation.

Continuous Flow in Different Applications

The advantages of continuous flow processing in mining and material processing, especially, are clear. Mining and foundry operations can save time, process more material, and expend less energy. Since the processes and machinery involved are heavy-duty, the savings become quite substantial. The end result is a leaner, cost-effective business model, with a consistent standard for material production. Find out how General Kinematics helped a company fixed their inefficiency with continuous flow. 

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