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. These two types of processing may look different in different industries, for example, manufacturing drugs in the pharmaceutical industry vs. processing liquid waste in the mining industry. However, the similarities and differences between the two types of material processing remain the same, no matter the application. Let’s dive deeper into each type of processing to understand their advantages and disadvantages.
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 is used. 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 developments in design and technology.
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.
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:
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.
While some industries require batch processing, 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 fix their inefficiency with continuous flow.
Overall, the biggest difference between continuous flow and batch processing in manufacturing is how many products go through the process together. In batch processing, because entire batches are processed at once, it’s harder to have good quality control. Often, defects are not caught until the entire batch has been completed. Continuous flow processing makes finding defects and fixing them easier. Because one product is completed at a time, checking the first product and then adjusting the process if needed allows for defects to be easily prevented. Both processes have their advantages and disadvantages. However, because of the decreased cost, increased quality, and increased productivity, continuous flow is usually the better choice in most applications.