For nearly every mixing process, there are four universal steps to the operation:
- Delivering bulk ingredients to the mixing area.
- Measuring the ingredients being added to the mix.
- The process of mixing the ingredients.
- Handling the final product as it leaves the mixing area.
There are typically two ways to manage these processes: Batch Mixing or Continuous Mixing. Both offer many advantages and disadvantages, depending on your unique process.
Batch mixing treats each of the four steps separately, thereby finishing one ‘batch’ before starting another. Think about dough, for example. You would load all the ingredients appropriately and mix your dough. You’d remove the product from the tank and start the batch all over again.
Batch mixing usually benefits smaller operations, where ingredients can be handled and incorporated by hand. Batch mixing gives your operation more flexibility and precise control over each batch with controlled mixing times and traceability.
It becomes uneconomical at a certain point when your operation grows and requires larger quantities of ingredients and increased manual labor.
Continuous mixing works by having a system in place that continually feeds ingredients into the mixer at one end and discharges the final product out the other end. The system is programmed to deliver ingredients and mix at the appropriate rate. These systems utilize multiple controls like valves, feeders and scales to automate a continual output.
Large mixing operations will benefit from continuous mixing due to shorter mixing times and higher output capacity. There is less manual labor involved because of the automation controls in place, saving on manpower and allowing for better allocation of time.
Continuous mixing is not ideal for critical applications where recipes need to be executed exactly, though. Additionally, there is less flexibility in continuous mixing than in batch mixing because they cannot often be easily tailored to different recipes. If strict batch integrity is not critical, consider implementing a continuous system.