Case Study

Dairy Producer Seeks Help to Assess then Execute Improvements to an Overly Manual Spray Dryer Operation to Increase Yield


A dairy products manufacturer had a vertical spray dryer utilizing predominantly manual controls causing wide variability in the methods applied by the various operators. The result was inconsistent dryer operation, unacceptable product consistency, throughput and yield. Our client needed to have a process operation that routinely and repeatedly produced consistent and profitable results. Malisko was tasked by the client to provide a full assessment, gap analysis and action plan to deploy an optimal level of process automation, then execute the upgrade plan to achieve the client’s needed production improvements.


Malisko performed an on-site assessment of the Spray Dryer operation and condition of its control system. Areas of focus included:

  • Operations of the Mix Tank, HTST Balance Tank, HTST’s, HPP’s, Spray Nozzles, CIP and overall Spray Dryer process operation
  • Collaborate with the plant’s production and operations personnel:
  • Operators, production supervisors and team leaders, electrical maintenance and support, IT support
  • Document the current state of each operation along with the desired state of each
  • Quantify and document the “intended” versus the “actual” functionality of each operation and action
  • Quantify and document the immediate, short term, and long-term needs to improve Spray Dryer operation and performance

Malisko then created a comprehensive gap analysis summary identifying the existing operational and system pain points together with recommended improvements, including deploying more process automation, required to achieve the client’s objectives.


Issues quickly identified included:

  • Instances of unreliable instrumentation with an unawareness of instruments not functioning properly
  • Not all process parameters being properly set / reset by the Operators for variations in product runs
  • Data from sensors or switches completely unreliable in some cases such as:
  • Levels
  • Pressures
  • Inconsistency in the way each Operator ran the production system:
  • Each operator had their own philosophy and approach to managing the operation of the process, which was identified as a significant contributor to inconsistency in product quality, yield and throughput.

Malisko’s recommendations were to:

  • Fix/replace the unreliable or broken instrumentation
  • Deploy generous quantities of process automation to achieve the client’s objectives
Implemented the numerous recommendations contained in the gap analysis including:

  • Document and replace unreliable and broken instrumentation
  • Create Phase Sequence and Process Control Narrative documentation including Pin Charts for the sequence control
  • Enhance the Human Machine Interface (HMI) by adding intuitive process and operational information to the operator’s view
  • Program enhancements to the PLC for improved automatic of:
  • Sequencing between the Mix Tank and HTST Balance Tank for better process and water interfacing
  • HTST operation
  • Tighter Dryer Nozzle feed rate control
  • CUT IN / CUT OUT auto logic
  • Improved HPP motor interlocks for added equipment protection and safety
  • Less reliance on the Operator to make sequence changes and parameter adjustments during system start-up, normal running and shutdown
  • Create parameter files within the control system to accommodate product variances
  • Create training documentation for Operators and Technical Support group
  • Off-site program and test including FAT
  • On-site implementation and onsite commissioning
  • On-site training for Operators and Technical Support group over multiple shifts and multiple days
  • Updated documentation of the Spray Dryer’s controls and operation


  • Fully automated process that “runs in auto” under normal operating conditions
  • Zero manipulation of devices required to run entire process under normal operation
  • Control system consistent with auto functionality and parameterization as recommended in the Gap Analysis
  • Client’s objectives were met for having a Spray Drying system meeting the needs for higher product consistency, greater throughput and higher yield
  • Project budget was met
  • System is now fully documented and very supportable

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