A MOVE away from bulk bags has created storage and logistics gains for a new Victorian pulse processor.
Australian Plant Protein (APP) which produces plant protein isolates from pulses such as faba beans and lentils in Horsham has said the move to using a new storage option for the raw material created significant safety, sustainability and efficiency benefits.
The new storage system is estimated to be saving a whopping $30 a tonne in processed beans.
Bulk faba beans, delivered Horsham, are currently at around $330/t so the savings are significant, with the company anticipating it will save $250,000 over the course of a year.
At the Horsham facility APP is now using a relatively new product, the UniBox.
The UniBox is a food-grade reusable transport and storage solution for handling pourable products, such as grain, seeds and granules. APP operations manager, Puneet Chawla, said the UniBox system had a range of day to day benefits.
"We've been using UniBox here at Horsham for several months now, and the improvements have been immediate," Mr Chawla said.
"We currently process 12 tonnes of faba beans and lentils per day, with more capacity due online next year which will see us processing more than 30 tonnes per day," Mr Chawla explained.
He said the savings from the UniBox came from reduced spillage and wastage and reduced spoilage.
"Until now we have been using bulk bags, which of course are only single use and have challenges with storage space, the risk of tipping or tearing, as well as potential issues with spoilage and rodents.
There are also logistical gains, with the UniBox easier to handle, creating time savings.
Imported and marketed in Australia by United Ag, UniBox units can handle up to 1,200kg loads.
United Ag director, Tim McFarlane, says the heavy-duty construction made them a good alternative to bulk bags.
"The UniBox are made from high density polyethylene and meet food grade standards with the option of a stainless-steel bottom plate," Mr McFarlane said.
"They seal completely with a secure lid, to give good protection against infestation, contaminants or spoilage."
Designed for safe, one-person operation, the UniBox interior is smooth and sloped with a generous centre exit to quickly and completely empty contents.
The containers stack and nest for efficient warehousing and freight, with a semi-load holding 18 full UniBox units.
Mr Chawla says APP uses the boxes to move and store raw product prior to processing, rotating its fleet every 1.5 days with suppliers.
"We send clean, empty ones across to them, which they then fill and then return to us for processing.
"Our first processing step is washing the beans, which requires them to be loaded into a hopper system.
"When we were using bulk bags, it took 17 minutes to empty each one, but the UniBox decants the same volume in 8 minutes.
"It's less than half the time, which is a lot when you add that up over a week or month."
There are also benefits in moving the UniBoxs around the plant.
"Our drivers feel much more comfortable moving them around," Mr Chawla said.
"Instead of lifting a bulk bag from the top and holding it up high, these are lifted at the bottom so feel much more stable for the driver."
Full UniBox can be stacked two-high, while empty ones can be stacked four high.
"We can store three tonnes of product in the space we used to only be able to store one tonne," he continued.
The company has another 40 boxes on order and said the payback on investment will be in months, not years.