One of the first things you notice about the magazine you are holding in your hands is its look of extraordinary quality. The smooth and shiny pages are pleasant to the senses of touch and sight. More than likely, the reason for this is that this paper has, at some point of its manufacture, been processed by Sweco separators. From cereal to laundry detergents to pharmaceuticals, you cannot separate Sweco from the processing involved in getting these products to each of us to complement our daily lives.
For over 50 years, Sweco has offered customers engineering innovations to advance their product improvement. Today, its mission is to be the world leader in particle-separation and size- reduction solutions and to meet the challenges of an ever-changing global market by continually seeking innovative technologies. Sweco, headquartered in Florence, Ky., is the industry leader worldwide in the manufacture and distribution of separation equipment used in a wide range of process industries, particularly chemicals, minerals, food, pulp and paper, and pharmaceuticals. In fact, the company and its 300 employees worldwide boast more than 5,000 distinct applications, which provide processing solutions to customers. “We are well prepared to understand our customers’ production challenges like no other company can,” says John Altmix, Sweco’s director of global marketing. “Our separators can be used in sizing particles in a process. If our customers want multiple segregation of sizes, we can do that with multiple screen decks. It’s all a matter of screening to separate two different substances, whether it’s sizing or removing products from a liquid stream.” For example, before cereals are packaged, they are processed through Sweco separators to remove dust and broken pieces. Sweco separators get rid of lumps or oversized par-ticles in powdered detergents. “In this case,” explains Altmix, “this happens at the end of the process. At the beginning of a process, when raw materials like flour, sugar or salt enter a facility to produce something, our separators will screen those materials to remove any contaminants or large particles.”
Inventor of the Round Separator
The Sweco name continues to be synonymous with innovation. From the design of separators with no-tool force wheels that allow optimal separator performance, to Sweco’s QuickChange™ System that allows faster, more convenient screen changes. All of these engineering innovations translate into increased processing and manufacturing productivity for Sweco’s customers.
Sweco invented the round separator more than 50 years ago. Since then, the company has led the industry in advancing the technology behind the concept. “Because we invented it, we have the most knowledge and experience of anyone in the industry,” says Altmix. “Our reps, on average, have more than 20 years experience.” Sweco sales engineers, with their extensive problem-solving experience, are extremely adept at analyzing and determining the optimal equipment and setup for customers’ specific process requirements.
“We are part of a major corporation, and most of our competitors are privately owned, smaller and regional companies that don’t have the ability we have to service a customer who may be opening up an operation in China,” says Mary Jo Bowman, product manager, pharmaceutical. “Emerson Electric, a $14 billion corporation, is our parent company,” explains Altmix. “Emerson’s strong financial position enables us to implement a global business strategy based on significant investments in engineering, manufacturing and distribution worldwide, so we have the backing to go anywhere in the world our customers need us to go.”
Sweco’s core product is its round separator, which represents the majority of the company’s business. Sales of other products and aftermarket parts and screens represent the remainder of Sweco’s business. Sweco has manufacturing facilities in the United States, Belgium and Singapore. With more than 100 service offices around the globe, a joint venture in Mexico and a new facility to begin operation in China this year, the company is well positioned for continued growth.
Sweco markets its products through manufacturers’ representatives, independent sales agents and direct sales. Sweco’s Fortune 500 customers include such global giants as DuPont, Procter & Gamble, Eli-Lilly, General Mills, 3M and Dow Chemical.
UM Rectangular Separator
Sweco’s newest product launch is its Universal Motion (UM) Rectangular Separator. “Currently, whether it’s our rectangular separator or our competitor’s, the motion of this type of separator is determined by the way it is built,” explains Altmix. “We developed the UM rectangular separator, which allows you to field change the amplitude and shape of the motion to adapt more precisely to a customer’s specific process. No one else in the industry has something like this.” These separators are targeted for the ceramics and paper industries, where Sweco is a formidable global player. “They are specifically used to process kaolin, a white clay used in ceramics and paper,” says Altmix. The white coating on slick paper is made from kaolin clay.
“Another recent product development is the patented PharmASep®, a pharmaceutical filter-dryer that is unique for handling pharmaceutical slurries,” says Bowman. This new sanitary separator, with its revolutionary design, was created for critical pharmaceutical and specialty chemical separation requirements and is manufactured to cGMP standards. “It is the first-ever aseptic, vibratory, filter/dryer, with clean-in-place capability in the industry.” The PharmASep® provides one piece of equipment to handle several pharmaceutical processes. “Prior to the invention of the PharmASep®, pharmaceutical companies had to use multiple pieces of equipment such as filters, dryers, filter/dryers and separators to produce a product,” explains Bowman. “This new product of ours will filter, dry, and size all in one unit, and it provides a free-flowing powder at the end of the process.” The PharmASep® cuts down on handling, thereby facilitating the vali-dation of equipment for the process.
Bowman continues, “This product also gives our customers better yields because you don’t have to transfer the product from machine to machine, plus the unit evacuates more of the finished product than most other equipment.” “The PharmASep®” adds Altmix,” is a fully contained pressure-vessel design that provides worker and environmental protection from potent pharmaceuticals.
Investing in Advanced Technology
As part of Emerson, Sweco must complete an extremely rigorous planning process for developing plans for the future. “We spent over $4 million over the last five years on engineering and manufacturing technology,” says Bowman. “We have a lean manufacturing strategy, and we continually evaluate all our processes. Sweco also works closely with vendors to maximize quality and manage costs. For example, we utilize Fastenal’s OEM Fastener inventory management system to optimize procurement costs.”
One of Sweco’s newest “employees” is “Dave”, a welding robot used in the company’s European facility. “This robot makes more precise welds, which is extremely important in our equipment because of the vibrations they must endure,” explains Altmix. Sweco is committed to a philosophy of providing solutions, not just equipment, to its customers. “We have a full R&D staff and an applications lab where we work on new product development,” says Bowman. Our development efforts are two-pronged. We are focusing on both processing/capacity improvements and new technology to reduce customers’ operating and maintenance costs. Solutions to customers’ process needs is the No. 1 priority at Sweco, and the company’s numerous patent awards bear testimony to this resolute commitment.
Sweco’s product line includes the following state-of-the-art equipment working every day in global industries. Sweco Vibro-Energy® Round Separators are ideal for separating solids from liquids or segregating dry materials into various particle sizes. Full-Flow Rectangular Separators are perfect for high-volume wet and dry processing, and Sweco’s patented vibration systems provide the only uniform elliptical motion on the market. Centrifugal Sifters allow more material to be screened with fewer fines in the oversize, increasing productivity. Turbo-Screen Air Classifiers provide continuous, precise screening of dry materials, especially finer-particle sizes. Sta-Sieve Stationary Screens provide fast, efficient separation of solids from liquids. Vibro-Energy® Finishing Mills handle any surface-finishing requirements. And Sweco’s Vibro-Energy® Grinding Mills offer solutions for any particle size reduction process.
Sweco offers a full complement of aftermarket parts and screens for equipment purchased today or 30 years ago. And its ASAP program (Authentic Sweco After-market Parts) is yet another indication of its customer commitment.
Future Role: Solutions Provider
Sweco visualizes its role evolving into more of a service provider than just an equipment provider. “We do provide services today, but we plan to truly go beyond that by focusing on developing solutions for our customers,” says Altmix. “The technologies we are looking at down the road include monitoring and instrumentation, for predictive information, so customers can plan equipment maintenance and maximize the effectiveness of their process. We truly want to provide the customer with a “Smart Separator.”
Sweco promises the best service in the industry, no matter where in the world a customer is located. It will continue to live up to its philosophy of innovation, quality, and experience. “In looking toward the future, we are in the process of implementing e-commerce, and this will be a major strategy for us in 2000,” concludes Altmix. “The idea is that we are opening up another method to make it easier for our customers to communicate and do business with us.”