Commentary from Dr. Rick Green, KeyLeaf’s President of Technology Development. “Scaling-up” is a skillset not commonly offered within the natural products industry. It involves taking a manufacturing process usually developed in a laboratory using small quantities of materials at what is called the “benchtop scale”, and identifying what equipment and process parameters, (like times and…
Commentary from Dr. Rick Green, KeyLeaf’s President of Technology Development.
“Scaling-up” is a skillset not commonly offered within the natural products industry. It involves taking a manufacturing process usually developed in a laboratory using small quantities of materials at what is called the “benchtop scale”, and identifying what equipment and process parameters, (like times and temperatures), will be required at full production scale. At the benchtop scale you consider what you need to have in place for the full production scale to be economically viable to produce a high-quality end product. The process of scaling up is taking what you learn from the bench top and then using that information to run larger pilot scale trials to validate your processing concept.
With pilot scale trials successfully completed and the processing concept validated, it’s now safe to purchase the full-scale production equipment. Scaling-up is about identifying what the production/processing line will look like, the exact machinery required, and determining the key parameters so that the line will run effectively when you move to full production scale. A proper, well-conceived scale-up program assesses the associated costs and substantially lowers a company’s risk of losing capital resources on new equipment that doesn’t produce as anticipated and must be mothballed or replaced.
KeyLeaf’s expertise at scaling-up was demonstrated when an omega-3 microalgae industrial client sought assistance to improve their product quality and output. KeyLeaf carefully evaluated their production methods and discovered the equipment they were using to extract the omega-3 from the microalgae wasn’t scalable – meaning that their process wasn’t economically viable and was too energy-intensive. KeyLeaf then reviewed many different types of equipment that were in use in different industries and identified a machine that could be modified and used for the microalgae industry. When the new equipment was installed at pilot scale in KeyLeaf’s facility, technicians were able to process 1 to 3 tons of feedstock per day – far more than the volume microalgae companies were capable of processing with their equipment. Once we demonstrated how successful the pilot scale processing was, many players in the omega-3 microalgae industry contacted KeyLeaf because they saw we were able to provide scalability as well as offer the lowest cost solutions for production.
An integral and critical part of scaling-up is being able to communicate and work with multifunctional teams – something that enables the streamlining of solutions. Because they cumulatively represent a tremendous pool of expertise, a multifunctional team can look at the data brought in from one pilot trial and quickly calculate the optimal path forward for the next trial. The team’s ability to make effective, accurate decisions reduces the number of trials needed for scale-up and eliminates the endless “trial and error” approach that becomes the default mode when the team members’ industry experience is lacking. The expertise provided by a multifunctional team is key for scale-up, and it is only possible when a roster of highly experienced scientists, engineers, technicians and marketing personnel comes together very quickly, sharing data by means of an effective communication system.
KeyLeaf’s processing lines run from 50 to 200 kilos of input material per hour at a steady state, 24 hours-per-day, 7 days-a-week. KeyLeaf continues to partner with R&D groups large and small who are looking for companies to take their ingredients and scale them up to a commercial level, a process at which KeyLeaf excels and is proud to offer to established and emerging brands.
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We are pleased to report that KeyLeaf remains open for business with both our Canadian and US facilities operational. We are following all COVID-19 guidelines as mandated by Canadian and US health authorities and taking all necessary measures to ensure the integrity of our products and the health and safety of our staff, vendors, and…
We are pleased to report that KeyLeaf remains open for business with both our Canadian and US facilities operational. We are following all COVID-19 guidelines as mandated by Canadian and US health authorities and taking all necessary measures to ensure the integrity of our products and the health and safety of our staff, vendors, and those around us.
KeyLeaf continues to be available to our friends in the plant-based food, beverage, and nutritional space to provide ingredient knowledge and processing expertise to help expedite projects that may be stalled or in need of a faster track to the marketplace. With a perspective developed after working with more than 5,400 clients over four decades, it’s apparent to us that it will require alliances between all members of our industry – creatively working together and helping one another in every way we can — to successfully navigate the challenging economic landscape currently affecting us all.
Please feel free to contact KeyLeaf about your projects and ingredient needs.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Global Sales & Business Development
Commentary from Darryl Minty, KeyLeaf’s Director of Global Business Process Last year, after years of hard work, dedication, and continuous improvement, KeyLeaf was awarded LEAN Certification by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME), becoming one of only three companies in Saskatchewan to achieve that distinction. KeyLeaf started on its LEAN Certification program in 2014 as…
Commentary from Darryl Minty, KeyLeaf’s Director of Global Business Process
Last year, after years of hard work, dedication, and continuous improvement, KeyLeaf was awarded LEAN Certification by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME), becoming one of only three companies in Saskatchewan to achieve that distinction.
KeyLeaf started on its LEAN Certification program in 2014 as part of a complete business transformation focusing on continuous improvement and customer value. Lean production is founded on the idea of kaizen – or continual improvement. This philosophy implies that small, incremental changes routinely applied and sustained over a long period result in significant improvements. The kaizen strategy aims to involve workers from multiple functions and levels in the organization to work together to address a problem or improve a process. The team uses analytical techniques to identify opportunities to eliminate waste in a targeted process or production area. The team then rapidly works to implement chosen improvements, often within 72 hours of initiating the kaizen event, typically focusing on solutions that do not involve large capital outlays. 1
Darryl Minty, KeyLeaf’s Director of Global Business Process, comments on how KeyLeaf became involved with the LEAN Certification program and how the company has benefited from the LEAN production principles:
“KeyLeaf has been on our LEAN journey for about a decade. When we started our journey, we hired a consultant to do an assessment. After spending a few days with us, he gave us his report. Two of his comments were: ‘I wouldn’t want to work here’, and ‘I wouldn’t want to do business with you.’ That was a kick in the pants that told us maybe we need to take a hard look at what we’re doing and how we were doing it. Around the same time, we started working with Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. They have divisions across Canada, and we became a member with CME Saskatchewan. CME was there to help coach us and mentor us as opposed to just tell us what to do. One of the key elements we took away from them was our LEAN training.
Currently, we have almost 100 percent of our staff on-site trained at the LEAN 101 level, which consists of a one-day introductory session giving a basic understanding of the LEAN tools and methodology. At KeyLeaf we teach and use the traditional LEAN process which is basically an adaptation of the Toyota Production System, which is where many of the LEAN principles came from.
Above the LEAN 101 level, KeyLeaf has 12 employees trained at the Yellow Belt level, where they receive instruction on all 24 of the LEAN Tools and Methodologies. Above yellow we have eight employees trained at the Green Belt Level, where they learn to become “senseis” qualified to instruct and mentor other employees on the LEAN program. Above Green Belt, we have two employees trained at the Black Belt level, which uses advanced tools and methodologies focusing more on systems and less on processes. We also have one Master Black Belt on site.
As part of Black Belt training, we do a one-week benchmarking mission to Japan where we visit best-in-class companies: Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Yamaha for example. In order to be “world-class” its beneficial to go and see first-hand what world-class looks like. World-class examples of lean are literally evident everywhere you go in Japan from airports, “the bullet train” to grocery stores. Aside from seeing world-class companies you experience the Japanese culture which is the epitome of respect.
There are many internal improvements we can point to resulting from LEAN. One of which is we’ve created a much safer and more efficient work environment; we have far better and safer ergonomics. People are less frustrated because they’re not running around looking for the right tools and materials. Things are where they need to be when they need them.
Secondly, we have a much more responsive, adaptive and agile workforce. There were many instances where we never knew what the customer was going to walk through the door nor what project they were going to throw at us. LEAN taught us a lot about how to break down a process and focus on what offered true customer value in doing so offer a much better customer experience.
The LEAN methodology has helped us create a much more usable workspace and facility. Where, in our labs and shop and virtually everywhere you looked, we once had clutter and unneeded items, we now have clean, productive spaces. We have what we need where we need it and when we need it.
We’ve also created a culture where people have been empowered to become brilliant problem solvers — problem solvers capable of much more than merely identifying the problem. They can break it down to understand the root cause and apply suitable controls, so we eliminate the problem altogether.
Once you become LEAN certified as an organization, it’s really the best way of doing business. We don’t have to spend a whole lot of time thinking about what do and how to do it — it’s ingrained. If you went to Toyota and asked them about their LEAN program, they would not know what you were talking about. It’s just the way they do business. Eliminate waste while continually trying to add value to the customer. They’re there to do their jobs, but they’re also there to think and improve things on an ongoing basis. And that’s what we try to do. Just be better today than we were yesterday!