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Why Expertise Matters in Food & Beverage Processing

A Conversation with Filtration Expert Scott Grimes

Food and beverage processors face growing regulations, increasing production demands, and limited resources. To navigate these demands, processors and process engineers are turning to knowledgeable specialists. 

Here, Scott Grimes, Strategic Account Manager with Donaldson Process Filtration, discusses what it takes to earn trust in the industry today. Grimes works closely with processing executives and consulting engineers on improvements to sterile filtration systems.

What vantage point do you have on the process industry?

The role of filtration may appear to be a minor one in total scope, but it’s a major one when it comes to advancing food safety and public health. The purity of water, steam, and compressed air drives process integrity. My role is to understand a plant’s demands, identify where these utilities come in contact with the process or the food and beverage itself, and get the right filtration products in place to help mitigate micro-contamination.

What is the biggest change taking place in the processing market?

Along with the increasing skills gap in the trades, we also have an increased knowledge gap. There’s growing demand for contamination control and better technology, yet the market is being commoditized.  More and more players are coming in just selling a short-term fix. A good solution provider understands what is upstream and downstream of the filter. They grasp the bigger picture described by the plant or its consultants, and recommend the necessary filtration components.

What are the strengths you need as a process filtration professional?

Technical ability. You must be on the same wavelength as the engineer or plant manager and know the intricate details of how to design and source a filtration solution. It’s always in the details. You also need to understand their business. Often, you can’t get a solution through unless you thoroughly understand the impact it will have on total operating costs. If you can present a return on investment—either reduced energy consumption or reduced downtime—it opens a door to better filter solutions.

Describe an example of how you balance business needs with technology.

The success of the solution is often tied to operating conditions. Recently a yogurt producer came to us needing to push strawberries out of a tote and into the bottom of a yogurt cup, using sterile compressed air. But here was the challenge: the machine had to run continuously between SIP schedules with no shut down. I said, “We need to oversize the heck out of this thing to make it sure that it meets run-time demand.” The plant needed a filtration partner who could understand process conditions and physically size the solution appropriately. The variables to consider may not all be about protecting the product. They may also be about the available resources for maintenance: energy resources, human resources, and time resources.

Fast Facts about Scott Grimes
  • Attraction to industry: Grew up in the steel country of Western Pennsylvania. “I was always fascinated by manufacturing—the enormity of equipment and its functions.”

  • Career: 29 years in instrumentation, controls, and process filtration markets, including a decade in the highly-regulated industries of mining and nuclear power. Work involved close collaboration with engineers.

  • Notable assignments: Helping a limestone mine improve disposal of contaminants to avoid polluting an aquifer; and presenting to the FDA on non-aseptic filtration in pharmaceuticals.

  • On trading a hard hat for a hairnet: “It’s a heck of a lot cleaner. I’ve liked learning how yogurt and beer are made. Every person should be a continuous learner.”

  • Why he enjoys working for Donaldson: “It’s as vertically integrated a company as you’ll find today. We engineer our own filter media and configure it into the final component. We reinvested nearly $60 million in research and development last year alone. I like the fact that we have engineers and scientists on staff working in over 100 technical laboratories.

  • Favorite part of job: “Working hand-in-hand with customers; believing there’s a solution for every problem.”
Do you need a legal mind, as well, to stay on top of regulations?

Certainly. I’m only providing one component and that’s a filter. But within industry guidelines, such as 3-A Sanitary Standards, there are multiple components addressed. I need to make sure the client understands the other puzzle pieces that must be integrated in order to be compliant. You need to educate yourself on the bigger picture first, so that when you talk about your individual puzzle piece, it makes more sense.

After working with massively scaled nuclear plants, what appealed to you about smaller process filters that stop microbes?

To me it’s the same. When it comes down to it, all the technology I’ve been involved with since 1990 is commonly known as “dead-end filtration.” Think of it as a window screen in your house. The good stuff goes through, the bad stuff stays behind. It just takes different kinds of engineering to design the filter media for the application, and the ability to verbalize the solution in an intelligent fashion. I seem to be able to explain things in an understandable way, whether it’s for an engineer, maintenance person, or someone in a purchasing role. They can relate to it.

What’s ahead for food and beverage processing?

The Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain will be huge influences. Blockchain platforms are now able to trace a food product all the way back to the farm level, which some large retailers are beginning to require of suppliers. This movement will only grow. In terms of IoT, at Donaldson we’re developing connected solutions that will make it easier for customers to manage their filtration systems. These solutions enable us to offer various services, ranging from supporting filtration management to outsourcing this function.

Do you need a legal mind, as well, to stay on top of regulations?

Certainly. I’m only providing one component and that’s a filter. But within industry guidelines, such as 3-A Sanitary Standards, there are multiple components addressed. I need to make sure the client understands the other puzzle pieces that must be integrated in order to be compliant. You need to educate yourself on the bigger picture first, so that when you talk about your individual puzzle piece, it makes more sense.

After working with massively scaled nuclear plants, what appealed to you about smaller process filters that stop microbes?

To me it’s the same. When it comes down to it, all the technology I’ve been involved with since 1990 is commonly known as “dead-end filtration.” Think of it as a window screen in your house. The good stuff goes through, the bad stuff stays behind. It just takes different kinds of engineering to design the filter media for the application, and the ability to verbalize the solution in an intelligent fashion. I seem to be able to explain things in an understandable way, whether it’s for an engineer, maintenance person, or someone in a purchasing role. They can relate to it.

What’s ahead for food and beverage processing?

The Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain will be huge influences. Blockchain platforms are now able to trace a food product all the way back to the farm level, which some large retailers are beginning to require of suppliers. This movement will only grow. In terms of IoT, at Donaldson we’re developing connected solutions that will make it easier for customers to manage their filtration systems. These solutions enable us to offer various services, ranging from supporting filtration management to outsourcing this function.

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