If the Shoe Fits: Running and Innovation  

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Two of my favorite things in one blog — running and innovation. Normally, I run 5K during the week. On the weekends, I find 8K and 10K races. While I would say I run at racing speed, I enjoy the atmosphere and the cold beer at the finish.  
My shoe of choice forever has been New Balance, 9 ½, EE. These fit like a glove and in all of my years, I’ve never had any problems. But then I read an article in Business Week that had me thinking.
How Nike Started a Sneaker Arms Race” talked about running and innovation. Nike’s innovation has led to a new shoe with a carbon fiber plate, lightweight foam, and a stiff forefoot that rocks you forward. According to the brand, out of the box, you are 4% better.  
The article offers technical discussion of the shoe and competitors complaining about unfair advantage. But innovation is innovation. And, as a runner, I was curious. 
Of course, Nike’s latest shoe comes at a price. Much more than I wanted to spend. But the article indicated that Hoka, as a competitor, came a close second, and at a lower price. So, yes, I purchased a pair of Hoka One carbon-fiber-plated shoes, More on how that turned out later. Let’s first look at the research into this new innovation in running shoes.

Innovation in Running Shoes

The New York Times published scientific details on Nike, Hoka and other shoes in its article “That Spring in Their Step? Even a Bigger Edge.”  Apparently, the carbon-fiber plate stores and releases energy with each stride and acts as a kind of slingshot or catapult to propel runners.  The lightweight foam also increases running economy.  
The Times analysis suggested, “that the advantage these shoes bestow is real — and larger than previously estimated.” Their findings:
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As for my training? I saw results too. Every year a 15 K “Hot Chocolate” Race is run in 18 cities in the US as well as Mexico City and Guadalajara for the “Make-A-Wish” foundation. I participated in 2018 and 2020. My time in 2018 was 2:09:29 running in New Balance 990. With the Hoka One One, my time improved to 2:03:14. That’s an improvement of 4.75%.10596_6542665_enm1767435957ram-1.jpg
I would like to say I trained better for 2020. But, maybe it was the running shoes. Or maybe I was just more motivated by the power of innovation on my feet!
Let me know your running style. We can get a couple kilometers in next time we see each other.  


Theory of Filtration and Theory of Creativity     

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Photo by Fiona Art on Pexels.com

Having been in the solid-liquid filtration, centrifugation, and drying marketplace since 1982, I have long said filtration is both a science and an art. I’ve witnessed the overlap of theory of filtration with theory of creativity. The practical and creative together make what we do so exciting. 
I entered the filtration business with Pall Corporation after five years with  the USEPA and receiving my MS in Environmental Science from Washington University in St. Louis. With Pall Corporation, I learned a lot about the science and art of filtration, marketing and sales, R & D, communication, and processes. It was during this time that I realized the creativity in the filtration market; every process, telephone call, e-mail was another challenge to solve a problem. 

Theory of Filtration

The theory of cake building filtration is based on Darcy’s law, describing the flow of fluids through porous materials. A practical equation was developed with a few assumptions:  

  • the build cake is (almost) incompressible
  • the pressure during the cake building is (almost) constant
  • the filtrate is clear (= (almost)) and all solids from the suspension do end up in the cake
  • the resistance created by the filter media is negligible compared with the cake resistance

 Experiences have shown that the following equation can be used:
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This equation describes most cases of everyday filtration testing. The most interesting parameter is alpha, the sum of all “unknowns” such as particle size distribution (PSD), porosity, solids shape and size, etc. Hence, the creativity.

Theory of Creativity

Robert J. Sternberg, Professor of Human Development at Cornell University, has developed two theories of creativity: The Investment Theory and the Propulsion Theory. What follows is a summary of Robert’s theories.

The investment theory of creativity holds that creativity is in large part a decision. Creative people generate ideas that are viewed as novel and perhaps slightly ridiculous. Creative individuals, by their nature, tend to defy the crowd. They resist merely thinking or doing what others are thinking or doing. The greatest obstacle to creativity, therefore, often is not exactly strictures from others, but rather the limitations one places on one’s own thinking.

People are not born creative or uncreative. Rather, they develop a set of attitudes toward life that characterize those who are willing to go their own way. Examples of such attitudes toward life are willingness to (a) redefine problems in novel ways, (b) take sensible risks,  (c) “sell” ideas that others might not initially accept, (d) persevere in the face of obstacles, and (e) examine whether their own preconceptions are interfering with their creative process. Such attitudes are teachable and can be ingrained in students through instruction that encourages students to think for themselves. Creativity comprises several different aspects: (a) abilities, (b) knowledge, (c) styles of thinking, (d) personality attributes, (e) motivation, and especially intrinsic motivation, and (f) environment.  

Robert continues with his propulsion theory, as follows:

Some kinds of creative contributions move forward in an already existing direction. The most basic kind of creativity is (1) conceptual replication, which is a product that basically repeats what has been done before with slight variation. (2) redefinition is a reconceptualization of a creative idea, so that an idea that was originally proposed for one purpose subsequently is used for another purpose. (3) forward incrementation is the next step in a usually long chain of ideas.  (4) advance forward incrementation is a next step that is a large leap beyond the last idea.  

Other kinds of creative contributions take a new direction from previous work. (5) redirection is a contribution that moves a field in a direction different from that in which it has been moving.  (6) regressive redirection is a contribution that takes a field in a new direction, but a direction that has been proposed earlier and perhaps discarded. (7) re-initiation is a contribution that not only moves a field in a new direction but also essentially starts a field over. Finally, (8) synthesis brings together previously divergent lines of thought, such as the invention of the seaplane.

Filtration & Creativity

Let me reiterate one of Sternberg’s observations: “The greatest obstacle to creativity, therefore, often is not exactly strictures from others, but rather the limitations one places on one’s own thinking.” I’ve written in the past about limitations that hinder our approaches to filtration. We can’t travel the same paths over and over again. We need to be willing to take a fresh look at each situation, think critically, test and test again, and innovate — with creativity.


Optimizing downstream final drying

Every year I look forward to attending AICHE, learning from peers, and sharing what knowledge I’ve gained in the past year. COVID-19 pushed us to meet virtually this year. Still, I was pleased to continue to share my talk on BHS-Sonthofen Inc.’s continuum approach to optimizing downstream final drying with upstream solid-liquid filtration. I thought I’d offer a recap here for those who missed the online event.

Most often when analyzing a new process development approach, engineers take a “silo” approach and look at each step independently. I suggest that by taking a holistic approach and looking at each step not individually but as a continuum, the process solution becomes much more efficient. I highlighted my perspective with data showing how to balance each of process steps for maximum efficiency.

My discussion of process filtration and optimizing downstream final drying centered on a specialty chemical process that has crystals in a methanol slurry which must be filtered, washed, dewatered and then dried. In looking to expand the existing process our objectives were to:

  • Migrate to continuous operation from batch operation
  • Maximize solid-liquid filtration performance
  • Achieve low wash ratios for minimum wash media consumption
  • Accomplish lowest possible residual moisture in discharged filter cake 
  • Reach final moisture of <1.0% 

Testing a Continuum Approach to Optimizing Final Drying

The standard approach is to optimize the solid-liquid filtration step with maximum washing and pre-drying efficiency, Then, with this information we’d optimize the downstream drying. However, the client wanted us to look at the process as a continuum from solid-liquid filtration through cake washing and dewatering to final drying. 

Our testing started at BHS-Sonthofen in Charlotte labs with our Pocket Leaf Filter. Starting with the slurry, we tested for cake thickness, pressure filtration, filter media, cake washing and drying and discharge. 

The flux rate of less than two minutes at @ 200 kg DS/m2/hour) indicated this process was suitable for continuous operation. The cake drying moisture content, varying between 11 – 30%, was another positive indicator for an integrated approach.

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Example results from the RPF testing

Our lab testing of the slurry led us to recommend a continuous approach using the BHS Rotary Pressure Filter, which conducts pressures, cake watering, dewatering, and cake discharge all, continuously, in a slowly-rotating sealed drum. In testing for this client we achieved:

  • Media = 14 micron and a cake thickness of 25 mm 
  • Desired filtration times and filtrate quality
  • Efficient wash ratios of 0.7 to 1.2 kg MeOH/kg DS
  • Moisture content varying between 11 – 30% based upon the nitrogen for blowing for drying 

Based on the moisture of 11%, we sized the Rotary Pressure Filter filtration area at 2.88 m2 with a nitrogen solvent recovery package to reduce the nitrogen usage. This led to the next step in the integrated process: looking at the dryers.

Optimization testing of AVA dryer

BHS Sonthofen last year acquired AVA dryer, so we turned to their vertical conical dryer for testing. This dryer’s cleanable, contained design conveys solids gently down and out, which was useful for this project’s specialty chemicals.

In pilot testing in Munich, Germany, we were able to determine what moisture level to use out of the pressure filter to get the best continuous approach to final drying. We initially designed a 2.88 m2 with 11% moisture, which led to a dryer of 1.93 m3 and a dryer cycle time of 35 minutes. That system would have cost the client $2 million. 

However, our testing optimized the design to increase moisture out of a smaller filter and use a larger dryer for longer. This saved $500,000 on the total system.

The Continuous Optimized Design

  • Filter Size: 1.44 m2 with 30% moisture using 200 m3/hr N2 + Vacuum
  • Dryer Size: 3.0 m3  
  • Dryer Cycle Time: 60 minutes 
  • Total System Budget Price: $1.5 million 

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The optimized design

The optimized system with a continuum approach resulted in operational energy and nitrogen savings as well as lower capital and installation costs for a more reliable process. 

I’d have liked to answer your questions about this approach in person. Still, I’d be happy to hear your thoughts. Contact me today!


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Benefits of a Continuum Approach to Optimizing Final Drying 

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As we announced in March, BHS has acquired AVA-GmbH. The AVA technologies provide for turbulent mixing, reacting and drying of wet cakes as well as powders and process slurries. The vertical and horizontal technologies are vacuum or atmospheric, batch and continuous, for final drying to “bone-dry” powders. They are an essential part of our “Continuum Approach.” 

What do I mean by that? This blog briefly reviews our first ground-breaking study showing the benefits of a “Continuum Approach” to final drying and upstream solid-liquid filtration, cake washing and dewatering.  

Most often when analyzing a new process development approach, engineers take a “silo” approach and look at each step independently.  Our article illustrates that by taking a holistic approach and looking at each step not individually but as a continuum, the process solution becomes much more efficient.  

In the manufacturing of the specialty chemical involved, the crystals coming from the reactor in a methanol slurry had to be filtered, washed and dewatered and then dried to a final moisture of less than 1.0 (<1.0 %).  The standard approach would be to first look at the solid-liquid filtration step and optimize this step for the maximum washing and drying efficiency. Then, with this information, we’d optimize the downstream drying.  The operating company, however, took a different approach and looked at the process as a continuum from solid-liquid filtration through cake washing and dewatering to final drying. The Continuum Approach” resulted in operational energy and nitrogen savings as well as lower capital and installation costs for a more efficient and reliable process.  

You can read the full technical article, but the overall result was a 50% decrease in the filtration area, elimination of a nitrogen recovery system with a 30 minute increase in batch drying time at a lower temperature for better product quality.

Contact me to optimize your current drying and filtration process. Let’s get more efficient together!

 


culinary innovation

Quarantine-Inspired Culinary Innovation

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This is a difficult moment in the world. Maybe you know someone that has been impacted by or struggled with COVID-19. We have all seen businesses coming to a halt and our daily lives upended. My heart goes out to everyone who has been impacted. For some, cooking is a way to show love. So, I thought I’d share some of my quarantine-inspired culinary innovations.
If you’re working from home, you have begun cooking more. I know that I have! Let me share some stories about my cooking as well as companies that innovated to be nimble in the face of the current situation.
My readers know that I exercise, run, and practice yoga. What you may not know is that I am also a good cook. As I am home more and not traveling, I have returned to cooking seafood, tandoori, Spanish, French and other dishes. You can see some of my culinary innovations in this slide show. These are the best ones. Some, I must admit, did not warrant a photo. But we’re always learning.    

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Cooking salmon and veg with a 45-year-old wok!

Culinary Innovation and Agility

While I’ve been innovating in my home kitchen, companies have been innovative in finding ways to meet consumer needs. Let me give you some examples.
King Arthur, a 230-year-old flour company, ramped up production to meet the demands of a baking renaissance. Their flour sales more than tripled as the public seemed to reach a collective understanding that baking and self-reliance was just the thing to help while staying at home. Grocery stores saw increased demand, so King Arthur needed to change their packaging lines to produce more. What did they do? The company innovated and swiftly designed a new plastic pouch that could handle two, five or ten pounds of flour. Within weeks King Arthur was able to increase its packaging processes to add over 1 million bags of flour to inventory.
For another example of culinary innovation during COVID-19, let’s look to Milkrun. The company works with farmers to deliver their products direct to consumers.  This local food delivery service in Portland, Oregon, would normally distribute to restaurants, school districts, coffee shops, etc. However, in a few short weeks, this business disappeared. Milkrun needed to combat two challenges to local food systems to change the business situation: inefficient distribution and low farmer pay. They made changes and developed innovative packaging for items such as sheep’s milk and fruits, so that now they can distribute directly to consumers. Now they’re expanding to Seattle as well as Austin, Denver, Detroit, New York.
Gotham Greens is a fresh food company that builds and operates sustainable greenhouses in cities across America. They grow year-round to supply local produce. Their greenhouses are advanced data-driven, climate-controlled facilities with the highest-yielding farms around. They use less energy, less land, and less water than other farming techniques. Plus, innovative advancements in machine learning and data analysis allow for monitoring of crop health and progress. Yet when restaurants shut down inside dining, the company’s business changed overnight. All the major restaurant clients called to suspend orders. On the other hand, the CEO’s phone “was buzzing off the hook from the largest supermarkets saying can you run extra trucks.” The company upped its planting and production to meet the need. 

Adaptive Processes & Teamwork

These stories of food company agility remind us of the importance of flexibility in business. Innovating new approaches can help with business differentiation. But business also needs to have a solid foundation to be able to pivot quickly in times of crisis. Strong leadership and teamwork can make all the difference.
While cooking is fun, we all miss restaurants and their chefs, bartenders, owners, wait staff, and other employees. I’m sure, like me, you long for and hope to dine in again with them soon. In the meantime, send me your food pictures, recipes, and cooking adventures. I’d love to learn about your culinary inventions during quarantine and beyond.