Flow Rate Measurement in Food Processing Plants

flow rate measurement food industry

Flow rate measurement is an essential aspect of all sorts of industries, and this practice in food processing plants is one of the most important parts of the entire system. Flows in food processing plants must be carefully monitored and controlled to reduce waste, as you might expect, but the fact that these plants produce products for consumption means that quite a few additional considerations must be accounted for too.

To fully grasp how flow rate measurement works for food processing plants, you’ll need to understand the common pitfalls to look out for in addition to the basic functionality of the process. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to ensure that you’re getting it done correctly when you know what to look out for. Learn everything you need to know about flow rate measurement in food processing plants and discover how to do it correctly to reduce waste and ensure quality in the end product.

Why Flow Rate Measurement Matters

Flow rate measurement is key for just about any business that deals with flows because it’s the best way to measure waste. Without being able to identify the actual numbers behind your waste, there’s no way to make optimizations. After all, any business would strive to be as efficient as possible simply because reducing waste leads to reduced costs.

In addition, the government has regulations for waste expulsion that businesses like food processing plants need to be compliant with. If you find that you’re wasting too much, you could be hit with fines, and that’s not going to help your bottom line one bit. With proper flow rate measurement efforts, you get to audit your waste to not only make improvements yourself, but also to contest any charges you receive that don’t line up with your own numbers.

Hygiene Considerations

Because food processing plants help create products for consumption, hygiene is one of the most important factors to consider during every step of the process. All devices involved need to be hermetically sealed, and all moving parts have to be structurally sound and clean of any contaminants. This applies to the flow rate measurement devices too.

While it’s typically easy to keep tools like flumes free from contaminants if they’re not open to the sky, which is unlikely in food processing plants, you still have to consider the actual measurement device. With staff gauges, it is possible for the ink or glue used on them to contaminate the flow depending on where you source them. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution to this problem, and that’s to simply not use staff gauges at all.

Instead of staff gauges, you can use flow meter sensors. Ultrasonic flow meters are among the most popular, and that should come as no surprise considering how accurate they can be. They utilize ultrasound to measure the flow rate by taking note of the transit time of the sound waves through the flow itself. This frequency shift is used as the measurement, and it all happens without the meter having to directly touch the flow itself. As a bonus, these tools don’t require much maintenance because they don’t contain any moving parts.

Finding Suitable Instruments

While plenty of different tools and instruments can work for a food processing plant, it’s important to make sure that they fit the necessary criteria first. To ensure that your chosen equipment is suitable for your food processing plant, you’ll need to keep several factors in mind. These can vary quite a bit, but they’re all important.

Environmental Factors

The environmental factors of the installation site play a major role in the kind of device you opt for. For example, Parshall flumes are quite common in food processing plants, but they may not be the best option in certain scenarios. Instead, you may find yourself in a position where a flat-bottomed flume is more appropriate if you can’t account for the internal ramp of a Parshall.


The pH level of your flow is essential when you’re trying to figure out which material would be best for your device. pH goes hand in hand with corrosiveness in determining exactly how long your flume is going to last, and it’s in your best interest to opt for something that lasts as long as possible for consistent measurements. Given that you’re working with food processing, any pH probes you use need to be hygienically sound. Plus, you’ll need a proper probe holder to ensure that your probe doesn’t come loose and lose all your data.

Installation Site

In addition to what kind of bottom your flume can have, the installation site is also important when considering how you plan to maintain your flume. Flumes are particularly useful because they’re largely self-cleaning, but that doesn’t mean they don’t require any maintenance at all. You’ll still need to be able to access the flume to clean it out every now and then as well as ensure that all the meters are still calibrated properly. Accessibility is often overlooked, but it’s an essential aspect of finding the right device for the job.


When dealing with food processing, temperature is one of the most important factors to properly maintain. While maintaining temperature is typically an easy way to prevent the growth of bacteria, the actual requirements vary widely based on the specific food item in question. Additionally, some foods — like chocolate, for example — must be kept at certain temperatures to allow for easy manipulation in the production process. Whatever your specific temperature requirements may be, you need to ensure that your measurement devices all function properly at that temperature.


Certain food processing plants will involve flows that can be corrosive in large, steady quantities. In these scenarios, you may be more worried about the health of the flume rather than the hygiene of the flow. Fortunately, opting for a fiberglass flume is typically a safe way to ensure that your flume won’t be hit too hard by any part of the flow that’s corrosive.

Uses of Controlled Flow Rates

In a lot of cases, flumes and controlled flow rates solely measure wastewater production, but that’s not the case with food processing plants. Several different aspects of the plant’s functionality depend on properly controlled flow. Depending on the kind of fluids you’re dealing with, the solutions to the potential problems can vary widely too.

Ingredient Measuring

Instead of dealing with one major flow, food processing plants often have to deal with multiple flows of very specific ingredients in relatively small quantities. Because of this, it’s important to have devices that are adept at low-flow monitoring. Not all flume styles or sizes are suitable for this, and you may even need a nested solution for flows that can vary in velocity quite a bit.

Cooling Systems

In addition to dealing with the actual food products, you’ll also need to monitor cooling systems. Food processing machinery can get significantly hot, so cooling systems are essential for functionality. To make sure you’re being efficient with these systems, you’ll need the proper devices to measure the flow of coolant. Fortunately, this doesn’t necessarily have the same hygiene requirements as actual food ingredient flow would.

Carbonation Considerations

Managing flow rate is essential if you’re dealing with any kind of flow that’s carbonated. To maintain proper carbonation, the flow needs to be delicately handled as it travels through the processing plant. Temperature regulation is especially important here too. After all, you probably already know what happens if you leave a can of soda in a hot car or a freezer for too long. Either way, it’s going to burst.

Industry-Specific Considerations

Given just how varied food processing can be, it should be no surprise that different kinds of food have different requirements for proper flow rate measurement and management. Quite a few different strategies can be implemented for each type of food production that can reduce the amount of water used and minimize the amount of waste that’s produced.

Fruit and Vegetable Processing

To decrease the amount of water used in fruit and vegetable processing, it’s important to implement strategies like separating low- and high-strength waste streams and decreasing the volume of water used in peeling and pitting. Using steam blanching instead of water blanching can also help reduce the amount of water used. Air cooling in the aftermath of blanching helps too.

Dairy Processing

In dairy processing plants, product loss is typically already quite low with a loss of 0.5% on average in large, technologically advanced plants. Some strategies to reduce waste even further include using ultrafiltration for separating organic material and reverse osmosis systems to recycle internal liquid waste streams.

Meat Processing

Meat processing plants have several additional factors to consider including the animal size and type in question. Additionally, many of the waste materials are already gathered by the industry and reused for purposes like animal feed. Boosting efficiency in meat processing plants largely revolves around cleanup practices. Using restricted flow hoses that have high-pressure modes with automatic shut-offs should lead to a noticeable decrease in your wastewater measurements.

General Flume Considerations

With all the industry specifics in mind, it’s important to ensure that the flume itself is functioning properly in your processing plant. This means learning what calibration requirements there are for the particular style of flume you opt for and making sure those requirements are being consistently met. Fortunately, some styles make this process easier than others.

If your food processing plant is suitable for Parshall flumes, you don’t have to worry about calibration at all. You just need to make sure that the flume is level and clean. The former is taken care of with a proper installation, and the latter is an easy bit of maintenance that you won’t have to do all that often. Even so, it’s important to do a site inspection before using any new installation to ensure that everything is installed properly.

One of the benefits of flumes in food processing plants is that you generally don’t have to worry about biological growth. The regulations in place to keep food products properly hygienic typically prevent the growth of algae or any other kind of biological growth. Just remember that the hygiene requirements will vary based on the particular kind of food item you’re working with. For example, some may require colder temperatures to avoid growth, while others may call for hotter temperatures.

Flumes From Tracom

When you’re ready to get a flume for your food processing plant, Tracom has got you covered. We have a wide variety of options available, from Parshall flumes to flat-bottomed flumes, to fit whatever your plant’s needs are. If that’s not enough, our team will work with you to craft a custom design that will fit your needs perfectly.

Our flumes utilize a fiberglass construction method, which makes it easier to ensure that the flume you get is dimensionally exact. Instead of being crafted in pieces, depending on how large the flume is, it’s created in a singular mold that is structurally sound and dimensionally exact.

In addition to the ease of construction, fiberglass material additionally excels in food processing purposes, as it doesn’t contain any contaminants that could compromise the hygiene of the flow. In fact, the protective resin acts as a barrier for both the flow itself and the flume, meaning you get reliable measurements while maintaining hygienic standards for a long time. Fiberglass as a material lasts quite a while, especially when the flume isn’t located directly under the sun.

With an accurate flume, you can enjoy flow rate measurements as precise as +/- 2%-5% under perfect conditions. Given that food processing plant flumes aren’t typically located outside, you’re less likely to run into issues that could compromise that accuracy. If you’re ready to take your food processing plant flumes to the next level, Tracom is happy to help. Contact our team today to get started.