“Hey kids, what happened to all the fruit flakes in the cereal? It looks like you all got the dried strawberries and large flakes and Dad and I got all the crumbs at the end of the box with no strawberries. ”
This is a common scenario in my household. We like a cereal that has freeze-dried sliced strawberries with flakes. Inevitably, the first few bowls of cereal get the lovely large sliced strawberries and large, whole flakes. The middle bowls get the medium size strawberry slices and partially broken flakes. Then the last bowls end up with a bit of strawberry powder and crushed flakes. It leaves the last person wondering if the cereal falsely advertised the strawberry slices because they only ever see the strawberry powder (or it leaves Mom wondering if the kids picked out all of the strawberries at the beginning…). This common problem is known as segregation.
Segregation can rear its ugly head in various forms:
- Powdered juice mixes resulting some mixtures being sweeter or brighter in color than others
- Pharmaceutical drugs resulting in off-spec pills
- Powdered detergent that does not have an even distribution of scent particles and cleaning particles
- Kitty litter that may have too many fines in one batch
At the end of the day, every manufacturer understands that segregation causes many problems:
- Rejected product
- Variable color, look, or taste
- Excessive blend times
- Customer complaints
- Product or process delays
The key to solving segregation problems is to understand how different materials segregate and then modify the process or material to reduce or eliminate that segregation. We have developed processes that allow us to analyze these various conditions and make the appropriate changes without playing a guessing game.
Maybe I ought to let the manufacturer of the cereal know that I can solve their berry issue to improve their already delicious cereal. Then there would be fewer heated discussions around the breakfast table about who gets the biggest strawberry slice and who merely gets the strawberry powder!