Dennis O'Leary, Chief Business Development Officer, Industrial MagneticsDennis O'Leary, Chief Business Development Officer
Magnetic separation applications in the chemical industry are as disparate as the industry itself. The immense differences in chemicals among polymers, acids, rubbers, plastics, wet and dry chemicals, and pharmaceuticals are crucial factors to reckon with when choosing magnetic separation equipment. As each application presents unique challenges and not every piece of magnetic separation equipment is perfectly matched for every situation, choosing the right magnetic separation equipment is imperative in order to meet exclusive needs while satisfying protection, safety, and reliability requirements, even when challenged by hazardous chemicals. On the contrary, companies in the chemical industry are reaching out to a third party or independent clearinghouse to comply and operate the facility based upon set criteria provided by the adjunct bodies like BRC, SQF, or FSMA. In favor of weighing the cost-benefit, some organizations within the chemical industry opt to purchase off-the- shelf magnets in a location or multiple locations within their facility. The chemical industry faces distinctive processing challenges, including protecting product purity and handling chemicals in the most efficient, economical, and safe manner and in most cases an off-the-shelf magnet is not the proper solution. Consequently, this highly diverse industry requires a multitude of magnetic separation equipment to handle dry and wet applications. This is where companies like Industrial Magnetics Inc. (IMI) create a difference.

With 60 years of experience, Industrial Magnetics Inc. is one of the industry leaders in providing both permanent magnets and electromagnets for work holding, lifting, fixturing, conveying, and magnetic separation. The company specializes in industrial strength magnetic separation equipment to remove ferrous and non-ferrous metal contaminants from dry or liquid product flows and the first manufacturer to offer 55 MgOe rare earth material as a standard in many metal separation products. Considering the changing landscape of industries, IMI offers four distinct product groups: Automation Group Products, Mag-Mate® Group Products, Tramp Metal Group Products, and Smart-Mag® Group Products to address the issues revolving around the industries. But the most pertinent product group to the chemical industry is tramp metal group products that primarily help in separation. "We are supporting processors, providing meaningful solutions so they can be more efficient and effective in their manufacturing process stream, and are equally concerned with consumer protection. When it comes to our tramp metal group, we are attempting to ensure that no metal contaminants make it into or migrate through the production stream, as it can be harmful to capital equipment and consumers, with consequences in both scenarios being potentially catastrophic," states Dennis O'Leary, Chief Business Development Officer of Industrial Magnetics Inc.

Similarly, IMI also encourages its clients to consider more of an automated solution than an operator-dependent solution in this realm of the industry, as automated solutions ramp up the separation process and set a standard operating procedure in place. “Magnets are generally- for lack of a better term- ‘dumb’ technology- meaning they do not discriminate in terms of whether or not to capture contaminants and that’s a good thing. They work or they don’t, unlike detection or x-ray, technologies that require programming and homing in on a broad range of metallurgical ‘footprints’. An error in this process can result in undetected contaminants staying in the process stream.” IMI often engineers the magnet according to the client's specific requirements to capture everything that comes through the facility. Also, IMI conducts pre-solution testing in its R&D facility to ensure that a proper magnet is constructed according to the demand of the application and functions to its optimum capability based on the operator's location and comfort.

Going the extra mile, IMI offers an audit of the entire plant before collaborating with any client. Certain fundamental aspects need to be considered before implementing any solution. First, IMI observes the outside of the plant where bulk unloading of dry and wet goods occurs, and they can recommend a range of solutions to clear most of the ferrous containments before they even make it into the plant. Everything that comes in ideally runs through a series of magnets, as having multiple levels of protection is paramount for the clients.

We are extremely invested and involved in the entire process, and we educate our clients regarding the need of magnets and their important role in the entire process stream. Sometimes a standard solution is the answer and if it is not, then we present unique and client-specific solutions to meet their exact needs and requirements

Further, there is a notion that contamination happens primarily due to human errors such as maintenance dropping tools like box cutters or screw drivers into bins or sacks. While all true, it is imperative to recognize processing equipment as an equally dangerous contributor to contamination. Shakers, screeners, fasteners coming loose due to vibration as well as small, abraded metal fragments also unwittingly contribute to product contamination. What remains is a barrier in that people in the chemical plant are not always aware of this entire scenario. Armed with a full slate of this information, IMI addresses the plant's issues and provides unique solutions depending on the lines of production in the process string of the plant. For instance, if a plant produces three different products but only runs one line at a time, IMI places the magnet in a cart to quickly move the magnet from one line to the other; this reduces heavy investments due to duplicity and lends itself to a more economic and holistic solution. Finally, to ensure the purity of the produced product, experts at IMI suggest placing magnets in the process line's final stage to capture the upstream containments that might have entered in during final process stages. "We are extremely invested and involved in the entire process, and we educate our clients regarding the need of magnets and their important role in the entire process stream. Sometimes a standard solution is the answer and if it is not, then we present unique and client-specific solutions to meet their exact needs and requirements," asserts O'Leary.

O'Leary also mentions the unique value proposition of the company through a couple of client success stories. A client suffering from metal contamination issues experienced a tonne of downtime and approached IMI for a solution. By equipping the facility with magnetic separators, the team of experts at IMI were able to decrease the downtime of the production process. Not only that, but the client also experienced a 30 percent increase in output by implementing the solution offered by IMI. Another instance that also epitomizes the long-standing experience of IMI is through a success story that helped a macaroni and cheese manufacturer. The client approached IMI after wire-bristle brush material was discovered in super sacks of dry cheese powder, resulting in a recall of 250,000 cases of microwaveable mac and cheese. Addressing this issue, IMI presented a reasonable solution for $4,000 where they installed a magnetic separator in the production process. “It often comes down to a simple equation for clients to consider when they think they don’t need magnets: the low cost of install versus the high cost of failure due to contamination. It is often a percent or two of what the resulting, tangible damages are for the client and this is a great example. That does not take into consideration the punitive costs to the reputation of the brand.”

While enjoying the tremendous response received from diverse clients, IMI aims to prosper further in the future. Recently, the company has also completed an acquisition with Walker Magnetics, which also celebrates its 125th anniversary. Moving ahead, the company is going to expand its brand and is also planning to introduce new products. Along with international growth and trade export, IMI is equally focused on creating smart technology for magnets that would automatically notify the client regarding recycling, cleaning, and other essential aspects of the magnet. “We are always looking to expand our enterprise through meaningful acquisitions and broadening our scope of work by way of new products, government opportunities and channel partner relationships," concludes O'Leary.