They say it pays to think big—yet sometimes just the opposite is true. Here’s a case where food scientist and engineer John Miles pursued a big dream by intentionally thinking “small.”
It was in the mid-80s when Miles left his food scientist’s role with a prominent beverage manufacturer, and he began leading North Carolina State University’s dairy and aseptic test plant in Raleigh. Both experiences taught him that—when it comes to formulating new fluid beverages, foods or sauces—product developers need small-scale, high-temperature process equipment that accurately reflects what happens on the larger factory floor. Even though they are small, lab-sized machines can produce exact batch test samples. Overall, this type of product and process testing saves ingredient costs as well as immeasurable development time and expense.
Miles’ break came in 1988 when he developed his first bench scale system that could produce both high-temperature, short-time (HTST) and/or ultra-high temperature (UHT) samples that were accurate down to a 0.5 liter size. That unit came in at a lab-friendly size and provided clean-in-place and sanitize-in-place capabilities.
That first client was Universal Flavors-Canada, a Toronto supplier of flavor bases. Two different Universal technical directors worked with the equipment and both were so pleased with the results that they told Prepared Foods about it in a 1988 “casebook” article. The article generated considerably more interest than expected and the new small business started the following year.
This year finds MicroThermics Inc. celebrating its 30th anniversary with thousands of pieces of equipment operating in more than 40 countries worldwide. With direct sales and service support in the US and India, as well as a global network of distributors covering Asia, Europe and the Americas, MicroThermics makes each installation successful.
Executive Vice President David Miles identifies some key milestones in MicroThermics’ growth and history.
1989 / MicroThermics Founded: Their highly advanced process matching methods make their processors the most accurate way to simulate commercial processes.
1995 / Miniature Plant Trial Services: MicroThermics processes clients’ products for them quickly with commercial quality samples at their facility in Raleigh N.C.
1996 / Steam Injection Processors: Industry leading step with steam injection technology. This quickly becomes second most popular model.
2010 / Full Sanitary Design, Touchscreen Controls: This anticipated the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requirements. There are pharma, biotech & food cGMP processors available (standard) at low-flow and increased flow rates.
2011 / IFT Industrial Achievement Award: IFT says MicroThermics’ processor “reduces the time to market and the developing, manufacturing and processing costs of new products—resulting in advanced quality, safety and efficiency of food product production.”
2016 / Aseptic Laboratory Fillers: Enables aseptic filling of product at a scale for R&D (high acid aseptic, low acid ESL)
David Miles picks up the company’s narrative.
“In late 2016, we doubled our floor space and continue that expansion today. This further enables us to expand our Miniature Plant Trial Services, increase our development of new equipment and technologies, and increase our production of equipment,” he says. “As we enter our 30th year, we’ve more than doubled our technical and service staff and—combined with our miniature plant services—we easily provide the most complete small-scale HTST/UHT/aseptic processing solutions.”
Visit www.microthermics.com for more information including equipment demonstration videos.
3216-B Wellington Court
Raleigh NC 27615 USA
Ph: 919 878 8045
Originally appeared in the January, 2019 issue of Prepared Foods as Small Scale, Big Achievement.