Consultancy - UCC & Abbott Nutrition Ireland
Dr. Seamus O’Mahony, Dr. Kevin Cronin
Abbott Laboratories is a Chicago-based healthcare company that sells a range of branded generic pharmaceuticals, medical devices, diagnostics and nutrition products. Abbott employs 103,000 people globally in more than 160 countries and has been in Ireland for over 70 years where it employs approximately 3,000 people across 11 sites. The Abbott Nutrition site at Cootehill, Co. Cavan was established in 1975 to manufacture infant milk formula (IMF) and follow-on formula for the export markets. Approximately 1,000 dairy farms across Ireland and Northern Ireland supply 500,000 litres of milk per day to the facility in Cootehill for further processing. The entire production process for these nutritional powders takes place at this state-of-the-art facility where products are blended, pasteurised, dried and packaged for the retail market.
The physical properties (e.g., particle size, shape and mechanical integrity) of nutritional powders need to be tightly controlled and in 2017, Abbott Nutrition approached UCC to assist with better understanding, prediction and control of mechanical integrity of agglomerated nutritional powders during transport, storage and packaging in the factory. In response, researchers from UCC, with internationally-recognised track records in the synergistic disciplines of Food Science and Process & Chemical Engineering, were engaged to work with Abbott and were instrumental in delivering results - Dr Seamus O’Mahony, a Lecturer in the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences, with 15 years’ experience in infant milk formula and Dr Kevin Cronin, a Lecturer in Process & Chemical Engineering with experience building lab-scale conveyor systems.
The first objective of the consultancy project was to train Abbott Nutrition staff on using UCC’s lab-scale conveyor rig. Secondly, UCC contributed to the design and building of a larger pilot-scale conveyor rig for use internally at Abbott Nutrition in support of larger pilot- and plant-scale powder manufacture trials. The consultancy project was successful and led the team at Cootehill to implement changes to the powder conveying process and modified equipment on-site. Learnings from the project at Cootehill were also shared across other Abbott nutritional powder manufacturing sites in Spain and Singapore, helping to raise the internal profile of Cootehill as a leader in product understanding and process development.
UCC and Abbott continue to collaborate since the completion of this consultancy project through undergraduate work placement opportunities, graduate recruitment and a funded PhD studentship co-supervised by Dr O’Mahony. Seamus has also developed and hosted a powder technology workshop and equipment demonstration at UCC to showcase the new application of new powder imaging methodology used in support of the project.
The TTO at UCC, together with Research Support Services, were instrumental in supporting Dr Seamus O’Mahony and Dr Kevin Cronin in finalising the consultancy project agreement and the equipment access agreement for visiting Abbott staff. The TTO was able to guide the internal process to ensure the project kicked-off in a timely manner.
Underpinning Funding Sources Include:
Irish Research Council
Dairy Processing Technology Centre
Food Institutional Research Measure (FIRM)