Batch vs. Continuous Processing: What's the Difference?

Batch of breadDon’t be fooled by the title. We know you know the fundamental difference between flipping burgers on a grill and cooking those same burgers on a continuous line that includes a flame grill to seal in the juices and then a spiral oven to finish cooking the product to the desired temperature.

In this article, we’ll look at three differences that moving to continuous processing can make for your company.

Continuous processing offers more precise control for consistent quality

In batch processing, any number of things can result in inconsistencies, even when nothing actually goes wrong.

For example, someone flipping burgers on a grill might not cook them all for the same amount of time on each side. Or the burgers on the outside of the grill might not get the same exposure to the flame as the burgers on the inside. Similarly, someone deboning chicken by hand may take off more meat than the next person. Or someone filling ravioli by hand may put a little more in this one, a little less in that one.

These aren’t mistakes — they’re just things that happen in manual batch processes.

And they’re things that don’t happen in continuous processes. With continuous processing, you input the instructions and then every product that runs through the line is treated exactly the same, which means you get consistent results every time.

Continuous processing boosts food safety and processing efficiency

Batch processing depends largely on people. And, in a food manufacturing environment, people introduce risk. In fact, one study found that people were the greatest source of contamination leading to foodborne illnesses.

People also introduce inefficiencies. Again, this isn’t because of mistakes — it’s just something that happens. For example, people can’t perform repetitive tasks 24/7. But machines can.

Continuous processing also allows for higher throughput than batch processing. For example, with a batch oven, you put the products in, set a timer, and then take the products out. Then you load the next batch. Even if you do this quickly, there’s still downtime between batches. You also lose energy. Every time you open the door to load and unload the product, heat escapes, which means you have to wait for the equipment to adjust back to the desired temperature.

In a continuous process, there’s no start-and-stop, no extra downtime, and (as long as the infeed and outfeed are designed correctly) no energy escaping unused. Except for scheduled maintenance and cleaning, the system just keeps running.

Continuous processing has a lower overall price tag

Finally, while there is certainly a capital outlay upfront, continuous processing actually costs less in the long run.

  • It reduces labor costs by automating many activities traditionally done by hand.
  • The machines are often smaller, which means you get higher output from a smaller footprint.
  • The equipment is more easily scalable, so you won’t have to completely re-outfit your facility if you want to increase production down the line.

So, what’s the difference between batch and continuous processing? Continuous processing can help you solve many of the biggest challenges you’re likely facing today, from food safety to scalable growth.

Unitherm has equipment specially designed for processors making their first foray into continuous processing. Contact us to learn more.