Human factors in dairy industry process control for energy reduction

Charlotte Challis*, Michael Tierney, Andrew Todd, Eddie Wilson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
355 Downloads (Pure)


Reduction of CO2 emissions is a challenge in all sectors and in particular the dairy processing industry. Pasteurisation is an element of the process with relatively high energy consumption but is difficult to tackle due to a number of technical factors including lack of sub-metering. The plant is semi-automated and tasks subject to the discretion of the operators include: sequencing of process steps (known as “recipes”); scheduling of clean-in-place operations, and time spent circulating hot or cold water; responding to problems relating to operation and scheduling remedial action. This study uses semi-structured interview and ethnography at two UK dairy processing sites, to investigate the human factors affecting the operators who are involved in controlling a dairy process and to understand their current and potential role in reducing process energy consumption; there is particular reference to pasteurisation. The study finds communication of energy saving as a priority from management is important but on its own is not sufficient without useful information on energy consumption. The sites studied were from a company with a progressive energy policy at high level; however it was observed that energy efficiency was not perceived by the operators as a priority with regard to process control. Information on process energy use was not available to the operators in a form that would enable them to identify potential energy savings. The operators at the site can be seen to have a high level of skill in managing conflicting control priorities, interpreting process data and using their judgement to intervene and make improvements. This leads to the conclusion that provision of energy consumption data along with communication on the need to reduce energy could result in operators being able to make useful interventions in process operation that could result in energy reductions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1319-1334
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Early online date19 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • Dairy
  • Energy
  • Ethnography
  • Human factors
  • Pasteurisation
  • Process


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