The profession of mechanical engineer sounds great. But Alexander Zrazhevskiy, the senior mechanical engineer from Russia, has one more reason to be proud. The project proposed by him at the Azov plant, Frito Lay Manufacturing, was implemented. Today, Alexander Zrazhevskiy’s development is used not only in Russia but all over the world. We spoke with Alexander about his developments and what is the future of additive manufacturing technologies.
– Alexander, how did you become part of Frito Lay Manufacturing?
– I was on a business trip to Azerbaijan once; I was involved in the upgrading of the plant in Baku. At the time, I was still working at the Baltika-Rostov brewery. Later, I even received an award from the company president for a successfully implemented project. During this time, I received an offer from my future employer. I returned from my business trip and ended up at the Frito Lay Manufacturing plant, which was still under construction. It is the world’s largest snack food company. At the time, the walls of the future building were just at the initial stage of erection in Azov. This is when I realized that I wanted to work there. As a result, after two years at Baltika, I eventually received a new entry in my employment record book. I became a senior mechanic. I still hold this position; now, I am responsible for all extruder lines at the plant.
– Is it where you developed your project to upgrade the cutter, which is used all over the world today?
– Yes, and here’s how it happened. In four years on a snack line, the cutter has gone out of order on a regular basis. The blades collapsed, resulting in the entire line stopping for many hours. The search for spare parts led to enormous costs for the plant. In addition, the bearings on the cutter shaft were wearing out quickly, and the blades were becoming blunt all the time. As a result, the finished product had a curved shape. I started figuring out what was the matter. Eventually, I realized that the cutter shaft was rotating too fast. We had to downgrade the centrifugal force and thereby reduce the load on the blades. I have developed a new design for the cutter shaft. It held 12 blades — twice the normal size. This made it possible to halve the rotation speed. I coordinated my project with an equipment manufacturer in Texas — R&D Machine — and the central engineering team of PepsiCo in Europe. The idea was approved and implemented. As a result, in 7 years, we did not experience even single blade destruction. Bearings are now being replaced only once a year, instead of monthly, as before. My project helped the Azov plant save $55,000 annually. Today, this technology is also utilized at other PepsiCo plants in Russia. In total, the company will save $120,000 annually, and R&D Machine approved my idea as a new standard for equipment manufacturing. That is, the cutter shaft, created following my design, is now being supplied to all factories of the world where similar snack-making technology is applied. By the way, my project won 1st prize and was named the Best Project of the Year in the Eureka! contest among more than 20 plants of Frito Lay and PepsiCo in Russia.
– The cutter upgrade is not your only major project for Frito Lay Manufacturing, is it?
– Yes, the shock-resistant funnel is another of my developments. This is where the finished product gets before moving on to packaging. Cracks often appeared on plastic funnels, which means that foreign objects could get into the product, which is unacceptable. And this is not to speak of the fact that the plant spent about $40,000 annually on the purchase of new funnels. I started looking into the issue again. Everything turned out to be quite simple – funnels were manufactured from fragile plastic. I immediately informed the manufacturer and, certainly, suggested using a more durable material as a basis. The manufacturer replied that it was impossible. This is when I came up with the idea of making an enhanced funnel version by myself. I spent hours studying different types of plastic, I literally tested them for strength and finally found the right one. But we failed to manufacture a funnel of the required shape. Not a single injection molding machine could handle this because of the material properties: it had a high viscosity and low fluidity. So, I developed an entirely new design and approached the central engineering team of PepsiCo in Europe again to coordinate the project. They approved it. Today, my shock-resistant funnels are actively applied at two company plants – in Azov and Kashira. These two plants alone allow saving $100,000 annually. What is more, a German company, Lorenz, plans to buy my development for its manufacturing facility in St. Petersburg.
– By the way, speaking of international experience. I know that you often communicate with foreign colleagues and even joined the club of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. How did you start your membership there?
– I have long wanted to join the community of engineers, where I could communicate with colleagues from different countries and different fields of activity. I believe that in any occupation, it is critical to share experiences. And my profession is no exception. On top of that, the company where I work now is largely guided by Western standards, where exchanging experience with colleagues is the norm and even the rule. This is why I joined the club of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. I learned about its existence from my foreign colleagues. But this is not just about experience exchange. If you wish, you can get the mentor status. This is a community within the society, where everyone can ask for help in solving any professional problem. I have a mentor status, so I am always happy to help my fellow engineers.
– Why did you get the idea of moving to the USA? Are there more opportunities for you overseas?
– Yes, I am sure of it. When I took interest in 3D printing and additive technologies, I realized that I wanted to develop in this field, too. The problem is that in Russia, this science sphere is underdeveloped, unlike in the United States. There, such technologies take up a large market share, which means I can fulfil my potential. The future belongs to additive technologies and 3D printing. Even as we speak, they affect many areas of our life. They are used in the automotive and mechanical engineering, aerospace, medical spheres. The list is not exhaustive. The design of delta robots is another promising area. Several of my scientific articles are dedicated to this topic.