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Blake Caldwell has been a consultant for Allied Finishes for the past four years and is well-placed to know the safety and hygiene issues that comes with making sure food and beverage floors are kept in tip-top shape.
Efficiency and cost savings are two of the key benefits to having a centralised lubrication system, but there is also a third and important reason – safety.
JSG Industrial Systems (JSG) is a company that has many strings to its bow, including its centralised lubrication systems technology supplied by SKF Lincoln for the food and beverage industry among many other sectors.
As in many industrial factories, food and beverage processing and manufacturing plants have a lot of critical machinery that need to be kept running, sometimes 24-hours a day. In order to keep the machinery in peak condition there are many facets that need to be taken into consideration, and good lubrication is critically important.
“A central lubrication system is key if you have equipment that is large and the lubrication points are spread out, and difficult to access,” said Marcantonio. “If the lubrication points are difficult or unsafe to access when the machine is running, it is easier to service these points via a lubrication distribution system serviced by a centralised pump. The system is then programmed to run at pre-determined intervals usually prescribed by the OEM.
“Every lubrication point needs a certain amount of grease each day and the most efficient way to deliver this is in small increments over regular intervals in order to keep the bearings running at optimum levels of performance.”
According to Marcantonio, one of the biggest advantages with such a system is that each lubrication point is provided with an exact quantity of lubricant at regular frequency, keeping the bearings lubricated optimally. To get the best results, it is ideal to apply the grease while the machine is running as this ensures uniform coverage.
He also pointed out the aforementioned safety issues when lubricating machinery manually because sometimes the lubrication points are deep inside a machine and therefore maintenance staff find access an issue when equipment is running.
“From a hygiene point of view, if you can only access that machine once a week when it’s not running, the tendency is to go in there and overlubricate the bearings,” he said. “They apply as much grease as they can, which is detrimental to the bearings. If you apply too much grease into a bearing, it won’t run efficiently and you are potentially shortening the life of the bearing. Even worse, what you typically find is that you will get a lot of spillage and contamination because of over lubrication. Bearings will leak grease over the floor and equipment and potentially contaminate the goods that are being manufactured. In a food environment, that can be disastrous.
“You can also cause a bearing to fail if over lubricated, particularly on high-speed machines where the rolling elements have to work against excess grease which causes heat and increased bearing load.”
SKF Lincoln’s centralised lubrication systems come in at a reasonable cost, and are easy to use. A moderately complex system can start between $5,000 to $10,000 and will cover 50 to 100 lubrication points. Marcantonio said if a company is lubricating those points manually then they will employ someone to do the work by hand which could take them up to half a day.
“You’re saving on labour and you are also extending equipment reliability,” he said.
There are two main systems SKF Lincoln produces that are ideal for the food and beverage industry. The first is the Quick Lube Progressive System for grease.
“It tends to be the most prominent system used in the food and beverage industry because the volume of grease you need to reach each bearing isn’t huge, unlike heavier applications such as mining conveyors. You are generally not delivering grease further than 20 to 30 metres and as such the system tends to be more compact. So, this technology is more suited to smaller, more compact machines.”
Then there is the Chain Lubrication System, which is basically an oil lubrication system, similar in principle to the Quick Lube Progressive System and applies finite quantities of oil onto the pins of chain. This is different to some manual systems, or more agricultural systems, which are semi-automatic – oil is applied to the whole chain, which may lead to spillage and oil wastage, and can cause contamination issues in the surrounding environment.
“Lincoln SKF systems will accurately control the quantity of oil to the part that needs to be lubricated – the pins on the chain. This minimises contamination and spillage and optimises lubrication, extending the life of the chain,” he said. “Some of the chains that are used in ovens and other applications cost 10s of 1000s of dollars – they are specialised and quite highly engineered. A simple $5000 lubrication system can greatly increase the service life of these chains when set up properly, reducing unplanned down time.”
The SKF Lincoln systems are easy to install by qualified tradespeople and once installed are simple to operate.
“You just set the run and pause time for the system to suit the amount of oil you want to apply over the time period and the system does the rest,” said Marcantonio.
“In recent times we have seen more companies move to using food grade lubricants in order to minimise risks associated with contamination of product by lubricants. The industry is very sensitive to contamination of product and equipment reliability.”
The other thing that is intrinsic in the food and beverage industry are frequent washdowns of plant and machinery. Most companies will use water or steam to clean equipment down on a regular basis and this practice can potentially wash out the lubricant from the bearings.
“The benefit of a centralised lubrication system is that when the equipment is put back into service the system immediately begins to apply more lubricant into the bearings replacing any grease that was removed during the wash down procedure. Potentially this lubricant is only replaced on a weekly basis if done manually,” said Marcantonio. “You could be running the bearings dry for days. The only way you will know if a bearing is running low on lubrication is via the use of condition monitoring technologies such as vibration or temperature sensing. If the plant is not using these technologies then there is no way of knowing when that bearing is low on lubricant. That is why a centralised lubricant can be so important.”
JSG Industrial Systems provides access to products and solutions from SKF Lincoln Lubrication within the Asia Pacific region.
The new washdown resistant checkweighers withstand the most rigorous cleaning procedures in food production ensuring weighing accuracy and upholding the highest hygiene standards.
Mettler-Toledo Product Inspection has launched a new series of washdown resistant checkweighers for precision weighing applications in food manufacturing environments. The new equipment series is specifically designed for use in applications which require stringent cleaning processes that use caustic cleaning agents to combat bacterial contamination risks, without compromising their weighing accuracy.
The ideal applications for the new washdown checkweighers include meat, fish and seafood processing. Dairy products, baked goods and ready meals are also highly suited as, during the food production processes, liquid product ingredients could spill over and contaminate conveyor belts, or other parts of the machinery, which have direct or indirect contact with the product.
The new Washdown Checkweighers series feature sloped surfaces to discourage liquid and debris collection, avoiding bacterial contamination risks, while conveyor belts can be removed quickly and easily for efficient cleaning. The series also features an open frame design with only four feet on the floor, which provides easy access for washdown purposes.
The systems are IP69 tested and are resistant to most caustic detergents and disinfectants in line with the ECOLAB Material Compatibility Test. This includes the checkweighers’ touchscreens, which do not need to be removed or covered during cleaning procedures, resulting in reduced downtime for regular cleaning processes.
While maintaining the highest safety and hygienic standards, the new checkweighers are also built with Mettler-Toledo’s well-known precision technology and reliable design. As with other Mettler-Toledo series, the washdown checkweighers adhere to global weighing regulations and the Measuring Instruments Directive (MID). The series also comply with regulations governing conveyor materials expected to come into contact with food, including Regulation (EC) 1935/2004 and Regulation (EU) 10/2011, which supports the customer in their need to meet US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) standards.
“In the food production industry, there is nothing more crucial than keeping consumers safe from contamination – bacterial or otherwise,” said Dr. Jürgen Kress, general manager at METTLER TOLEDO Garvens. “It is extremely important that production equipment is able to stand up to the rigorous cleaning routines required to maintain a hygienic environment without sacrificing accuracy.”
The Washdown Checkweigher series include the following two new lines:
C33 PlusLine washdown checkweigher – robust performance
A combination of reliable weighing accuracy with rugged machine design, the C33 PlusLine delivers high precision weighing in harsh environments. The system’s design makes cleaning and maintenance very simple, with easy dismantling and reassembly of system conveyors, and self-adjusting elastic belts that remove the need for tensioning. If needed, cleaning with the parts in place is possible in most set-ups, while the flip-up design of the conveyors allows easy access to all critical areas for cleaning routines.
The C33 PlusLine features a 1-inch touchscreen monitor positioned at the front of the system to ensure worker safety. This is also IP69 rated which means that it does not need to be covered or removed during cleaning. The system provides key runtime data and statistics in over 30 languages, with additional accessibility and ease-of-use options available.
C35 AdvancedLine washdown checkweigher – precision and versatility
Built for harsh environments, the C35 delivers precise weighing results on a stable weighing platform resistant to high-pressure washdown and most caustic detergents. The system frame is designed according to outlined hygienic principles, with easy access for cleaning and sloped surfaces to discourage liquid collection. The system supports speeds of up to 250 packs per minute and a weighing range from 25g to 7kg.
The C35 also reduces maintenance-related downtime through easy dismantling – it takes less than a minute to remove the driving unit completely with the minimal use of tools. Its 15-inch touchscreen interface is also fully washable along with the rest of the system. The weighing software supports IoT/Industry 4.0 initiatives using open interfaces such as OPC UA, Pack ML and Fieldbus.
To help food manufacturers select a suitable precision checkweigher for harsh production environments, METTLER TOLEDO has produced a free eGuide detailing 7 Points to Understand Hygienic Principles. To download this click here.
If there is one thing that a brewery needs it is reliable field devices when it comes to measurement and control systems. Making beer is a fine art, and that is something that is not lost on fluid control system specialist Bürkert.
At a recent installation in Germany, Bürkert’s products were installed to help with the automation of a brewery. It was an interesting case study on how modernising a brewery can not only help streamline processes, but also provides an insight on what it takes to upgrade plant and machinery.
Based in the German state of Bavaria, the pilot brewery of Weihenstephan’s research centre for brewery and food quality has existed in one form or another for centuries. In its current state, automated flowmeters, process control valves, solenoid valves, pneumatic actuators and “smart” valve islands make manual adjustments of plant and machinery unnecessary. This not only saves time, but also enables monitoring of the recipes developed or tested here possible at any time. The control system is kept so simple that the master brewer can create, operate and modify recipes from a PC using an Excel spreadsheet.
Where beer is reinvented every day
The pilot brewery enables the creation of pilot brews for all kinds of beer, fermented malt drinks and mixtures. Pilot brews are prepared both in the name of research and on the basis of orders, ultimately resulting in drinks for consumption. This process starts with the mashing, brewing and fermentation processes through to the testing of suitable yeasts, microorganisms, ripening processes and filtration capabilities.
The desire for greater process quality
The pilot brewery has an output of 50 litres of wort and a capacity of nine fermentation tanks capable of holding 60 litres each. Beyond that, the brewhouse and the lautering process of the “mini brewery” are no different from those of a larger facility.
Until now, most things were adjusted manually. This applied to the control valves in the water intake for mashing and sparging, through to the control valves for the lautered wort and to the pump used to drain the wort tank or to adjust the height of the rake arms. There was no scaling here and the rake motor always ran at the same speed.
To achieve a better basis for future research work, those responsible at the research centre decided it was time to modernise the plant automation. However, the decision-makers felt it was important to be able to intervene in the system at any time, even after its modernisation.
The small brewery picked a competent partner that has developed multibrauplus, an automation solution specifically tailored to small and medium-sized breweries. Based on a Simatic S7 from Siemens and graphical visualisation, all the functions – from malt storage bins to fermentation cellar – could be automated. Despite this, the brewers were still left with sufficient leeway to take decisions, since Excel was deliberately chosen as the dialogue medium with the process control system.
The “programming” activities are limited to filling out a standard text list, which was then interpreted by the process control. The monitors, calculations and control functions included in the commands were managed by the process control alone.
From control valve to flowmeter
However, process control alone does not make automation possible; since automatic control valves, flowmeters and pneumatic actuators are required to automate existing manual valves. As a fluidic system expert, Bürkert, supplied and installed the required hardware for the fluidic systems, handled the installation of the wiring and hoses, and supported start-up.
The range of applied fluidic components covered the process control valve used for the steam needed to heat the mashing and wort tank, the temperature controller on the wort cooler, various flowmeters and a valve island mounted in the control cabinet that is used to control all of the valves installed in the process. The height of the rake arms of the lauter tun was also adjusted automatically using a solenoid valve. The existing flap valves were overhauled and equipped with pneumatic actuators. Furthermore, there was also a brewing water storage tank in which the water could be precisely blended using a modular blending unit.
Valve island as an automation system
The entire pneumatic system was controlled by a valve island. This was directly installed and shipped in a stainless steel, hygienically designed control cabinet with the stainless-steel control AirLINE Quick base plate to save space.
The stainless-steel control cabinet was well suited to the small pilot brewery. All of the valves also had a P-channel shut-off mechanism, which meant they could be switched out even while the machine was in operation without shutting it down.
A worthwhile investment
For the pilot brewery, the investment in cutting-edge automation technology has paid off. A high degree of reproducibility and traceability was simple with this solution, as data acquisition was integrated into the control system. Product-specific information could be displayed graphically along with other measured values. Thanks to the partnership, the system was prepared for start-up quickly and easily.
With Australian breweries sprouting up at a rate of almost one every two months, it is important to know that these types of upgrades are also available for small- to medium-sized Australian breweries. Bürkert’s Pacific sales manager, Tom Kirby, has been with the company for 16 years and he said the company is geared up to help breweries upgrade. And he knows it’s not just about the field devices supplied.
“We try and design a support and an automation package that caters for a small to large applications or requirements,” he said. “The key for an individual brewery is to directly align our solution to their particular business model that is, using their longer-term vision to define what their requirements should be, while still maintaining their unique identity and their own personal craftsmanship.”
Plant reliability helps provide uniformity and consistency for each and every batch.
“What needs to be taken into consideration is the dedication to their brand, their brew and varieties that they are trying to produce, making sure you get the same consistency in taste – batch after batch,” said Kirby. “I also think it is a situation where it comes down to the marketability of the product. You want to be able to show that what you are doing with your product is a bit special.”
Kirby is also clear on how he sees the relationship between his company and potential clients.
“Bürkert is solution orientated, with those businesses ready to automate their processes,” he said. “Bürkert’s approach is to look beyond a single project with a client. It is partnership for us. We believe in a joint venture approach in identifying the correct solution needed, customised to each application. That’s what makes Bürkert unique.”
Food hygiene and safety are critical in an industry where traceability is a key plank on which some brands live or die. And it’s just not the source of the product where traceability comes into its own, there are the processing aspects, too.
Australian food and beverage manufacturing and processing have a good worldwide reputation when it comes to the quality of its processing plants. As well as having high-end technologies, the country’s safety and hygiene standards are up there with the best in the world. There is a reason the rest of the world covets produce made on these shores.
This reputation doesn’t come by accident. It is due to diligent, and sometimes overbearing government standards and regulations that make Australian-made food and beverages popular around the globe.
It is also due to the commitment by service providers who build the plant and machinery that make up this important primary industry.
Flooring is a key component of any food or beverage plant, but it’s not just a case of laying a concrete slab and hoping for the best. There are many considerations that need taking into account.
“First, the flooring, will have to be safe underfoot,” said Tony Miller, who is director of flooring specialist, Roxset. “In other words it has to be a finish that’s slip resistant.
“Second, it needs to be graded to floor waste because they’ll have a lot of liquids about, not only during the cleaning process, but for general processing, too.
“Third, the floor should conform to Food Safe Australia regulations. From the point of view it needs to be seamless, impervious, and have a radius cove at the floor wall intersection.
“Finally, there is the aspect of cleaning depending on what sort of chemicals they use. If they use a CIP, or caustic solution for cleaning, then they need a floor that doesn’t wear away.”
Miller has been in the flooring business for 35 years and knows the pitfalls that customers – especially those who are starting on their manufacturing and processing journey – can fall into if they don’t get the right type of flooring in place. When Roxset first visits clients, usually there is a general awareness about the regulations and standards that need to be met, but it still pays to get expert advice.
“Not only is there an expectation from regulators that standards are met, but end-users and customers – the like of Coles and Woolworths – that are going to buy a product from a particular beverage manufacturer might send in their own auditors. They will come in and make sure these standards are being met. They will also have an audit trail, which goes through and looks at all aspects of what the manufacturer is doing and they would expect it to meet and certain standard. If it doesn’t, they are not likely to buy it.”
Traceability is where the audit trail comes in. According to Miller, these companies would expect manufacturers to be able to demonstrate that they have followed procedures and at various demarcation points it has been signed off.
“There may be a recording made of things like temperatures and bacteria counts and all sorts of things could be incorporated into the audit trail,” he said. “And that is where a HACCP system is good. It details the various aspects of an audit that need to be met so that management has a guideline and something to follow.”
While the type of flooring that Roxset produces is top-end, it is the outcome that is important. Miller knows that when it comes to building a plant that is up to state or federal standards then it is the whole package that is important – and that can come at a cost.
“Every aspect of the building is going to be expensive, but they are upfront costs,” he said. “You can’t operate a business without drainage, without proper equipment and it just falls into that category. You can’t be expected to run a business without proper ceiling, wall and floor finishes.”
When it comes to beverage manufacturing such as boutique breweries and distilleries, Miller not only can supply the right type of floor for the environment, but also give advice on how to make it last as long as possible.
“In beverage manufacturing, we have a client whose floor we laid over 20 years ago and they have never had to replace it,” he said. “It comes down to a couple of things. One is maintenance – if they are using the correct cleaning procedures and are maintaining the floor correctly, the floor will last a lot longer. If they are abusing the floor, and they do have to drive traffic on it and people are wilful in their actions, of course they can damage it.”
In a working environment like a beverage manufacturing place, Miller recommends the epoxy floor be a minimum of 6mm in depth, and that will give users in excess of 20 years of life. Roxset also puts an extensive warranty on it that can range from about seven to 10 years depending on what it assesses the activity is occurring on the floor and the state of the existing building. Miller also said that the type of surface that the floor is going to be is something Roxset can design for the customer. Roxset tailors the slip-resistance of that floor to meet the requirement of the individual customer.
“For example, if someone is involved in completely dry production then they don’t need the same level of slip-resistance as some of them where there is a lot of liquid on the floor ,” he said. “If you don’t have a sufficient slip-resistant medium on the floor, and you’ve got something like a banana skin on it, you are going to have a problem.”
Roxset specialises in epoxy finishes, which look smooth and easy to clean. Is that the reality?
“Epoxy is very easy to clean,” said Miller. “Inherent in a slip-resistant finish is the fact is what you need to do the requirement of how you clean the surface as opposed to something that is completely smooth. It is not something you are going to go around with a mop and bucket and mop. That is not compatible with a slip-resistant surface. Captivating scrubbing is.”
One thing that Miller is keen to push is that Roxset is not a company that’s products are a one-size fits all. It designs bespoke floors for a range of different environments in the food and beverage industry.
“We’re not an off-the-shelf product,” said Miller. “What we are doing is tailoring the floor in situ to meet their individual requirements. They are bespoke solutions.
“What we decided to do was make our own product to suit the requirement that we see in the individual operation depending on what they are doing. We look at what liquids might go on the floor; what contaminant might go on the floor; and what chemicals might go on the floor. We design to their circumstance so they are getting the best possible for finish for their particular requirement rather than give them a generic product that might not suit what they are doing.”
Miller said it is important to differentiate between different types of flooring because the requirements for say, an abattoir over a gin distillery, are far apart – different chemicals are needed.
“If it is a lamb abattoir for instance, they can have solid particles of fat on a floor,” he said. “Well, if you don’t have a certain degree of non-slip there, you are going to have major problem. There is going to be a lot of blood going on the floor.
“However, in a beverage manufacturer, it may be just constituent parts of whatever the product they are making. It might have high sugar content but it hasn’t got any fat, so the slip resistance doesn’t need to be to the same extent. That is why we tailor the floor to meet the expectation.”
Finally, Miller said if customers were to remember one thing when putting down a new floor, it’s this: “It needs to reach a certain standard from the point of view of beverage safety, which in other words it can’t harbour bacteria. That practically means it needs to be impervious, which is what we offer.”
Most construction builds have challenges. But when there are a few hardcore caveats attached that will have an impact on getting the job completed on time and within budget, it is important to have people on the ground who are not only experts but can perform under pressure.
Food and beverage construction specialist Total Construction found this to be the case when it tendered and won a contract to complete a considerable alteration at an infant milk powder processing plant.
Total Construction’s national manager for food and beverage, Tony Tate, knew it would be a hard job, but one that the company and its staff would be up for. It would also prove that the commercial building specialist had what it took to turn a job around quickly and to the client’s specifications.
Tate and his team knew from the outset that if the job wasn’t finished on time, it would cost not only the client, but Total Construction, a lot of money. This was due to the penalty clauses in the contract. The main issue of concern was that the plant might become contaminated during the build, which means it would not meet Australian standards when it came to producing foodstuffs. This entailed a whole raft of restrictions to be put in place that meant Total Construction had to carefully plan and execute the build so as not to be liable for any overruns or contamination of the factory.
How does a company meet strict criteria, all the while completing a job to its own high standards?
Experience and planning were the two main components, according to Tate. They also had to persuade the milk powder manufacturer that Total’s methods of tackling the job were the best way forward.
“The plant had a shutdown period of only one month. For them to shut down for a month, meant they were losing a lot of revenue. It was a big deal for them,” said Tate. “The key driver for us was the plan of action. We had to incorporate building work, which can get messy, in a pharmaceutical area, which has to be spotless. The last thing that we want is any dust or contamination in a milk powder plant.”
There were five work zones at any one time with each of those work zones going from low to high care. Workers could walk around the low-care part of the facility – the warehouse – which was where the milk powder was already in sealed packaging, so there was little chance of contamination. It was the high-care areas where caution needed to be taken.
“Every day we were to make sure all the foreign matter – cable clips, cable ties, any debris that was left on the floor – was cleaned away thoroughly,” said Tate. “We had to captive vacuum every day and had to wear captive footwear. Even the builders had to change from safety boots to captive safety boots.”
When it came to making sure the project was going to come in on time some lateral thinking was required. Tate’s initial scope said the job would take 42 days. Even the independent design consultant could only see the job being completed within 46 days. The client initially thought that throwing more bodies into the project would help bring the alteration in on time. But as the Total Construction team pointed out, there were restrictions on space. Tate and his team came up with a solution that would make the job a little more costly, but not as costly to the client if they took an extra two weeks to complete.
“We started working with the design consultant and said we could expedite the process by putting two shifts on,” said Tate. “That is when we really started working with the client. You want to make sure you can take the client on the journey and build confidence with them. As you build confidence, you know what you are doing and you are then helping the client. So, we got the two shifts going as well as working Saturdays and Sundays.”
And while it was a precise process, there were a few issues that did arise along the way. At one stage, they managed to be three days ahead of schedule but the client delayed sign off on the HVAC installation, which put them back to the original schedules timeline. When the sign off was sorted out, there was an issue with the digger that was going to be used to dig out the new floor. It wasn’t cleared as a hygienic piece of equipment. It wasn’t until the Total team pointed out that the soil they would be removing would not be hygienic that it was decided that the digger – under amended conditions – could be used.
Another lesson learned was that even working under stringent conditions, the unexpected can occur. It pays to think laterally, and help the client out the best you can, said Tate.
“After we started, the client realised that once we finished up, they would only have five days to train on the new plant,” said Tate. “The staff not only had to be trained in the new equipment, but they had to validate the new equipment, too. They realised that the time they had allocated themselves to do this was not long enough. They then had to clean the facility and make it suitable to occupy.”
The client asked Total if they could use certain areas of the facility to do the training, but the penalty clauses in the contract made Total reluctant to do so. Total was within their rights to refuse but knew that it could cost the milk processing plant literally hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“So, we came up with a sequence on how to do the job and accommodate them,” said Tate. “First, we did the epoxy floors in the different areas on different dates. Once we completed certain areas, the hygiene teams went in and cleaned them up so they could be utilised. They then taped off the finished areas and they could go from there.”
And when it came to commitment, nobody was more invested in the project than site manager Craig Harkins.
“Craig lived and breathed it from six in the morning until eight at night,” said Tate. “There were times when we had to make sure that he was given time off because he was getting fatigued. When you’re struggling with fatigue, you get injuries and there are mistakes.”
It was a closely monitored build. The site manager knew at each stage exactly where the build was up to. If they weren’t up to where they should have been, all parties agreed on an action plan for the following day so they could catch up. They also had daily tool box talks to discuss contaminants and hygiene.
And the client’s reaction to the final product?
“If you look at the hygiene standards of the build, you could eat your dinner off the floor – it is that clean,” said Tate. “I think that because we have been retained for Stage 2 of the project means they were happy. It was a hard job, but we learned a lot from it. More importantly, we came in on time and on budget in what was a challenging build, so it was good news all around.