Onsite injury prevention and management: beyond the treatment room

According to the latest update from SafeWork Australia, body stressing injuries topped the list as the most common injury resulting in a claim (36 per cent).

Taking a proactive and preventative approach to musculoskeletal injuries onsite is proven to affect the duration of an injury, while also reducing the risk of it going to claim. This is great not only for your employees, as they remain productive and at work, but also for your business.

READ MORE: The four steps of food safety systems

“The World Health Organisation (2008) has clearly identified the workplace as an important area of action for health promotion and disease prevention.” – Comcare, Effective Health & Wellbeing Programs

What should you look for in an onsite health provider?
An onsite healthcare provider is more than just ‘the person who comes to you’ for injury treatment. A qualified and experienced allied health professional will partner with you, fully integrating with your workplace.

With a focus on injury prevention and management, an onsite health provider will:

  • Identify how a worker is using their body to perform their role
  • Understand the injury and health risks associated with each task being performed
  • Identify underlying health conditions that may affect injury recovery and outcomes (diabetes, for example)
  • Develop tailored return to work programs

Learn more about Work Healthy Australia’s approach to Onsite healthcare here.

A physical presence onsite, dedicated treatment / rehabilitation space and key stakeholder engagement are key to a successful onsite program. But the proactive and preventative elements of an onsite system of care will be informed by the valuable treatment data and health insights that are gathered along the way.

Data example: Body region by length of service
In this example you can see that the top 3 body regions being treated are shoulder, lower back and neck.

Data Source: Work Healthy Australia

If we look closer, we can see that 85 per cent of these injuries have occurred in workers who have been with the business for under three years.

Data Source: Work Healthy Australia

Why is it important that an onsite health provider records this information?
A skilled onsite provider will be able to use and interpret treatment data to help you improve your processes, programs and ultimately help you reduce your risk of injuries in the workplace.

The example given above could form the basis for your approach to your induction program, a targeted strengthening and exercise program, or it may even inform your pre-employment medical process.

“Work health and safety improvements are best achieved when health and safety is supported by the organisation’s culture and embedded in its procedures and processes.

–SafeWork Australia, Australian Work Health & Safety Strategy (2012-2022)

Everyone wins with an onsite program
Engaging workers is key to maintaining a healthy and productive workplace. When a successful onsite system of care is implemented, workers can:

  • Better understand the importance of adhering to health & safety processes
  • Contributed to a positive safety culture
  • Utilise treatment services at the appropriate times
  • Safely perform their duties; and
  • Feel valued in the workplace

By utilising specialist onsite services to develop an effective system of care, businesses can experience positive change in the health and safety of their workplace.

Onsite care, including the integration of onsite treatment, provides:

  • Easy access to allied health professionals
  • Less disruption to worker schedules
  • A close-up and unique understanding of the workplace environment
  • Positive employee morale and workplace culture
  • Direct communication lines with relevant safety supervisors and management
  • Tailored data driven solutions
  • A focus on productivity efficiencies

If you’d like to find out more about implementing an onsite system of care in your workplace, contact the team Work Healthy Australia.

Listeria: How to win the war that never ends

Risk. It’s an inescapable part of life that’s always around us, invisible … until it’s not. In the food industry, safety risks, such as listeriosis – a pathogenic bacterial infection – can threaten the strongest of brands, people’s health and even their lives.

According to Food Standards Australia New Zealand, each year in Australia around 150 people are hospitalised with listeriosis and about 15 people die. Recent tragedy provides another reminder that the war against human pathogens goes on and on. Although the rate is declining, Australia has seen eight Listeria-related product recalls in the past 18 months.

The tactical warfare waged by the global food industry against food safety threats is multifaceted and grows increasingly sophisticated. Manufacturing facilities take ever-greater measures to ensure that equipment is as sterile as possible and pathogens don’t enter the processing stream. Molecular diagnostic pathogen test kits are getting shorter time to results. Packaging solutions such as antimicrobial sachets, films, coatings and high-pressure processing (HPP) also contribute to the cause. Foods are formulated to include antimicrobial ingredients that inhibit microbial outgrowth.

Food safety is complicated
“It’s difficult for manufacturers to know when the safety measures they’ve taken are truly sufficient,” said Andrew Pearce, ANZ country manager at Corbion, an ingredient solutions provider known for its expertise in food preservation. “When hygienic practices and ingredient solutions are in place, and no problems are detected, it’s easy to believe that there are no problems.”

Corbion works with food manufacturers to implement high-performance safety and shelf life solutions in a wide variety of applications, including bakery, meat, culinary, confectionery, dairy and beverage products. Although the company has been honing its expertise in this area for 80+ years, Pearce said finding the best solution to a given customer’s challenge is never a simple matter.

“Food safety may start with minimizing the microbial load in the raw materials and equipment used to process a food product,” Pearce said, “but then it comes down to the conditions in the product itself and whether those conditions support or inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria. It’s next to impossible to create a perfectly sterile product, so making sure you make it difficult for unwanted microbes to grow is crucial in food safety.”

The composition of the product is everything, Pearce explained. It’s not just that the right solution for a salad dressing is different than it is for a deli ham product; the best answer for a cured deli ham may be quite different from what’s needed in uncured deli shredded chicken. Protein and water quality, sodium content, and other ingredients all impact the chemistry of the food matrix. The lower the pH (i.e., higher acidity), the less hospitable the product is toward microorganisms. If the product’s storage temperature isn’t low enough, bacteria are better able to grow.

Listeria monocytogenes is a major concern for food regulators and manufacturers in part because it can grow even at refrigerated temperatures and in products with low water activity. While Listeria is inactivated at cooking temperatures, it can often re-enter the food supply following heat treatment.

Rising to the reformulation challenge
Adding another level of complexity to the challenge for manufacturers is the fact that incorporating a food safety solution has the potential to wreak havoc with important aspects of product quality and sensory appeal – things like flavor, texture, and shelf stability.

Thinking about what it takes to make consumers happy, in addition to keeping them safe, can also put limits on the kinds of ingredient solutions that can be considered. An increasing number of consumers check ingredient labels before purchasing foods in an effort to avoid ingredients they don’t understand or aren’t comfortable with. This challenges manufacturers to deliver the same product attributes (including safety) using more “natural” solutions they may never have worked with before.

“Reformulating food products is a complex undertaking because every part of a food matrix is connected to every other part,” Pearce said. “It takes an in-depth understanding of those interdependencies to be able to change one component of a formulation without losing important product characteristics.”

The process of reformulation is iterative, involving a sometimes lengthy series of sensory and microbial tests, each including small changes in dosages, ingredient composition and other factors. Corbion uses a combination of experience and advanced, data-driven modeling tools to quickly identify the optimal solution that meets the manufacturer’s food safety requirements while preserving the attributes of product quality that are so important to creating success in the marketplace. The Corbion Listeria Control Model, for one, leverages data from more than a decade of clinical studies, internal challenge studies, and external validation studies in real food matrices  to estimate the effectiveness of various pathogen control solutions, considering moisture level, pH, water activity, and levels of sodium, potassium and nitrite.

The right ally can make the difference
For food manufacturers, a dedication to achieving hygienic conditions within their own facilities and supply chains is an important part of what it takes to create foods that begin the journey to the consumer as microbiologically safe. But maintaining non-pathogenic integrity throughout that journey – including the product’s lifespan on the customer’s shelf – requires a level of know-how that can’t be taken for granted, even among ingredient suppliers, according to Pearce.

Having access to outside ingredient knowledge and microbiological expertise to complement in-house strengths can speed product development, result in a superior end product and dramatically reduce food safety risks that could threaten the public and the manufacturer’s brand. Choosing the right partner can improve outcomes by combining strengths in innovation, formulation, modeling, manufacturing, quality testing, market insights and other industry best practices.

Since producers prioritize their product safety programs, the outlook is good, Pearce said. “The food industry will never be able to stop fighting against Listeria and other pathogens, but with the help of food safety experts and state-of-the-art ingredient solutions, manufacturers – and consumers – can keep winning.”

Néstle recall roll-ups over metal fears

Nestlé Australia today announced the immediate recall of certain batches of Uncle Tobys Roll-Ups due to the possible presence of small metal fragments.

The affected products are being recalled because an ingredient supplier has advised Nestlé that equipment failure in their facility has led to the possible presence of small metal fragments in an ingredient supplied to Nestlé used to manufacture the products.

The products being recalled are:

Uncle Tobys Roll-Ups Passionfruit, Rainbow Berry,  Rainbow Fruit Salad and Funprints Strawberry, all of which were produced between 29th June and 14th July.

General Manager Snacks, Susan Catania, said these batches have been sold in major, independent and online retailers since early December.

READ MORE: Barcode trial promises to cut product recalls

“If you have purchased any of these products, please do not consume it, but return it to the place of purchase for a full refund,” Catania said.

Catania confirmed that other batches and products are not affected, and that Nestlé had not received any complaints from consumers regarding metal in Uncle Tobys Roll-Ups.

“As soon as we were made aware of the issue we made contact with authorities to conduct a recall and notified all relevant retailers,” Ms Catania said.

Food products containing foreign matter may cause illness or injury to consumers. Anyone who is concerned about their health should seek medical advice.

Consumers seeking more information can contact Nestlé on 1800 152 126

Putting the best floor forward

The word “hygiene” is critical in the meat processing industry; mandatory Hazard Analysis and Critical Control point (HACCP) controls were introduced into meat abattoirs in 1996, these requirements are set out in the New South Wales Meat Food Safety Schedule, which the Food Authority and abattoirs jointly manage. Plants are subject to fines, and even plant shut downs for failure to comply with regulations. It is critical that facilities that deal with meat deigned for human consumption not only keep up to these standards but also make sure that everything is in top condition throughout the whole meat processing process.

Meat processing facilities provide some the most challenging and harsh environments for concrete flooring, which are subject to significant thermal recycling.

Key considerations are:
1) cleanable – constant high-pressure washing;
2) chemical resistance – a range of chemicals and PH variations;
3) high compressive strength – flexibility to handle heavy loadsand abrasion; and
4) hygienic conditions – cannot contribute to growth of bacteria, mould or mildew.
Challenging issues for plant floors

Ambient Conditions
The ambient conditions in a meat processing plant are at two ends off the extreme. The “clean” sides of meat processing plants are generally cool during production, while the “dirty” sides are generally warm. Most areas on both sides are constantly wet or immersed in water or water slurries of animal waste, animal blood, fat and other by products. Further processing areas include cooking operations and/or cryogenic processes that can subject flooring to major temperature variations. Cleaning and sanitation operations can also subject the floor to thermal cycling.

Chemical exposure
Strong alkaline cleaners are used in most meat processing plants due to their effectiveness on grease, oil and organic matter. Some plants use live steam to clean and degrease, which can subject the floor to thermal shock and spalling of concrete – this can be costly for the processor.

Animal fat, sugar, vegetable oil, animal and vegetable proteins, wheat gluten, and countless other foods and flood additives will attack exposed concrete due to their acidic nature. These acidic compounds react with the alkaline cement paste, which is a binder for the concrete. This weakens the concrete and makes it more susceptible to damage from impact, abrasion, thermal cycling and further chemical attack. Over time, all these inputs can lead to degradation of the concrete.

Anti-slip requirements
Another consideration is that meat processing floors present constant slip hazards for process workers. They are almost always wet or damp, and combined with animal fats and/or oils, can compromise the safety of the working environment. Plant personnel must have a secure footing, particularly when working around hazardous equipment and/or heavy moving loads.

The floor topping must provide the required anti-slip properties in order to prevent slip and fall accidents. Processing floors are also subject to heavy forklift and pallet-jack traffic. Most damage occurs near isolation joints, construction joints and similar cross-sections of the floor. Heavy traffic will also degrade non-slip performance of a floor system over time due to wearing.

Roxset HACCP Flooring Systems offers a whole range of solutions that can address these issues and has the best coatings to handle all the complex and harsh challenges of dairy and meat processing plants. The specially formulated resin system offers a fast-cure, moisture-tolerant solution with no strong odours or flammability hazards. To top it is all off, these solutions can withstand organic acids and common cleaning and sanitation chemicals.

SMC’s smart thermo-chillers for peace-of-mind this summer

SMC’s smart range of thermo-chillers come in an array of sizes and deliver on precise and accurate temperature ranges for peace-of-mind.

According to Guiomar Fernandez, product marketing manager for SMC ANZ, the company’s range of chillers offer proactive control, improved performance and are backed by world-class service.

“With things heating up in Australia and New Zealand, now is the perfect time to order a thermo-chiller for your plant. Industries making use of heat generating devices such as machine tooling, printing and packaging are at risk of high rejection rates, poor product quality and a lack of overall process reliability,” Guiomar said.

In terms of how it works, the recirculating fluid of the chiller removes the heat from the customer’s device. The heat is then removed from the fluid by an air-cooled (or water-cooled) refrigeration circuit. The coolant temperature stability is ±0.1°C within a set temperature range.

“Correct temperature control is vital for productivity,” said Guiomar. When properly sized and selected, a thermo-chiller improves the quality of the final product, protects valuable process equipment, and reduces costs.

SMC offers a variety of solutions ranging from our standard type to our basic types and our high-level type triple inverter type chillers that adapt to the variable heat and flow requirements, achieving substantial power savings of up to 53 per cent.

Answering to the call for Industry 4.0 solutions, SMC’s range of thermo-chillers put the power in its customers hands. “Thanks to proactive controls via a remote control, these units offer self-diagnosis readings so that customers can anticipate and easily manage any incidents.

Environmentally resistant type: The HRS-R series 

  • resistant to dusty environments or environments with water splashing;
  • cooling capacity of up to 5000 W (60 Hz);
  • IP54 rated;
  • large capacity tank of 12L;
  • features a metal panel and a stainless-steel panel can be selected on request; and
  • ambient temperature of 5 to 45°

Series HRR (rack mount)

The temperature control device is mountable in a 19-inch rack, which is great for space savings:

  • temperature stability: ±1℃;
  • temperature range of 10 to 35°C;
  • cooling capacity: 1.2/1.8/2.4/3.0 kW (60 Hz);
  • easy front access; and
  • easy to operate without removing the unit from the rack.

Add-ons such as flow switches, pressure switches, filters, fittings and tubing are also available to order.

Getting the specifications right for an F&B build

For food and beverage facility owners, navigating compliance requirements when building or renovating a new building can be tough at the best of times, especially in a constantly changing regulatory environment. Bill Franks is a founding shareholder of food and beverage construction specialist Total Construction and is also member of the Australian Institute of Building. He has been involved in the industry for more than 30 years, and has some interesting insights on how some of these pitfalls can be avoided, especially for some of the smaller, up-and-coming food and beverage enterprises.

“Whereas a big multinational company has a team of people checking compliance, if you’re a mum-and-dad business, or own an industrial unit where you want to produce food for sale, you don’t have access to that kind of resource,” he said. “For starters, it’s important to understand which regulations you need to comply with. A commercial building comes under the Building Act and National Construction Code (NCC); what was known as the Building Code of Australia.”

A couple of regulations in particular, can cause issues because people don’t know some of the minute details – the fine print – that can be hidden in the regulations.

“For example, Section J (energy efficiency) of the NCC, along with essential fire services, have been catching people out for a number of years now,” said Franks. “Plus, with the ‘Access to Premises’ standard, a minor addition or alteration to a commercial building can now involve some serious upgrades to services like water, electricity and insulation just to mention a few.”

Franks adds that, while a lot of people know that buildings require fire sprinklers, there are other accessories that need to be added, too. “For example, water pressures have changed, and sprinklers now require water storage tanks and a set of pumps, which can sometimes cost around a half a million dollars.”

Then there is disability that needs to be added to the mix of potential changes some sites that are being renovated. In some cases, councils will require a lift to be installed, doorways and corridors widened and disability amenities added to satisfy current building codes.

Other considerations that need to be considered when planning to convert a brownfield site into a food and beverage facility include the noise and odour impacts. Many councils insist on obtaining noise and odour statements as part of the any submission. Although the consultant fees to produce these statements can be relatively low, the resulting adaptions to the building can be significant. In one instance a client was required to install 6.2m high exhaust flues to ensure that odours from their cooking processes were dispersed effectively and not impinge on neighbouring residential properties.

“You may say that is fair enough,” said Franks, “however, the residential properties were almost a kilometre away, yet the odour report indicated that with the right conditions the cooking odours could travel that far.”

Any new facility in the industry will need to comply with a Council’s Health Department requirements, so this means effective drainage, washing and waste disposal areas need to be well-defined to comply. Generally, to accommodate new drainage runs and wash areas in brownfield sites, a company needs to cut into the slab. Also, depending on the amount of drainage required, the existing slab could end up looking like “swiss cheese”. These drainage runs will then need to be reinstated and pinned back into the existing slab. In some instances, combining this with set down areas for any freezers, it can be cheaper to lay an entire new slab.

Apart from Council and NCC requirements, brownfield sites can also have issues with the roof weight capacity, as the majority of industrial units available are only designed to support roofing sheets and not much else. To enable the roof to support numerous services and insulated panel ceilings etcetera, the roof structure generally needs to be strengthened – sometimes dramatically.

Then there is another set of key criteria in deciding on premises to convert – power and gas availability. Again, the majority of industrial units only have access to approximately 100amps supply and no gas feed. Food and beverage facilities can require in excess of 500amps and a reliable gas supply to effectively run their operations. The time and cost associated with upgrading and installing these feeds can be exorbitant, and have caught out many proponents, causing delays in establishing operations.

So, what can you do to make sure your building ticks all the boxes? “The first thing is to establish the scope of the development, then work out where it might be non-compliant and if your budget stretches to bringing it up to standard,” said Franks. “You can find a copy of NCC online, but it can be difficult to make sense of it if you’re not a lawyer or building professional. My advice would be to get a report from a building certifier and engage an appropriate food and beverage builder to advise. By enlisting theservices of professionals, you can avoid a host of problems in the future.

“The key to ensuring you mitigate risks in your project is to involve your builder early in the process commonly known in the construction game as early contractor involvement or ECI.”

According to Franks, having a builder involved during the scoping and design stage can allow critical cost items in any build/fit out be identified and alternatives discussed.

“For instance, you may have a plan to construct a mezzanine level in your operations, this although perfect for the intended process flows can be extremely costly to construct,” he said. “Sometimes, a client cannot see the forest for the trees so to speak – they are so intrenched in their business that they only see one aspect of the project – being to increase efficiencies in their production.”

Involving a builder with process engineering capability in the food and beverage industry, such as Total Construction, can allow a different set of eyes to see the requirements and suggest alternatives to the building layout that just don’t reduce the need for costly building works, but can improve the process flow overall.

How ECI works to develop an achievable budget.
First, a site investigation is carried out by the builder on the existing and proposed facilities to detail and identify all services required and what is available at the new site (power, gas capacities). It is important to note that to increase power or gas supply to a site can be very costly to the project and create delays. Another area that needs consideration in the case of an existing building to be fitted out is the structure’s integrity. Having to strengthen this to cope with the additional weight of fit out and services can often blow out project costs.
Then a workshop is carried out with all stakeholders to identify required efficiencies, confirm proposed outputs and flag any potential limitations. As part of this workshop, all production processes are mapped and detailed for both the existing and proposed operations.

A list is made of the capacities and dimensions of all equipment both existing and new is developed. This helps to identify all utilities and services that are required. It also sets the benchmark for power and gas requirements at the proposed site.

This process helps identify potential bottle necks in current processes and helps highlight any potential hygiene requirements in the new fit out. Getting all this data captured is critical in maximising efficiencies of the new facility.

A review of the buildability of the facility is done and sketch design layouts are completed to optimise process flows to best fit the client’s objectives. A building/fit out SWAT analysis is carried out and build/fit-out costs are derived. Through close consultation between the builder and client, this process allows savings to be identified early on in the design and layout of the facility.

A detailed design including all services and requirements is then developed and put to the market for live market costing. This will give the client a firm understanding of what they can get for their dollar.

Finally, this is where working to a budget comes in – once the ideal building and fit out costs are established it is possible to derive further reductions in the overall project spend through rationalising the design. This includes, but is not limited to, reducing the number and sizes of rooms, freezer/cool room capacities and locations, and finishes in the design. This can be done while keeping future expansion capability intact in the design and maintain the client’s required production output for the new facility.

Aplex’s FABS-1XX series food safety standard industrial display

Backplane Systems Technology has released the FABS-1XX series food safety standard industrial display, engineered to meet the guidelines of strict hygienic environments.

FABS-1XX series includes flat front panels in seven different sizes 7-inch, 10.1-inch, 12.1-inch, 15-inch, 17-inch, 19-inch, and 21.5-inch, with projected capacitive touch or protected glass models. The displays are designed with an IP66/IP69K stainless-steel, front bezel and feature a variety of I/O connectivity. These rugged displays have been designed for factory automation and other food and beverage processing environment applications.

These monitors feature SUS304/316 grade stainless-steel, front bezels and offer resistance to oxidation, corrosion, and bacteria. In addition, the optimised bezel has a perfect chamfered edge whereby water and detergent can directly flow down the front panel. This display series supports IP66/IP69K ratings for water and dust resistance to withstand high pressure and hot water wash-downs for easy cleaning.

This series is equipped with hygienic material that is designed to meet EN1672-2 certification. The sealing material meets the international food safety grade requirement, FDA 21CFR 177.2600. The FABS series is a hygienic solution for the need of food and beverage industry and can be installed in automatic packaging production lines in the food processing industry.

The FABS series of industrial displays features an elegant, slim design and true-flat P-CAP glass screens that support both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios. The new industrial display also gives users access to VGA, DP and DVI-D/HDMI interfaces for comprehensive graphic input requirements and built in speakers are optional. FABS 1XX Series is a robust, reliable and stylish industrial display for food and beverage applications and can facilitate making the business transmission toward to IIoT.

Key features:

  • Stainless-steel front bezel display
  • Flat front panel touch screen
  • IP66/IP69K (option) compliant front panel
  • VGA, DVI-D/HDMI, and DP input
  • Wide range DC 9~36V power input
  • High brightness LCD and auto dimming for option
  • Projected capacitive touch or AR glass for option
  • OSD at rear side
  • System power LED light

CSIRO working hard on African swine flu

African swine fever (ASF) is a fatal pig disease. And it’s on Australia’s doorstep with confirmation of outbreaks in Timor-Leste, 680 kilometres from northern Australia.

The disease is found in sub-Saharan Africa and has been detected in countries in Eastern Europe, including Russia and Ukraine. This year we have seen the disease sweep down through Asia and towards Australia.

ASF kills about 80 per cent of the pigs it infects and there is no vaccine or cure. Some estimate a quarter of the world’s pigs will be dead by the end of this year from ASF.

The consequences cannot be understated as pork and other red meat prices are already seeing an increase in Europe and Asia. There is also talk of a global protein shortage for 2020 as a result of ASF.

READ MORE: Western Meat Packer appoint new Australian sales manager

Australia, which has a $5.3 billion pork industry and 2700 producers, continues to be free from the disease. The CSIRO is working with the Australian government and industry to keep it that way.

ASF on our doorstep
The Department of Agriculture has implemented tight biosecurity measures. This maintains strict controls over imported products, which could be contaminated with the ASF virus. It also has heightened surveillance and increased screening for banned pork products.

Recently, Australia deported a Vietnamese tourist after border officials found 10 kilograms of banned food products in her luggage. This included a large amount of raw pork. She was the first tourist to have her visa cancelled and be expelled from the country over breached biosecurity laws.

In September 2019, researchers at our Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) tested pork products, seized at international airports and at international mail processing centres, for ASF virus. AAHL is Australia’s leading high-containment laboratory for exotic and emerging animal diseases. It has unique facilities and expertise to manage the biosecurity risks of testing samples for the virus.

The results from AAHL’s testing last month showed 48 per cent of seized products were contaminated with ASF virus fragments. This is an increase from 15 per cent in the testing AAHL undertook earlier this year.

Detection of these virus fragments does not necessarily mean they can cause infection. But it does highlight the need for Australia’s strict biosecurity measures. Authorities are now using these results to refine and strengthen Australia’s border measures.

ASF is harmless for humans but spreads rapidly
ASF is harmless for humans but spreads rapidly among domestic pigs and wild boars through direct contact or exposure to contaminated feed and water. For instance, farmers can unwittingly carry the virus on their shoes, clothing, vehicles, and machinery. It can survive in fresh and processed pork products. It is even resistant to some disinfectants.

With no vaccine available, controlling the spread of the virus can be difficult. This is especially so in countries dominated by small-scale farmers who may lack the necessary resources and expertise to protect their herds.

For example, swill feeding—giving pigs kitchen and table waste in which the virus can persist—is a common practice throughout Asia. This is a major factor contributing to the spread of ASF. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to enforce a ban on this practice. Especially across so many small holder farms in resource-poor countries affected by the disease.

But, action is being taken.

Australia’s domestic biosecurity network
many Australian agencies are  working together to manage surveillance and monitoring as the risk of ASF entering Australia is on the rise.

In addition to testing, these agencies continue to strengthen our national biosecurity network. The CSIRO is working with quarantine services, agriculture and human health organisations to build awareness, assessment, resilience, preparedness and response.

Our researchers are working on understanding how ASF infects pigs as well as looking at novel approaches to producing a vaccine. With no vaccine currently available, outbreaks of ASF are difficult and costly to contain and eradicate.

In the policy space, a round table meeting at Parliament House was recently held. Along with other leaders, scientists and governments, the CSIRO shared the work currently being undertaken and the actions needed to keep ASF out of Australia.

Plans are underway for a simulation exercise later this year. This will test Australia’s disease response capabilities to make sure the country is as prepared as it can be.

Helping our international neighbours
AAHL has an important role to play in the Asia-Pacific region. Its international team work with partner agencies and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to provide expertise, training and laboratory skills to rapidly identify disease.

This support enhances the region’s capacity to manage emergency disease outbreaks. It also assists Australia’s pre-border security through better threat assessment and management of viruses circulating in neighbouring countries.

It also provides regional expertise to the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization (a specialised agency of the United Nations) for emergency preparedness missions to the number of countries at risk of virus.

We can all help
Fortunately, Australia’s pig industry is better equipped to manage the necessary biosecurity measures. And producers are willing to put strict controls in place to keep the disease at bay. Hobby farmers must also be careful to follow the rules.

Nobody wants to see images of dying pigs and farmers struggling to make ends meet on our screens. Everybody can play a role in good biosecurity.

Be aware of the risks and, most importantly, please don’t import illegal meat products or feed pigs with food scraps.

The four steps of food safety systems

Who hasn’t felt nervous before an audit? There is so much pressure today on food safety professionals to accomplish successfully audits, especially when we have a big client requiring it or a certification body doing it. Most of us neglect the fact that audits should be perceived as one (more) powerful tool in the continuous improvement of our food safety system.

Audits
What is an audit? Probably one of the most common and used audit definition is the one provided by the ISO 19011 – Guidelines for auditing management systems. In its last update (2018) the ISO document defines audit as systematic, independent, and documented process for obtaining objective evidence and evaluate it objectively to determine the extent to which the audit criteria are fulfilled.

In this definition, ISO decided to reinforce the importance of the evidence being objective since the only change from the 2011 definition was the substitution of audit evidence for objective evidence. More details can be found in the GFSI definition for audit present in the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements version 7.2: A systematic and functionally independent examination to determine whether activities and related results comply with a conforming scheme, whereby all the elements of this scheme should be covered by reviewing the supplier’s manual and related procedures, together with an evaluation of the production facilities. Clearly, in common, we have that audits should be a systematic and independent process to determine compliance with criteria.

As a systematic process, auditing has two main roles:
1. Validating that the food safety systems are thought and built to fulfil the criteria
2. Verifying that the activities performed to comply with what is planned and are effective.
If we think in simple terms, we can divide a food safety system into four steps. First, we have to research what should be done (based on what the organisation does, the law, criteria or elements of the conforming scheme or system). Then say what you do. That is, we should have defined what is planned to do to fulfil the criteria. But this is not enough. More important even is to do as you say. In daily work, people in the organisation should execute their functions and tasks accordingly with what is established. Finally, we must have evidence to be sure we can always reply affirmatively to the question: is it done as said? During an audit, the auditor should validate that what you say you do is enough, go to the field and verify not only that things are done as said but also look for evidence that was done as said.
The Auditor

As presented above, during an audit the auditor must be able to validate and verify compliance with criteria or requirements. For that, the auditor must have adequate attributes and knowledge. In the diagram below are presented the main elements of an auditor and an audit.

If audits are to be used as a tool to improve the food safety system it must be performed independently and free from bias or conflict of interest, should be systematic and well documented. Although sometimes it may look like that anyone can be an auditor, that is not the case, at least, for food safety audits. The first two essential elements in an auditor, personal characteristics and skills are related to the person and not specific to food safety. Typically, an auditor should have ethical behaviour, be an organised and observant person (even curious) and have an emphatic and diplomatic approach. The auditor will also benefit from having skills related to how to question or interview people, how to conduct a systematic audit, how to prepare an audit report and active listening, among others. On top of the pyramid is, of course, the knowledge of food safety and the industry. It is paramount that auditors know the law and requirements or criteria that apply to the organisation and its product line they are auditing. Education, training and experience in the field they are auditing is also a basic requirement but is also essential for how much the organisation may benefit from the audit.
The Future of Audits
Assessing and harmonising an auditor’s knowledge and skills is certainly an important goal for the future. This is important not only to establish a minimal baseline of competencies for auditors but also to establish credibility for the profession and the process. The recent release by GFSI knowledge exam is a step in that direction, offering a consistent method to assess auditor knowledge across a range of relevant skills for all GFSI-recognised programmes. Auditors seeking to audit GFSI-recognised certification programs will find questions about specific technical skills well as standard audit skills.

Another aspect that needs to be improved is the perception of value added by food safety audits. Auditors should do everything in their power (without compromising the independent, systematic and documented approach) to make the process beneficial to the organisation and their food safety system.

Technology is evolving at an outstanding pace but for the moment the adaptation of new tools and technologies to auditing seems delayed. It is not difficult to foresee that technologies like smart glasses can play a role in the future of audits. Mainly people advocate that this tool could reduce travel costs but maybe we should focus more on how this technology could increase the number of audits for the same cost.

Safe flooring for dairy factories

According to the Australian Department of Agriculture, the country’s dairy industry accounted for $4.4 billion of Australia’s gross value of agricultural production and around seven per cent of the country’s export income. It has a reputation for producing good quality products that are in huge demand around the world.

In order to keep this reputation intact, the factories where food and beverages are produced have to adopt clean and safe working environments. Not only for the sake of the products themselves, but for the workers, too.

A key area of any factory is its floor space. The ever-demanding world of cheese and dairy manufacturing offer tough conditions for flooring in most facilities that produce and process the products. Typically, with the producers of milk and milk ingredients such as cheese, ice cream, butter, cream and yogurt, face a common challenge with concrete corrosion, as well as dangerous, damp and wet conditions, which are compounded by heavy impact traffic.

READ MORE: The right brew for beverage and distillery flooring

Dairy processing floors are exposed to aggressive acids and alkaline chemical cleaners, including Clean in Place (CIP) chemicals. Heavy-duty, epoxy-trowelled flooring from a company such as Roxset Health and Safety Floor Coatings handles a range of corrosive acids. This includes nitric and phosphoric acid typically found in processing and chemical storage areas. Milk and other ingredients break down on the floor, forming acidic by-products that can also damage the concrete. It is critical that companies protect their concrete from oils and chemical deterioration, while handling impact, abrasion and thermal cycling.

There are strict regulations in the dairy industry, which are required in order to meet Food Standards Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (FSC) Standard 4.2.4. This is a primary standard that dairy farms must adhere to and follow assiduously. Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Standard 3.2.2 – Food Safety Practices and General Requirements states: “Floors must be designed and constructed in a way that is appropriate for the activities conducted on the food premises”.

When the facility gets wet, which is common in dairy production, it can lead to serious slip issues. This can escalate into expensive lawsuits if care and caution are not taken. It is critical that an anti-slip HACCP complaint aggregate is built into the full thickness of the floor. The profile of this would typically be between 6-10mm for maximum protection. Drains are important in tackling slip hazards where is it important to contour the falls with the correct anti-slip aggregates. It is these types of considerations that Roxset looks into when laying down epoxy flooring at factories that specialise in dairy products.

A dairy facility floor is also challenged by extremes, like cold conditions in the coolers and warm conditions in the processing raw milk and intake side.

This is where a potential for thermal shock and thermal cycling in the floor can occur leading to damage. A heavy-duty non-toxic HACCP epoxy coating from a company like Roxset will be sensitive to any shock. However, it can also handle very hot wash downs, which are also needed in order to keep a factory in excellent condition.

Australian scientist awarded fellowship for work in biotech solutions for food security

The CSIRO’s ON and the Menzies Foundation named three of Australia’s most innovative scientists as recipients of the 2019 Menzies Science Entrepreneurship Fellowship.

Established to support the nation’s most talented science entrepreneurs in the early stages of commercialisation, the Fellowship awards recipients with $90,000 to fully dedicate themselves towards their new venture and focus on making their enterprise goals a commercial reality. The recipients of the 2019 Menzies Science Entrepreneurship Fellowships are:

  • Dr Melony Sellars, a global shrimp expert and co-founder of Genics, a startup securing global food production through smart pathogen detection and breeding selection. Melony and her team are working on solving real-world problems through developing and applying novel biotech solutions to revolutionise today’s farming practices to deliver global food security for the future. The company is currently conducting trials around the world.
  • Dr Simon Gross, a leading optics and telecommunications expert and CTO of Modular Photonics. This startup manufactures a series of glass chip micro devices that significantly increases data transmission rates. Simon and his team’s award-winning technology offers solutions for upgrading and future-proofing legacy multimode fibre networks.
  • Dr Jinghua Fang, a materials scientist and founder of AloxiTec. Forty-five per cent of fresh produce is wasted every year, resulting in a significant cost across the value chain, especially in Australia’s export market. AloxiTec is hoping to reduce this wastage, creating specialised packaging to extend shelf life and improve the freshness of fresh produce without refrigeration and chemical contamination.

“At ON, we believe that every sector of society – from philanthropy to academia and government – has a crucial role to play in supporting science, research and innovation in Australia. This Fellowship program is an example of our deep commitment to unearthing research in science and steering it towards commercialisation. Each recipient was chosen based on their entrepreneurial capacity and the immense potential of their ideas.  I look forward to following the journey of these incredible scientists as they shape the future for Australia and the world,” said CSIRO ON Program executive manager David Burt.

READ MORE: Recalls on the rise: five signs of a lagging food safety culture

Menzies Foundation believes philanthropy can play a unique role in sparking discovery and innovation in Australia. We are passionate about investing in our country’s future science leaders and giving them the runway to ensure that their research has an impact in the world.  We look forward to sharing their entrepreneurial journey,” Menzies Foundation CEO Liz Gillies said.

2019 ON Impact Awards winners announced
CSIRO’s ON has also announced the winners of this year’s Impact Awards. The inaugural awards celebrate the diversity of the program’s alumni and recognise the value they create for Australia and the world through their innovations.

This year’s winners include: Emesent, which have created autonomy technology for industrial drones; Genics, a new pest detection system that cuts costs and time delays for Aussie prawn farmers; and Diffuse Energy which have developed new tech that is pioneering small-scale wind generation.

The full list of categories and winners:

  • Social Innovation: RapidAIM (award sponsored by Hitachi) – real-time information of insect pest detection in your orchards & farms
  • Future Industries: Bee Innovation (award sponsored by Austrade) – a radar-like sensor for bees which is able to identify, track and report bee pollination activity across the orchard and field in near real-time
  • Securing our Future: Genics (award sponsored by AusIndustry) – securing global food production through smart pathogen detection and breeding selection in prawns
  • Jobs & Growth: Emesent (award sponsored by Curious Thing) – drones that use Hovermap technology to automate the collection and analysis of critical data in challenging underground environments
  • Health & Wellbeing: Noisy Guts (award sponsored by McR) – acoustic belt that records gut noises over time so doctors can accurately screen and diagnose gut disorders
  • Sustainable energy & Resources: Diffuse Energy (award sponsored by Singularity University) – renewable technologies that will enable a shift to a more self-sufficient energy model for anyone wanting energy equality
  • People’s Choice: Silentium Defence — passive radar technology that will allow Defence Forces to maintain their situational awareness without advertising their presence

 

 

Does plastic get a bad rap?

Director of sustainability is an unusual title, one that is not common within a multi-national company. But not only is that Alan Adams’ role for plastic packaging specialist Sealed Air, he is also part of the leadership group for the company’s APAC region.

At a recent conference at FoodTech Queensland, the education director of the Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP), Pierre Pienaar, made the point that, “plastics are not going anywhere’. And he is right. The thin, mainly oil-based product has a multitude of uses in many industries including food.

“Plastic is, and will remain, in my view, really important within the industry,” said Adams. “In fact, it is probably more important than ever when it comes to reducing food waste, and enabling our lifestyle. What we have to do though, is drive it to a circular economy so we can utilise those resources.”

With China and other Southeast Asian countries declining to take Australia’s recyclables, sustainability is more important than ever. However, it is something that Sealed Air saw coming over six years ago. The then recently appointed (but now retired) CEO of Sealed Air, Jerome Peribere, knew sustainability was going to be an issue, and one that needed addressing sooner rather than later.

READ MORE: Plastic waste: why every gram counts

“Jerome came out with this idea that we should think about ourselves as a sustainability company,” said Adams. “That was controversial and confronting when you think we are predominantly a plastics manufacturer, so it didn’t necessarily resonate with the average person back then.

“However, his reasoning was sound because if you look holistically at our impact on the world, we have a positive impact on the environment. If you think what Jerome was thinking back then, it led to us redefining our vision and mission. Our vision became to create a better way of life and today this continues with our CEO Ted Doheny and our purpose statement that, ‘We are in business to solve critical packaging challenges and leave our world better than we found it’. And it is through enabling efficient supply chains for food and goods without damage, that we remove a lot of the wastage that can be created in many industries including food.”

These company ideas backed up the sustainability minded Adams’ thoughts on what the future would hold. Adams was already a member of the Bioplastics Association for Australasia and served as president for four years. The association introduced standards for compostable and home compostable packaging for Australia during that time. Adams not only talks the talk, he walks the walk.

“I have a personal zero food waste policy at home,” he said. “It makes for some interesting food, and it has gotten easier to make it zero since I started composting. But we had herb salads from time to time, and it’s questionable how nice they are. Plus we grow a lot more food of our own now.”

Adams believes that there is a disconnect between people’s perceptions of plastic and how it can also be a sustainable product. But that is because there are a couple of issues that need addressing. The main one being that the Australian recycling industry is still immature.

“The problem is we don’t have great infrastructure and sustainable recycling industry developed yet,” he said. “If you talk about what plastics are recovered and recycled in Australia – and turned into something useful, and not landfilled or shipped overseas – you are talking about 4.6 per cent of rigids and 1.2 per cent of flexibles. It is tiny.”

How can such a perception of plastics be changed? Adams believes it will take a change in mind-set. Too often, there is a myopic view, which is not telling the real story.

“Any supply chain, or any product has three big buckets,” he said. “First is inbound resources. What are the products made from? How are they made? How efficient is that? Then you have operational efficiency. Does it do the job? How well does it do the job? Does it deliver performance? Then you have end of life. What happens to it after it has been used? Equating sustainability just to the end of life is really missing most of the picture.”

This is why he thinks Australia needs a mature recycling/circular system in place. What has also changed is how much people now rely on plastics in everyday life, especially when it comes to the food industry. Adams grew up on a farm in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand. The lie of the land was a lot different back when it came to food waste. He remembers having a shepherd’s pie on most Monday nights because it was a left-over from the Sunday roast from the day before. People rarely eat like that these days, he said. It’s all about lifestyle, too.

“We had very low food waste back then,” he said. “Can we wind back the clock 30 or 40 years ago and live that way? No we can’t. People will not stand for it. We want to have the eating experience we want but also be able to recover those resources at end of life. Otherwise, you are asking us to unwind the lifestyle we really want, and that generally ends with quite a big consumer backlash.”

How does a company like Sealed Air develop sustainability around a product that is continually under the microscope? For a start, it develops packaging solutions that can help products last longer on the shelf, such as its Cryovac brand food packaging range. If product can last longer on the shelf, then there is less chance of it being thrown out before it is eaten. Adams also realises that the way people consume food is changing.

“We have to be creative in our solutions and the recovery of the materials we generate – and plastics is a big part of it – to enable us to efficiently have the food where we want it, when we want it and the size and quantity we want,” he said.

But do people want to eat food that is staying on the shelf longer. Hasn’t the public been told again and again, that fresh is best? Sure, said Adams, but not all foods. Back in the day, a butcher would cut the customer a piece of meat, wrap it in paper and it would be taken home to be eaten. However, new packaging technologies not only mean the aforementioned longer shelf life, but it can “fool” the meat into thinking it is still relatively fresh.

“The meat is dead when you have carved it and served it up and exposed it to the atmosphere,” said Adams. “It was as good as it was going to get at that moment. From then on, it is going to degrade. If, however, you vacuum pack it, the meat still thinks it is the bigger part of the piece of meat it used to be. Because oxygen is not getting to it, atmosphere is not getting to it so, it continues to age and continues enzymatic action.

“There are case studies that will show you that the eating experience of vacuum-packaged meat with a longer shelf life is better than MAP packaged meat. Certain cheeses like to be aged, too. In the past it has been wax coatings and wax papers and things that helped keep longer shelf life. So there are efficiencies in a lot of this as well as potentially eating experiences. It isn’t like that with all foods. I’m not sure vacuum-packing apples will make for a good experience a few weeks down the track.”

Adams knows that there is a long way to go, especially in the recycling stakes. Even though there are challenges, he knows Sealed Air is on the right track when it comes to sustainability – it is what drives him every day. “I think what is really important is that Sealed Air clearly understands – and many people don’t see this – that sustainability is everything. It’s an umbrella over everything we do,” he said. “If you look at our core values and drivers – which are about food safety and shelf-life along with operational efficiency, package optimisation and brand experience – all of those things are sustainability endeavours in their own right. But I am very aligned with it, which means I love my job and I’m very happy working towards those goals.”

Improving oversight of live animal exports

An independent inspector-general of Live Animal Exports to oversee regulation of the industry is a step closer today with the Bill to establish the position as a statutory appointment passing the Senate.

Agriculture Minister, Bridget McKenzie, said the community deserved greater assurance that animal welfare outcomes for export livestock were being met and monitored.

“Australia’s livestock export industry is an important contributor to our rural and regional communities and to our national economy valued at $1.7 billion and supporting thousands of jobs,” Minister McKenzie said.

“It’s a legitimate trade, however, it won’t be conducted at the expense of animal welfare standards.

READ MORE: Minister moves on sheep exports

“This legislation is concrete proof of this government’s continued commitment to improving the trade—making sure the trade is well regulated and above board.

“Support for the Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports Bill 2019 means there’ll be an entrenched independent check on the Department of Agriculture’s application of the regulations and its exercise of power.

“Our livestock export system is already world class and the Inspector-General will only enhance that. I am confident that the Bill will pass the House of Representatives and become law.

“Once it does I will appoint a suitably qualified person to make sure the system is operating as it should—driving positive change in the industry, improving regulator performance and providing greater confidence to the general community about livestock exports.”

How to make money from your wastewater

We often hear about innovation in the food industry as it relates to core business. Whether innovation is thought of as new product development, packaging design, or adoption of concepts like automation, the Internet of Things (IoT) or even blockchain, it is easy to focus on the glamorous, as opposed to the pragmatic aspects of future business.

Wastewater ranks among the most important sustainability challenges facing our agri-food system. As populations increase, product demand grows, as does the need for effective wastewater solutions. In the hope that ground water salination and ocean acidification won’t be our leading legacy, innovators are working to transform wastewater from a hazard into a profit-generating asset that works with the environment.

Industry is now entering an era where wastewater is seen as an asset of a mature sustainable business. It’s time for wastewater to contribute to the bottom line. Project delivery company, Wiley, has explored how to stop money from going down the drain and to make money off wastewater.

An example of next-generation wastewater treatment comes from the Norwegian company BioWater Technology. Its unique biofilm carrier blocks are designed to grow micro-organisms that efficiently absorb pollutants from the water. This process has proven effective in treating biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), a characteristic of food wastewater, which makes it harmful to the ecosystem.

Key to BioWater’s success is the ability to work with food processors. With outflows varying in richness, volume and temperature, it is easy to kill or overwhelm bio-wastewater processing organisms. BioWater can keep up with this fluctuating input and delivers excellent water processing outcomes in a cost-effective and energy-efficient way.
BioWater’s approach is a good solution for removing pollutants, however, it doesn’t transform wastewater into a revenue-generating asset.

To produce revenue from wastewater, algae is the food industry’s secret weapon. Algae has been used in two distinct ways in the management of waste. First, algae can be grown off the nutrients in wastewater, producing high-value bioproducts as the nutrients are extracted, cleaning the water. Second, algae can sequester carbon from the exhaust of coal and gas boilers, directly reducing the emissions of energy generation, while producing the same high-value bioproducts.

The opportunity for the food industry is that food processors bring together both a nutrient-rich wastewater stream and CO2 rich smoke. With these two resources at hand, it is possible to provide everything an algae culture needs, giving a unique edge to the food industry in profitable waste management.

If successful, this concept means food processors may cease to pay for wastewater treatment and will instead profit from their nutrient-rich waste stream by selling valuable bio-products. As a bonus, this will slash their direct CO2 emissions.

This kind of cooperation with biology is indicative of how industrial waste could be processed in future. The algae-based value generation concept is effective because it works with the organism, providing everything it needs through combining multiple waste streams. In this way, a small but complete ecosystem can be created, developing untapped value and transforming the food system from – an impost, to a constructive piece of the sustainability puzzle.

These ideas are still at the early stage, but conceptually speaking, it is certainly possible to grow algae and produce bioproducts directly from industrial waste streams. The economics of these solutions may take some time to develop but investment continues to flow into these areas and more solutions will begin to surface. As innovative companies enter the market, one thing is certain – profiting from waste streams will be too compelling for the market to ignore making this approach part of the future of responsible food businesses.

Xplanar streamlines drive systems for the modern era

The ground-breaking XPlanar system from Beckhoff offers boundless potential for streamlining production machines and plant design. It utilises planar movers that float freely over floors of planar tiles that can be arranged in any kind of pattern.

What characterises the new XPlanar drive system is that it is based on the principle of flying motion. Like the XTS linear transport system, XPlanar is much more than just a drive system – it’s a solution designed to make product transport flexible. Compared to XTS, XPlanar adds movement in a second dimension and allows the movers floating over floor tiles to overtake one another and to be held in buffer zones or to bypass them. The free-floating planar movers also have a further important advantage – because of the contactless drive principle, they are silent and completely wear-free.

So, what kind of functionality does this system provide for implementing transport tasks?
“Basically, a transport system simply moves products from one processing station to the next – from A to B, then from B to C, from C to D, and so on,” said Prüßmeier. “With XPlanar, these stations need neither to be in a linear arrangement, nor visited in a fixed sequence.

This means that a given product need only travel to those stations that are essential for processing it. By incorporating the second dimension, XPlanar opens up several other options, too, including the ability to discharge individual movers from the production flow, or to create special waiting zones in order to optimise processing sequences. Enabling faster movers to overtake slower movers is also important, as it allows sub-processes to be executed swiftly, in parallel. Not only is each planar mover controlled individually, as a single servo axis, it can also be synchronised precisely with other movers if necessary.”

The movers can also travel with six degrees of freedom. They not only travel to processing stations, they can also move into them. They can turn, rotating the payload they are carrying through all three axes so that it can be processed or inspected easily from any side. The movers can also be raised or lowered slightly and even tilted. For example, a little tilt can be useful to prevent spills when accelerating quickly while carrying a container full of liquid.

In spite of all the complex motion options that XPlanar supports, the system is simple to set up and deploy from a user standpoint.

“Right at the start of the development process, we decided it was important that the system should be highly integrated and that users would only have to plug in two cables – one for data communication over EtherCAT G and another for power supply,” said Prüßmeier. “As a result, all other functionality has been fully incorporated into the modules. Design-wise, they are also extremely compact – the distance between the working surface of each planar tile and the carrier frame beneath it is just 4cm.”

The system builds on one basic component – a planar tile measuring 24 x 24cm. The tiles can be arranged in any floor or track layout. In addition to this standard tile, there will be another version in the future, identical in shape and size, over which planar movers can rotate through a full 360 degrees – that is to say, infinitely. The movers available differ only in terms of their size and their load-carrying capacity. They currently range from 95mm x 95mm for payloads up to 0.4kg, through to 275mm x 275mm, for a maximum payload of 6kg.

The TwinCAT software also plays a key part in the system’s ease of use.

“Our main objective is to make sure that users find the planar motor system easy to manage,” said Prüßmeier. “In TwinCAT, the planar movers appear as simple servo axes, capable, in principle, of supporting all six degrees of freedom. However, given that the degree of flexibility available with six axes is not always needed from a practical perspective – or, at least, not throughout the XPlanar system – TwinCAT provides a way to reduce this complexity. It does this by representing each mover as a one-dimensional axis capable of optional additional movements in other dimensions – lifting, tilting and turning, for instance – that are available when it reaches a processing station. This means it’s enough, initially, to just set the desired route, or track, across the XPlanar floor. This simplifies operation significantly.”

And how important is TwinCAT Track Management when implementing complex motion sequences?

A key factor in XPlanar’s flexibility is that its ability to transport products is not confined to the aforementioned single tracks, according to Prüßmeier. Users can define additional tracks, and movers can switch between them. To keep things simple for users, even when operating multiple tracks, TwinCAT offers Track Management, a user-friendly tool designed to support complex motion sequences, including the ability to overtake slower movers on the same track, or to accumulate movers in waiting zones. To do this, it allows users to define parallel lanes, bypasses, or tracks to other plant areas on the XPlanar floor.

Track Management allows movers to switch smoothly from one track to another via a short parallel segment. All this takes is a “switch track” command, without users having to deal with the specifics of merging in and out of the flow, or avoiding collisions. Movers can also be positioned with freedom, without having to follow any preset tracks. Using Track Management, they are sent to specific coordinates within the defined XPlanar floor space – again, without any risk of colliding with other movers.

According to Prüßmeier, there are plenty of advantages for the users for building a XPlanar floor from individual tiles.

“Here, too, we put flexibility front and centre,” he said. “The tiles can be arranged in any shape – and even wall- or ceiling-mounted – so the XPlanar system can be configured to perfectly suit a given application’s requirements. For instance, you can leave gaps within the tiled floor to accommodate processing stations, or lay tracks around plant components. This means users can set up a transport system in a cost-optimised fashion and, at the same time, reduce machine size to a minimum. In addition, it’s easy to modify the planar motor system subsequently just by adding more tiles when necessary, that is, to accommodate new processing stations or gain extra space to optimise motion through curves.”

And how can users best exploit this innovation’s potential? According to Prüßmeier, XPlanar opens up new avenues in machine and system design. Users need, literally, to experience the system’s new possibilities hands-on in order to grasp them, so at market launch Beckhoff is offering easy-to-use starter kits, just as it did with XTS.

“These consist of 6 or 12 planar tiles installed on a carrier frame, along with 4 movers and a small control cabinet with an industrial PC, complete with preinstalled software, and the requisite electrical components,” said Prüßmeier. “This offers machine builders an ideal basic kit on which to trial XPlanar in their own environments and then go on to use later in real-life applications. In addition, offering this kind of preconfigured system makes it a lot easier for the Beckhoff support staff to answer any questions that might arise.

Prüßmeier also said that there are almost no limits on using it with production plants and machines. The only requirement is that a product’s weight and volume are within the limits of what the planar movers can carry. Where this applies, users can benefit from all the system’s flexible positioning capabilities. These are particularly interesting in sectors with special requirements in terms of hygiene and cleanability, zero emissions, or low noise.

This is the case in the food and pharmaceuticals industry, as well as in laboratory environments or processes that require a vacuum (in semiconductor production, for instance). The latter two sectors in particular can benefit from the fact that products are carried on floating movers, abrasion- and contamination-free. Depending on the needs of a given application, users can also apply plastic, stainless-steel foil or glass plates to the XPlanar surfaces to make them easy to clean without residue.

XPlanar was first exhibited at the SPS IPC Drives show in Nuremberg in November 2018, with the product attracting interest among visitors.

“It also spawned lots of ideas for possible applications, because many users have been looking for a flexible solution to solve specific transport problems in their production facilities for years now,” said Prüßmeier.

He gives an example from food processing.

“In the production of high-quality confectionery, there are always minor deviations in the colour of chocolate coatings,” he said. “This is not a problem as such, provided there’s no variance within individual boxes of chocolates. However, at a production rate of 100 chocolates per minute, selecting 10 individual chocolates with the same colour for each pack is difficult using conventional means. It would require using several pick-and-place robots to check and sort all the chocolates, which would be costly in terms of time, floor space and throughput rate. The problem can be solved much more efficiently using individually controlled planar movers operating on a single floor. Movers transporting individual chocolates could easily sort themselves at the end of the production line according to the chocolates’ particular shade of colour. Or, if movers were designed to carry an entire box at once, each mover could automatically travel to the system ejection point for the appropriate colour of chocolate to pick up the products. Both of these approaches could be implemented much faster and, importantly, with lower space requirements than, for example, the robot solution I mentioned.”

Beckhoff has already received specific inquiries from the laboratory automation sector, where there’s interest in maximising the flexibility of analyses. For the most part, samples are tested for the same substance content, but less common analyses also need to be carried out for the purpose of individualised diagnostics.

Even with mass analysis methods, XPlanar offers a way to extract individual samples; it also creates additional quality assurance advantages by making it easy to discharge or exchange particular samples. There’s similar demand in the cosmetics industry, too. For example, in one particular case, fragrances need to be filled into selectable, customer-specific bottles that are individually labelled and packaged.

“The main difference is that the XPlanar movers don’t need a mechanical guide rail, so the system offers greater flexibility in terms of movement,” said Prüßmeier. “At the same time, though, the mechanical guidance in XTS can be an advantage. Compared to the magnetic counterforce of the planar movers, a guide rail allows better dynamics and higher speeds in curves, especially in very tight curves, and even when carrying a payload. The specifics of a given application will ultimately determine which of the two systems is the better option. The bottom line is that XPlanar and XTS complement each other perfectly.”

Flowmeter helps with quick media changeover

Food safety and hygiene were in the news in June this year when eight brands of milk were recalled in Victoria and New South Wales amid fears that they had been contaminated by cleaning fluid.

Production plants need to be cleaned regularly when changing over batches or products. However, at the same time, the production process should be carried out as efficiently as possible.

The FLOWave flowmeter from Bürkert Fluid Control Systems offers extended functions, including the fast and precise detection of media changeovers. As a result, production steps can be clearly separated from each other and waste can be reduced without negatively impacting on hygiene.

The FLOWave flowmeter enables the precise detection of changeovers between different liquid types during food production. Especially in rinsing processes, rapid differentiation between product and rinsing water, or chemicals used in the CIP cleaning processes, ensures efficient process control and a high level of quality.

The device thus continuously measures the temperature-independent density factor. Based on this measured value, valuable products such as milk can be quickly and reliably differentiated from the cleaning liquid. Compared to conventional time-controlled processes, product waste can be minimised and costs saved. In addition, the amount of waste water treatment required is reduced as less product enters the waste water.
The flowmeter works according to the SAW method (Surface Acoustic Waves). This patented technology can also be used to measure the transition between beer or pre-mixed alcoholic beverages and water. FLOWave utilises the propagation speed of the surface acoustic waves in the liquid for this purpose. The speed increases with the addition of alcohol and sugar. This also leads to an increase in the density factor of the liquid compared to water. However, the actual density of the liquid hardly changes depending on the alcohol and sugar content, since sugar increases the density while alcohol reduces it.

The transition between beer or pre-mixed alcoholic beverages and water is therefore often very difficult to measure with conventional density meters.

The density factor not only indicates the media changeover between product and water, it also differentiates between liquids with varying contents of sugar. The SAW technology allows additional data to be obtained from the medium. In addition to the temperature, the flowmeter automatically detects possible gas bubbles and outputs the values in percentage terms. Possible process faults can thus be eliminated quickly and effectively.
SAW technology does not require sensor elements in the measuring tube. This means there are no pressure drops, sealing problems or dead spaces that would otherwise interfere with cleaning.

The sensors thus meet the highest hygiene standards and facilitate the qualification and validation of production and cleaning processes.

The Bürkert flowmeter also supports digital communication with direct connection to most fieldbus types such as Ethernet IP and Profinet, via a platform that guarantees simple transmission of FLOWave sensor data to all common fieldbuses. The maintenance-free, lightweight and yet robust meters can be mounted in any position.

Why solid grease provides peace of mind for food manufacturers

Contamination of food and beverages during manufacturing is always in the back of the mind of those who run the processing factories. At any time during course of making product, plant and machinery could accidentally contaminate the goods, so it is important that best practices are in place once a production run is started.

And while best practices are a good start in keeping food and beverage items free from contaminants, there are some items that can help provide layers of protection during the production process itself.

According to precision mechanics specialist NTN-SNR, the average cost worldwide for product recalls in the food processing industry between 2010 and 2017 was just over $16 million. The most common reasons were foreign bodies found in the product, and contamination by allergens and/or bacteria. With that in mind, the company has produced LP09, a food-grade solid grease that lubricates bearings that are used in the food processing industry. It is designed to give food and beverage processors peace of mind if they are worried about bearing grease contaminating the production line. This particular grease is approved by NSF International, a US-based independent product testing, inspection and certification organisation.

“When you test your product and you find it is contaminated by foreign matter, that food needs to be scrapped and cannot be sold,” said Fabio Rebecchi, who is product manager for NTNCBC Australia who distributes LP09 in Australia. “One of those contaminants could be grease. Can you imagine how much that could cost a company if it fails its compliance?

“However, if a food product makes contact with LP09 solid grease, that’s fine because it complies to the NSF standards. You could ingest it without any harmful effects.

READ:  Increased power rating with poly chain belts

More importantly, you won’t have to scrap the product produced and start all over again.”
One aspect that needs to be stated is that LP09 solid grease needs to be used with stainless-steel bearings that are also produced by the company, because the solid grease contains no rust inhibitor additives. Bearings are an important part of any manufacturing facility, including those in the food and beverage sector. NTN’s stainless-steel bearings will last up to 20 times longer than some of its competitors. And along with the LP09 grease, will do their part in making sure that a processing plant will be running at its optimum.

“It’s about peace of mind,” said Rebecchi. “This is what production and plant managers are looking for in their production processes because it not only helps guarantee their output and yield, it also leads to a reduction of rejects. From a consumer point of view, and as a manufacturer, they are making sure that they have a lot of it covered so the product comes out to the correct specification all the time. We are assisting and improving that process with this grease.”

What it also covers is compliance. This is something that is becoming prevalent as more standards and regulations are implemented. Consumers not only want to know about the calories, packaging and make-up of a product, but also where it came from and where it was processed and packaged. And under what conditions.

“The food and beverage processing industry is very highly regulated and is becoming more so,” said Rebecchi. “The world needs to be fed and there is a growing population so there is more governance within the industry where manufacturers need to be 100 per cent compliant. Plant managers will know that if they are using NSF-compliant grease from NTN then they are on their way to compliance.

“This opens up export markets. It’s also good as a corporation from a corporate social responsible point of view that you’re doing the right thing by the environment. You are eliminating waste. You’re producing to a standard to where your manufacturing processes are optimised all the time. This is what this grease allows you to do. Our bearings and LP09 solid grease are of very high quality and designed for specific solutions,” he said. “That is where our customers can get involved with our engineering and sales people for specific solutions to unique customer requirements. NTN will come up with a direct solution if possible.”

Read more articles like this at: www.lets-roll.com.au

                                   

7 risks in the food supply chain that compromise customer safety

A food safety certification and training organisation says failures in food safety – such as contaminated foods, adulterated ingredients and the presence of un-labelled allergens – can have serious, even life-threatening, consequences, and more needs to be done to positively impact customer safety in these areas.

SAI Global has audited thousands of food manufacturers to ensure they comply with global food safety standards, and to ensure they meet legislative requirements in the country of sale and manufacture. As such, it has identified common mistakes that businesses make in the purchase of ingredients, storage, processing, packaging, distribution, and handling of food.

The organisation said that, despite a strong focus by industry on customer awareness and developments in food processing and technology, food scandals continue to impact the industry. In 2017, it found that 47 per cent of consumers were less trusting of a business where major food incidents had occurred.

Kimberly Carey Coffin, global head of food, retail and hospitality at SAI Global, said: “The ever-increasing complexity of the food supply chain translates to ever increasing levels of risk, challenging an organisation’s ability to satisfy its customers in terms of quality, safety, integrity and continuity. As an industry, we are particularly vulnerable when it comes to risks that can occur deep within those chains – like intentional and inadvertent adulteration, substitution, product mislabelling and cross contamination with both naturally occurring and foreign materials.”

She is urging food businesses to dig even deeper into their food supply chain to identify and mitigate all known risks. “Many of the faults that occur in the food supply chain are often the result of an organisation lacking adequate resources to mitigate risks, not understanding the importance of formally monitoring suppliers, or having poor supplier relationships, to name a few. Ever-changing consumer demands are also putting pressure on the need to demonstrate integrity of products, as well as on the continuity of supply. Now, more than ever, food businesses must impose strict assessment practices in food production, manufacturing and other stages of supply chain management to ensure customer safety is a primary focus.”

SAI Global’s seven supply chain integrity risks that could compromise customer safety in the food industry:

  1. Fierce competition, which places downward pressure on supply costs
    As the downward pressure on supply costs continue, food businesses are often forced to look more broadly for the best source and go global. Consequently, the likelihood of risk events happening deeper in the supply chain is greater, putting pressure on manufacturers to rethink their controls.
  2. Most companies are only monitoring their 1st-2nd tier suppliers
    A recent study by SAI Global revealed that many food businesses are only looking at their first-, and perhaps second-, tier suppliers – rather than digging deeper into their supply chains. This is a significant source of risk.
  1. Most companies manage their suppliers through contractual arrangements, rather than more formal monitoring
    A reliance on contractual arrangements place the onus on suppliers to manage their own supply chain. As a result, this places any risks or liabilities on the supplier, however, does not remove the risk to the ultimate food manufacturer.  As suppliers may not be as closely aligned with the customer, more formal monitoring of subcontractors or second- and third-tier suppliers is required to navigate risks to product integrity.
  1. Many companies source raw materials through brokers and agents, resulting in loss of supplier relationships
    Any food business that sources its raw materials through brokers and agents – who can source from anywhere – risk losing control of supplier relationships. Therefore, companies need to get to know their indirect suppliers. Although this requires both time and money, it enables more effective targeting and increases knowledge of a product’s source of origin.
  1. Ever-changing consumer demands, which put pressure on continuity of supply
    Consumers are no longer just looking for a source of ‘fuel’ in the food they eat. They are much better informed about the impact of diet and food choices are often guided by specific dietary requirements or the latest food trend. Given the need to cater to more diverse consumer preferences, there is added pressure on a food business for greater information about provenance, nutrition, allergens and other attributes in the food they consume.
  1. Food brands have inadequate resources for mitigating risks
    To mitigate risks, food businesses need to make supplier diversity management a primary focus. For instance, they need to move from the ‘preferred supplier’ model to a ‘multi-supplier’ relationship model. Although this takes the organisation to unfamiliar areas of the globe, it increases a business’s focus on building holistic supplier relationships of trust and transparency.
  1. The growth of private labels
    There is an obvious financial incentive for retailers to sell private label products, as this allows them to maintain an identity in a price-competitive market. However, most retailers do not have manufacturing infrastructure and rely on suppliers to assess, interpret and manage risk. Again, this ties a food retailer’s brand equity to its suppliers, emphasising the need to manage downstream risk.

Allergies: why traceability in food is important

Allergies are a life-altering and life-threatening condition. Daily, up to 20 per cent of patients with allergies face the fear of fatal reactions. Currently worldwide, seven per cent of children have been diagnosed with allergies, compared to just three per cent of the adult population. This  increase demonstrates the need for the food industry to do more to prepare for growing levels of dietary delicacy.

Food manufacturers need to understand this delicate balance, but there are often many barriers stopping them from reporting accurately. From food fraud to confusing or conflicting legislation, the barriers to effective traceability are diverse. However, the risk to consumers is high – even one mistake can cause potentially fatal consequences.

Traceability
Traceability is the ability to track food through all stages of production, processing and distribution. Most legislation requires producers to be able to trace products one step backwards and one step forwards, at any point in the supply chain. This means that as long as every part of the supply chain is reliable it is hard for ingredients to be mislabeled. It’s simple in theory but can often be a difficult concept to implement.

Food manufacturers need to be compliant with the ISO 22005:2007 standard for traceability in the feed and food chain. However, due to the complexity of modern supply chains, it is harder, but also more vital than ever to have a good overview of the complete process.

To this extent, it is good practice for a food and beverage producer to trace every single ingredient throughout the whole of their supply chain. Not only will this have good business applications, because fully understanding a supply chain will drastically reduce the cost of a recall, but problematic steps or points of contamination will become easier to trace, cutting down the number of products that need to be recalled.

Technology
There are tools available to improve traceability, including automated control systems that allow manufacturers to give their product a digital, trackable passport. Recording the details of production digitally through automation systems and feeding them into Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software or Manufacturing Operations Management suite (MOM), will create a comprehensive digital trace.

ERPs and MOMs work by integrating all facets of a business into a single database, allowing an in-depth view of business operations. The systems can then break down a production plant into distinct steps, meaning plant managers can easily identify when a contaminate, or potential contaminant, is present. Producers can then state exactly what is in their product and plant managers can accurately understand how many batches need recalling if issues do occur.

While more than 50 million Americans sufferer from chronic allergies every year, this number is expected to double by 2025. With the rate of people with allergies rising, manufacturers need to prepare their systems for even more detail and reporting for customers. Installing robust traceability can help eradicate unintended allergic reactions, building strong consumer trust and ultimately saving lives.

 

Drainage design and food safety

Cleanliness isn’t only about what’s visible. Behind seemingly clean food preparation environments, there lies a potential hygiene risk. Drainage maker ACO can be part of the solution to this problem.

Ultimately, food safety is about ensuring the food we eat is free from contamination. To do this, food preparation areas must be as clean as possible. The aim must be to prevent work areas from becoming breeding grounds for pathogens such as listeria and salmonella and to limit their spread into other areas of the business.

In food processing plants, the possibility for bacteria to grow exists everywhere from tea towels, utensils and appliances to the floor below. For consumers, the consequence of not addressing this problem can extend to food poisoning, allergies, severe illness and even death. With an increased demand for fresh, ready to eat food and specific dietary and allergen requirements, the pressure is on for food manufacturers to provide safe products.

Every food production and retail facility should understand the need for hygienic practices, identify potential hygiene weaknesses and have a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan in place. HACCP is a process designed to mitigate risk and ensure the highest level of cleanliness for maximum food safety.

How do drainage systems contribute to hygienic practice?

More often than not, after benchtops, appliances, equipment, cupboards and walls have been cleaned, cleaning water and products are swept or washed into the drainage system via grates and then into the floor gully. Therefore, it is crucial that grates and drain systems are thoroughly cleaned.

In many systems, the design of grates, floor gullies and drainage channels makes them difficult to clean thoroughly. This creates potential sites for the growth of bacteria, which can subsequently spread via foot traffic or washdown spray.

ACO is committed to hygienic drainage systems. Under its Hygienefirst philosophy, the company designs grates, gullies and channels for performance, safety and “cleanability”. Ensuring products are completely clean allows for high hygiene levels for food production facilities.

“The drains primary objective is to remove wastewater, be easily cleaned and subsequently be kept clean. If drainage is designed and installed correctly, it will reduce the bacteria that can harbour in joins, corners or crevices that occur with poor designs, thereby reducing the overall risk of contamination and food spoilage,” said Kate Jennings, product manager, ACO Australia.

Some of the key elements in the ACO design include the absence of joins and crevices where bacteria can build up; as well as sharp corners which can be difficult for brooms, mops and cleaning fluids to adequately reach and clean. In addition, drainable design ensures residual contaminated wastewater will not pool or stagnate.

Made of stainless steel for corrosion resistance and easy cleaning, ACO’s grates, floor gullies and channels are constructed with round edges for safe and easy handling, and smooth contours that won’t trap contaminants. In addition, the grates are slip resistant and minimise the risk of workplace injury. ACO recommends a standardised cleaning procedure for their stainless steel channels, drains and floor gullies. (See accompanying box).

For the most part, the level and frequency of cleaning is determined for the most part by the room’s hygienic risk profile. For example, in areas where food preparation is carried out for ready to eat meals, the moisture level of the food is high and therefore more likely to encourage bacteria growth.

“Assessing the risk with HACCP will determine the frequency and depth of the clean,” said Jennings. “Regular maintenance and inspection is often overlooked and must be part of the overall cleaning procedure for the floor and drainage system to ensure a safe food preparation environment.”

Drainage systems with corners and crevices make it difficult for cleaning with brooms and mops as the bristles cannot reach to remove waste products.
Drainage systems with corners and crevices make it difficult for cleaning with brooms and mops as the bristles cannot reach to remove waste products.

JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER

JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER
Close