Food processing equipment poses unique challenges for maintenance personnel. Wet operating conditions and washdown requirements can require specially designed equipment to help ensure mandated sanitation compliance. This results in increasing pressure for manufacturers to design food processing equipment that is easier to clean and maintain and reduces downtime.
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Explore This IssueApril/May 2020
Millions of dollars are invested each year in capital improvements to facilities and equipment to increase product safety, protect employees, and reduce costs. Equipment in a typical food processing plant may run 16 to 20 hours a day, every day. Often, equipment failure is the most common cause for downtime. The longer it takes plant personnel to respond and repair equipment, the more damaging the interruption. What’s more, systems that are not at full speed create a domino effect that can result in missed deadlines, lost revenue, and disappointed customers. Unplanned downtime can cost a food processing facility an astounding $30,000 per hour, according to a 2017 report from industry research firm Enterprise Strategy Group. Downtime can cost a company more than just money; it can be a logistical nightmare. The expenses and ramifications are simply too high for plants to risk equipment failures.
The Food Safety Modernization Act is transforming the nation’s food safety system by shifting the focus from responding to foodborne illness to preventing it. Product recalls cost food and beverage companies millions of dollars each year, but 56 percent of last year’s recalls across the U.S., U.K., and Ireland were preventable, according to the Queen’s Center for Assured and Traceable Foods in the U.K. Processors must commit to improving equipment hygiene; however, keeping equipment clean presents obstacles, which manufacturers can help overcome.
According to a Deloitte Food Safety Programs report, Food Safety Management: An Enterprise and Operational Level Risk Perspective, “reliably delivering safe and quality food is no longer just about food safety science. An effective safe food program needs a broad approach that incorporates science as well as strategic process and risk planning. Risks to food safety exist along each step of this complex farm-to-fork continuum regardless of the journey’s length—local farmer to restaurant table or foreign source to domestic manufacturing site.”
Food processing plants are very difficult environments for motors due to the daily cleaning and sanitizing of equipment. Harsh chemicals such as sodium hydroxide and other caustics are used to clean equipment and can be extremely corrosive. In addition to caustic chemicals, high pressure spray is used, sometimes up to 1000 psi, with the nozzle held just a few inches away from the motor. While this ensures the removal of all contaminants from the equipment, water enters these motors and does extensive damage.
Washdown Motors Reduce Downtime and Energy Costs
With rising costs for energy and labor, the need is greater than ever to optimize equipment reliability to maximize uptime and productivity. According to a 2018 McKinsey & Company report, “Customers are demanding machines that improve operational efficiency, cut costs, and increase uptimes….”
Food processing companies can help reduce foodborne illnesses and operating costs through the use of encapsulated stainless steel food safety motors. Unfortunately, because electric motors are often out of sight and out of mind until production is down due to a burnout, this improvement is often not thought about. However, being proactive can have a dramatic effect on the bottom line.
A stainless steel washdown motor is suitable where motors are commonly exposed to moisture, humidity, and specific chemicals that cause corrosion. With the use of washdown motors, flexibility and durability are enhanced, which can lower operating expenses while increasing uptime. Hygienic equipment design not only mitigates the potential areas prone to harbor bacteria, but it also facilitates post-sanitation evaluation by ensuring accessibility during visual verification and environmental monitoring.
Specially engineered stainless steel motors also don’t have a need for paint that could flake into the food, hold in moisture, and hide corrosion. They are of “totally enclosed, not ventilated” (TENV) design, which means that they do not have a fan and fan cover, both of which are difficult to clean and could be breeding spaces for bacteria. For example, replacing all painted, standard motors on a plant’s conveyor belts—particularly in the processing area—with 2-HP stainless encapsulated motors allows for far greater reliability, particularly in the extreme conditions of a food processing plant.
According to a 2018 article in IndustryWeek, while electricity is the largest energy cost for most food and beverage plants, it also offers the greatest opportunities for savings and can deliver the fastest payback. Electric motors used in production facilities with conveyors are almost always on, driving the energy bill higher. The typical industrial plant can reduce its electricity use by around five to 15 percent by simply improving the efficiency of its motor-driven systems. Committing to running a more energy-efficient food manufacturing plant takes work, but the payoffs are well worth the energy, time, and money that are put into it. Manufacturing facilities in the U.S. spend $200 billion annually to power facilities, yet, by not implementing good energy management processes, the same companies waste nearly 30 percent of that energy. High-efficiency washdown motors reduce energy costs, improve plant efficiency and load factor, and lessen maintenance costs.
Many states have created monetary rebate programs qualifying food processing plants for upgrades. Following are just a few examples:
The Wisconsin Food Processing Plant and Food Warehouse Investment Credit is a refundable tax credit for businesses that have invested to modernize or expand food processing plants or food warehouses in Wisconsin and who have been certified by the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. Tax credits are earned by incurring eligible expenses for modernization or expansion of a food processing plant or food warehouse. This includes constructing, improving, or acquiring buildings or facilities, or acquiring equipment for food processing or food warehousing.
Wisconsin also has the Meat Processing Facility Investment Credit program to support the modernization of the state’s meat processing industry. The tax credits build on the success of the state’s dairy modernization and investment tax programs. The program provides a tax credit for up to 10 percent of the costs meat processors invest in modernization or expansion. Eligible expenditures include construction, additions, utility upgrades, equipment, and technology.
Because the food processing industry is one of the largest energy users in California, the state established the Food Production Investment Program, which encourages California food producers to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The program’s initial budget in 2018 provided up to $57 million to help accelerate the adoption of advanced energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.
The Food Production Investment Program helps producers replace high-energy-consuming equipment and systems with market-ready and advanced technologies and equipment. The program also accelerates the adoption of state-of-the-art energy technologies that can substantially reduce energy use and costs and associated GHG emissions.
Iowa’s MidAmerican Energy Advantage program realizes that a key barrier to strategic energy management for food processing companies can be the financial costs. MidAmerican Energy provides rebates for high-efficiency motors to help commercial, industrial, and agricultural businesses with energy and bill savings.
Through the installation of energy-efficient washdown motors, food processing plants can move from a reactive to a more controlled, predictive maintenance approach and help improve sanitation, extend machine life, and reduce operating costs.