(Editor’s Note: This is an online-only article attributed to the February/March 2018 issue.)
Grocery stores’ snack shelves are lined with virtually unlimited choices for consumers’ varied tastes and diets. For example, pretzels are now manufactured in gluten-free, fat-free, flavored, vegan, organic as well as countless shapes and sizes. This drive for versatility has a direct impact on OEMs who are challenged to engineer efficient, agile equipment for an ever-expanding range of ingredients and processing parameters. Equipment today needs to operate with little maintenance or downtime, provide value through customization and adaptability, and address increasing safety and sanitation regulations.
The Real Costs of Downtime
Lost production, unfulfilled customer orders, and overtime are just a few of the tangible costs associated with equipment downtime. Almost every factory loses at least 5 percent of its productive capacity from downtime, and many lose up to 20 percent. Of the 20 percent that can estimate their downtime usually underestimate total downtime costs (TDC) by 200 percent-300 percent.
Manufacturers are feeling the heat to hit their production targets in an increasingly competitive global market. To maintain their edge and maximize profits, they’ve made operational efficiency a top priority. In food and beverage processing, production is typically based on highly automated, fast moving processes and systems, where every second of production counts. Unplanned downtime can cost the food processing industry an astounding $30,000 per hour. And downtime can cost some bakeries an average of $9,000 per hour per line.
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 revenues, and disappointed customers. A single day of downtime can cost a company more than just money—it can be a logistical nightmare. The costs are simply too high for plants to risk equipment failures.
Solutions to Reduce Downtime
According to industry surveys, both bakers and equipment suppliers believe the biggest plant downtime challenge involves the maintenance and reliability of equipment. When motors or bearings begin to fail, the situation can lead to a chain of problems. Matters cascade rapidly. Downtime may cause injuries when operators and engineers try to repair the system quickly, wanting to get the operation up and running fast. At a time when many retailers and food service customers put pressure on bakers to lower prices and improve operating efficiencies, many bakery and snack food plants already operate in an environment where few can afford unexpected equipment failures.
The need is greater than ever to optimize equipment reliability to maximize uptime and productivity, ensure industry sanitation regulations, and improve worker safety.
High-efficiency washdown motors. One of the most promising ways to reduce downtime is through the installation of high-efficiency washdown 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 yield to minimal operating expenses while increasing uptime.
Food processing plant sanitation. Food processing equipment poses some unique challenges for maintenance personnel. Wet operating conditions and washdown requirements can require specially-designed equipment. This has become critical since the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011. However, a way food processing companies can reduce foodborne illnesses and costs is to use stainless steel food safety motors.