Proper temperature control is essential to the safe production of food. If temperatures are either too high or too low, the food can spoil or be over cooked, both resulting in losses. In fact, heating and cooling issues are one of the biggest contributing factors to involuntary downtime in the industry. That makes effective temperature control essential to the safety and profitability of food manufacturing businesses.
Each step of the food and beverage manufacturing process involves critical steps that rely on temperature control. If a fan or refrigeration system goes down, it can affect a large portion or the entire line of operations. When one ingredient depends on the other, there is little room to be able to continue production on one section while repairs are made on another area of the line. As a result, spoilage and extensive downtime go hand-in-hand in the food and beverage industry.
Depending on the type of food being produced, there could be several critical assets involved in the manufacturing process. Everything from chillers and exhaust fans to ammonia compressors and refrigerator compressors need to be working at peak condition to ensure food safety and productivity. Condition monitoring, including vibration, temperature and ultrasound sensors, can detect issues and make sure that critical machines remain reliable.
Regular cleanings are another essential part of the food production process, but it also creates a window for machine damage to occur. While cleaning machinery is vital to maintaining safe food production, the use of high-pressured water and cleaning solutions can sometimes turn small problems into larger ones. For example, a weak or damaged bearing seal can be compromised during the cleaning process and quickly degrade the lubricant. If left unchecked, this lubricant issue turns into bearing wear that can result in catastrophic machine failure. However, using online ultrasound measurements immediately identifies lubricant problems upon start up of machines after the cleaning process. The problems can be addressed before permanent damage to the bearings occurs.
In production line cleanup, harsh chemicals and cleaning may be required. As mentioned before, this can cause problems with the lubrication on the many bearings and moving parts. This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that most machinery uses expensive plastic and stainless steel parts that come with higher replacement costs. When upkeep does negatively affect production capabilities, repairs can be costly.
In addition, drip-proof food-grade motors tend to have higher force contact seals that require higher pressure. This can lead to overheating and result in component failures. The best way to address all these pain points is with a wireless condition monitoring solution. There are wireless triaxial sensors, like the StormX, for monitoring vibration and temperature.
Data collected through condition monitoring technology can quickly identify misalignments and imbalances before catastrophe strikes. Businesses can participate in line upkeep with confidence and know that issues detected will not have the opportunity to disproportionately affect production.
Certain components of the food production line are more critical than others. That makes it important to understand exactly where the bulk of the risk lies. Where would a disruption cause the most significant consequences and losses? These “choke points” are exactly where condition monitoring sensors should be placed.
Understanding your choke points can help you design proactive condition monitoring and maintenance strategies. These choke points should be monitored differently and equipped with a greater number of more advanced and sensitive sensors to help mitigate risk.
Instead of being caught in the position of having to react once something happens, you can predict problems and create maintenance schedules to help avoid defects. Ultimately, this will reduce downtime and create a more efficient system.
Food manufacturing comes with unique challenges since raw materials are susceptible to spoiling. A machine breakdown can cause just one ingredient to reach unsafe temperatures. Depending on where the breakdown happens in production, the entire batch can be ruined by one raw ingredient. In addition to the cost of repairing failed critical assets, businesses will also suffer the costs of lost products, ingredients, and additional cleaning time.
Unfortunately, the tighter the timing of the production line, the more likely it is to experience spoilage. Without time to make repairs before the next step in production, pile-ups can occur and spoilage will naturally happen as ingredients wait to be passed along.
However, if condition monitoring sensors are in place on the critical choke point equipment, maintenance can be scheduled in a way that can eliminate or significantly minimize waste and spoilage. This means understanding the most critical aspects of the production line and focusing condition monitoring sensors at these points.
If businesses notice a problem, they may be able to delay downtime until the weekend when production usually slows or halts. However, production plants will have to weigh the consequences of an unscheduled downtime versus operating at a reduced capacity for a longer period of time. The decision may not always be clear cut.
For example, if you are manufacturing granola bars and based on data from your production data, you know that you’re producing less granola bars per hour than you should (i.e., you typically produce 1,000 per hour and now you’re producing 750 per hour). Clearly, a piece of critical equipment is having issues and is in need of repair or unplanned maintenance. But when is the best time to make repairs? This is where analysis and understanding of the business enters the equation.
Does it make more sense to continue to produce at 75% capacity until the weekend or shut the line down during production in order to perform the repair or maintenance? What spoilage will occur? What is your process to lessen spoilage? If the shutdown will be fine for 2 hours without spoilage and the repairs can be made in an hour, you may want to opt for that decision and perform maintenance during production time.
In order to make these types of critical decisions, you need to know your business and utilize a top-of-the-line condition monitoring system and expert monitoring analysts. These tools will allow you to pinpoint the exact problem and the solution so that you can quickly and confidently make critical decisions that could save hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Condition monitoring can also be used to strategically schedule maintenance and make the most of CIP time. When an analyst recognizes that the problem can be addressed during regularly scheduled cleaning time, this work can be done with no negative impact on production.
For example, if you manufacture hot dog buns, then freshness is a key to your business. This means that you probably begin mixing and baking in the early morning hours so that fresh products can be shipped out to retailers and restaurants first thing in the morning. This leaves daytime hours and perhaps weekends available for repairs.
The ability to identify the exact nature of problems and plan maintenance will reduce or eliminate downtime. You won’t be stuck trying to manage problems during peak production hours.
Vibration analysis is essential to achieving safe and efficient operations in manufacturing and food production. Machines with rotating components, including bearings, motors, and gears, all have a normal vibration pattern when they are operating at an optimal level. The right vibration sensor will not only be able to identify anomalies in the vibration signature of the machine, but also identify which part could be on its way to failing or need maintenance to perform optimally.
While some vibration is always normal, rotating pieces will vibrate at specific frequencies when defects have developed. Recognizing these anomalies with the help of sensitive and advanced vibration sensors will maximize uptime, improve efficiency, and increase profits.