Food processors face many pressures — to lower costs, to provide innovative products that align with consumer preferences, and to be more environmentally-friendly, to name just a few. There are many ways to approach all of these issues, but they all fundamentally come down to one core idea: efficiency. You need to keep your plant running as much as possible (reduce downtime) and as smoothly as possible (reduce maintenance requirements) while using as few resources and generating as little waste as possible (boost sustainability).
The good news it that processors don’t have to tackle these challenges alone. OEMs are doing their part by designing equipment to help processors reach these goals. Here are three equipment design features to look for in your quest for greater efficiency.
Airflow is one of the most crucial aspects of thermal processing. Without proper airflow, it’s impossible to produce consistent, high-quality results.
The most important aspect of an air handling system is the fan. Currently, the forward-curve (aka “squirrel cage”) fan is the most common type of fan used in the United States. This design has a couple of main disadvantages. First, it requires a high-static duct system to split the fan discharge to the two sides of the machine (i.e., an industrial oven or dehydrator), which means extra horsepower. Second, high horsepower is required at or near free delivery. These horsepower requirements significantly boost energy usage without boosting productivity.
You can boost efficiency by choosing a backward inclined (aka “plug”) fan instead. These fans discharge air around the perimeter of the machine without requiring a high-static duct system. They also require 20-25% less horsepower to deliver the same volume of airflow as the forward-curve fan.
According to one source, process heating accounts for 29% of total energy use in the food industry. Reducing the horsepower requirement of your equipment can go a long way toward shrinking that number.
Learn more about air handling systems in this whitepaper by Bill Faivre, an independent consultant to the meat and poultry industry: Processing Oven Operational Efficiency
To meet consumer demands for variety, many manufacturers are moving from a “one product all day, every day” model to a more flexible one, often producing multiple SKUs within the same shift. This has introduced a new problem — increased changeover time.
Innovative OEMs like Marlen are responding with machines that can be disassembled tool-free. For example, the new Carruthers DuraKut™ 6000 2D VFD / Servo Dicer has tool-free disassembly, including removal of the conveyor belt and spiral knife. This reduces the time it takes to perform not only changeover but sanitation and routine maintenance as well.
Though not a specific feature, sanitary design is related to both operational efficiency and environmental efficiency.
On the operational side, sanitary design makes equipment easier to clean and sanitize. This means less time and labor devoted to cleaning, which, in turn, results in less downtime.
On the environmental side, equipment that’s easier to clean and sanitize also requires less water and chemicals. In addition, sanitary design improves food safety, which ultimately means less product gets rejected. This helps reduce food waste at the processing level.
In this high-competition, low-margin industry, efficiency is essential to success. Schedule a test in one of our worldwide solution centers to learn more about how these design features can help you boost efficiency in your operations.