Conveyors inclined toward sanitary design

by Dan Malovany
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Food safety is a huge issue when it comes to conveying, especially with the emerging regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Specifically, some bakers and processed food manufacturers are seeking out systems that easily can be cleaned.

“If the customer requires wash-down equipment in their production line, it is imperative that the conveyor is properly designed for the application,” said Scott Swaltek, vice-president of engineering, Capway Automation, York, PA. “If the customer is using chemicals for wash down, these must be disclosed to the manufacturer to make sure the components and materials they provide will withstand these substances.”

During the past few years, conveyor and belting companies have ratcheted it up when it comes to sanitation and preventive maintenance. The gold standard for food safety from a decade ago is often not acceptable anymore. Bill Schiltz, director of sales and marketing, Kofab, Algona, IA, suggested the bar needs to be raised to a whole new level. “We use the higher standards over what the application typically required,” he said. He added Kofab follows the rule of thumb for equipment design that says, “If you can't see it, you can't clean it.”

At iba 2015, the international baking exhibition held in Munich, Germany, AMF Bakery Systems, Richmond, VA, introduced a spiral conveyor that incorporates universal hygienic principals and guidelines. Bobby Martin, engineering product manager for AMF Canada, Sherbrooke, QC, spearheaded the year-long redesign initiative.

Mr. Martin began exploring sanitary design after attending the Sanitation Essentials Training and Hygienic Design Training workshops offered by Commercial Food Sanitation (CFS), a division of Intralox. Mr. Martin noted the latter workshop focused on the design of food processing/handling equipment, including a hands-on exercise to evaluate and improve hygienic design of equipment that participants currently use. He credited Joe Stout, CFS founder and president — and Baking & Snack contributing editor — who simplified his professional life by zeroing in on the 10 principles of sanitary design for grain-based, meat and other food products.

“I don’t have to read thousands of books to get up-to-date,” Mr. Martin said. “I just need to understand the principles. It simplifies things. Simplicity is the key to good sanitary design.”

Comprised of three engineers, the AMF Bakery Systems’ conveyor design team brought in “subject matter experts” in sanitation, maintenance and other fields to provide feedback as the project progressed.

The new conveyor eliminates hollow tubing, provides greater access to parts and incorporates a sloped design so that every drop of water flows to the ground, according to Mr. Martin. Additionally, the system uses a unique to the industry, patent-pending mono-piece cage bar to avoid niches and sandwiches that may trap debris or bacteria. Moreover, the conveyor uses an Introlox belting system as part of an initiative to reduce the number of moving parts and zones, according to Alain Lemieux, AMF Canada engineering product manager who collaborated with Mr. Martin.

In addition to ambient bread cooling, the conveyors can be used in other product categories, such as pizza and prepared foods, or in other process applications, including proofing. AMF Bakery Systems collaborated with the Tromp Group, both of which are members of the Markel Food Group, in the design of the spiral conveyors to broaden its product applications and meet more demanding standards.

The bottom line? Sanitary design means more uptime, and having fewer moving parts is a good place to start. “Today, the equipment runs 24 hours,” Mr. Lemieux said. “[Bakers] don’t want to stop them for cleaning. Everything has to be done in as short of time as possible. By having a more sanitary, simple machine, they need less time to clean it. It costs them less in the long run, and they have it up and running quicker after cleaning and maintenance.”

Meanwhile, G&F offers conveyors with built-in belt wash stations as well as portable quick connect mobile washers. “In addition to the various wash station options, G&F offers an all stainless steel design with a wide selection of belt styles offering increased hygienic performance with maximum sanitation,” noted Anthony Salsone, sales engineer, G&F Systems, Roosevelt, NY.

In 2016, Stewart Systems plans to release a new line of conveyors. “Our intent with the new conveyor design is to improve sanitation, reduce cost and to keep non-welded modular design that is convenient for the bakery to modify if needed when making future line modifications,” said Allan Rice, conveyor systems product manager, Stewart Systems, Plano, TX. “The design uses a revolutionary patent-pending ‘snap connect’ design for attaching the belt support rails to the conveyor frame. The side frames are made with roll-formed Chromeshield22 metal with carriage head bolts on the outside to make the frame exterior smooth. They also have an extended flange above the carrying surface of the belt to double as a guide, eliminating extra mounting hardware and parts when the guide is separate from the frame.”

In several cases, sanitary design is no longer considered a value-added option that comes with an upcharge. Rather, today’s progressive bakers, snack producers and vendors require it as a part of doing business.

“The need for sanitary design comes back on suppliers,” said Jonathan Lasecki, chief engineer, Ashworth Bros., Winchester, VA. “The processors obviously don’t want sanitary design to cut into their profits. What we have to do is try to design belts that are easier to clean — whether it’s a much more open area or a round wire or shaped wire that can be cleaned with minimal effort. We focus on how it can be cleaned quickly, efficiently and cost effectively because if you’re not running, you’re not making money, and that’s what everyone is focusing on.”

That’s certainly one way to make everyone feel good about their conveying systems.

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