Keeping mixers clean

by Joanie Spencer
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With Food Safety Modernization Act compliance staring bakers in the face come September, sanitation is top of mind in every aspect of bakery production, and mixing is no exception. “Once process parameters such as output and dough quality have been met, one of the main structural design considerations is sanitation,” said Keith Graham, marketing manager, Baker Perkins. Because of all the attention sanitation has been receiving, it’s the area where the biggest advances have been made.

Everyone knows the adage, “If you can’t see it, you can’t clean it.” Consider it the sanitation engineer’s mantra. It’s also what makes an open-frame mixer design attractive (despite its lack of aesthetic appeal). Open frames expose all the parts, giving optimal cleaning access. “It simplifies all aspects of mixer operation, sanitation and maintenance,” said Alain Lemieux, director of engineering,  dough processing, AMF Bakery Systems. Here, care and craftsmanship take into consideration the electrical, pneumatic and hydraulic components that may be attached. “Quality of the welds takes more importance since some of the plating is replaced by tubing which need to be perfectly sealed for long term sanitary reasons,” he explained.

Although visibility is critical for sanitation, it just might invite problems, especially in messy mixing rooms. “Exposing difficult-to-clean items such as motor and gearbox, bearing housings and wiring means that they have to be cleaned more often,” Mr. Graham said. In such an environment, a closed-frame design is beneficial.

Additionally, in the effort to eliminate pinch points and create an overall safer structure, bakers often look for more mixer enclosures that are also easy to clean, which has paved the way for a closed-frame design. “As long as it’s designed properly and has good doors and access, the closed frame can provide as much cleaning access as an open frame,”said Damian Morabito, president, Topos Mondial Corp.

When designing a closed-frame structure, it’s critical to remember details such as proper sealing for the doors. BakeRite designs to NEMA 4X standards, and Bill Grutter, vice-president, expressed the importance of water-tight seals for any enclosure, whether for an electrical box or a cabinet door. “You don’t want any overspray to go into the bottom of a side cabinet; it will breed bacteria,” he said.

For many bakers, a hybrid frame offers the best of both worlds, where the motor and hydraulic pack, which can often be the most difficult to keep clean, are enclosed and protected. “We use a sheet metal cover that’s made to be easily removed so those surfaces can be fully cleaned when they need to be,” Mr. Morabito said.

Terry Bartsch, vice-president, sales, Shaffer, a Bundy Baking Solution, sees the hybrid as a marriage of sorts between the open and enclosed designs. Shaffer’s open-frame structure and supports are made of stainless-steel tubes. While the openness came with its benefits, customers started asking for the tilting mechanism to be inside a water-tight enclosure. “So we took the water-tight enclosure from our enclosed frame and married it with the stainless steel tube structure of the open frame,” he said.

Today’s sanitation considerations also create a big push for clean-in-place (CIP) solutions, and that starts with stainless steel. “We offer our mixers totally stainless so they can be washed down,” said Tim McCalip, general manager, Oshikiri, specifically referring to the types of chemical washdown that Oshikiri designs its mixers to handle.

E.T. Oakes also keeps CIP considerations in mind when designing its mixers. “In the case of a batch mixer, we’ll supply spray balls inside the mixing tank, under the cover to aid in cleaning those tanks in place,” said Bob Peck, vice-president of engineering, E.T. Oakes Corp. Water pressure and high flowrates from a CIP system will cause the ball to rotate and spray the cleaning solution over a 360° cleaning area in a variety of patterns. The company also offers CIP pumps on their machines that go into CIP mode without wheeling in separate pumps.

To be ready for FSMA compliance, bakers must make sure they have a mixer that can pass the white-glove test, and suppliers are constantly tweaking designs to help bakers reach and maintain food safety standards.

“When we design the inside of the mixer, we’re always thinking about how you clean it,” said Jim Warren, vice-president, Exact Mixing, Reading Bakery Systems.

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