To best ensure safe inline product packaging and avoid contamination, sanitation personnel need easy access to clean different parts of machines.

Formost Fuji uses a tool-free disassembly system on its Alpha 8 conveyor. A mechanic or sanitation worker doesn’t need a wrench or any other tools to remove the wrapper’s infeed parts.

“It’s designed in a way so that when you start removing parts, the rest of it starts coming apart easily,” Mr. Gunnell said.

The chain rail of the Alpha 8 Sanitary Design fits onto a shaft that is ergonomic and easy to remove for cleaning. The same goes for the center seal and end-seal sections that are too heavy to lift. Formost created carts with matching rails that the sealer units can slide onto and away during cleaning.

“It does not matter if the machine is stainless steel washdown or painted mild steel non-washdown; if the operators and sanitation crews cannot get to the tight areas, then there will be sanitation problems,” said Mike Rebollo, southwest regional sales manager, BluePrint Automation (BPA).

BPA incorporates easy access concepts on all equipment, and it comes in different forms from frame and safety door designs to conveyor designs. Mr. Rebollo said everything varies depending on whether bakeries prefer a wet vs. a dry cleaning process.

“For example, on washdown, we often incorporate conveyor tilt tails,” Mr. Rebollo said. “For non-washdown, we have open-frame designs that allow good floor access and operator access.”

[Related reading: Investing in packaging for a post-pandemic market]

Even inline detection devices should incorporate easy-to-access features to guarantee their peak performance. Fortress Technology uses hatches and guards to protect equipment and its users.

“Most of our systems are custom designed for application requirements and customer specifications,” said Eric Garr, regional sales manager, Fortress Technology. “Our base guarding is tooled removal. But customers may want the option for hatches that make it quicker to access what’s underneath. In that case we would ensure that any hatches are interlocked into the conveyors safety circuit or reduce the number of fasteners required for quicker removal.”

Visibility is another key factor in optimal hygienic design. Residues that cannot be seen cannot be cleaned. Stephan Schuele, global product management HFFS, Syntegon Technology, said visibility in critical areas should be a high priority to ensure efficient cleaning processes.

“Syntegon technologies, such as the Pack Feeder 5 or Pack 403, incorporate all of these solutions for optimal hygienic conditions in the production process,” Mr. Schuele said. “Both solutions offer crumb trays that can easily be exchanged during production. Also, all parts that can be contaminated with product residue can be removed quickly without using tools.”

In VFFS machines, easy accessibility helps with scheduled cleaning cycles. The TNA roflo conveyor is full caustic washdown compatible and allows snack makers to switch between products quickly without the risk of damaging equipment.

“In addition, our latest generation of TNA VFFS packaging systems have been designed to allow quick access to system components, enabling manufacturers to easily clean, repair or exchange faulty parts, minimizing maintenance and plant downtime and promoting thorough sanitation processes,” said Teri Johnson, vice-president of TNA North America.

Bakers need to plan for appropriate downtime during sanitation and maintenance, and machines built for easy accessibility can make that easier to achieve. Heat and Control’s Ishida machines can be cleaned with air and wiped down and the top covers prevent seasoning buildup in the jaw area of baggers.

“A clean machine that is maintained well will always deliver better efficiency over the long haul,” Mr. Almond said. “It ensures the total cost of ownership is minimal, minimizes or eliminates product holds, and increases morale.”

In addition to guaranteeing food safety, hygienic design allows bakers and snack makers to overcome specific processing challenges, ultimately improving their line efficiency.

TNA, Roflo

TNA’s roflo has a “switcheroo” and pan erector technology that allows product direction to be changed at the touch of a finger, by tilting pans to invert the way they overlap, Ms. Johnson said. The erector lifts and separates pans to change the distribution delivery point of a product. As a result, manufacturers can safely transport multiple product types with zero risk of cross-contamination — an especially important feature for snack makers with a diverse product range.

Production rates and cleaning times depend on the baked good or snack on the line. So, estimating additional uptime on a line is situational. The characteristics of baked goods, Mr. Schuele said, require a holistic approach, combining hygienic design, cleaning methods and a variety of packaging environments such as modified atmosphere packaging.

“All these factors need to be considered in the early phases of the machine design,” Mr. Schuele said. “This makes sanitary design and accessibility an individual case with every manufacturer.”

That said, hygiene and sanitation are maybe the most important factors to consider when looking to maximize efficiency at the back of a line.

“The prevention of contamination and hygiene issues is key and eliminates downtime,” Mr. Schuele said. “You can always try to clean more quickly, but it is more efficient to have a design in place that reduces cleaning efforts in the first place.”

[Related reading: Eliminating contamination concerns in bread and snack packaging]

Heading into a wrapper or bagger, Fortress Technologies’ inspection machines are designed to be easily cleaned in place. Operators can open the belt area by removing guarding and then remove the entire belt if needed. The metal detectors and conveyors that go with them are designed to suit any wet or dry environment and also any customer specific sanitation requirements.

“The quicker and easier we can make the system accessible for cleaning, the less downtime is required, therefore, you increase your potential uptime and ultimately capacity,” Mr. Garr said. “We always keep in mind the end user — the operator and maintenance and sanitation personnel — that need to work around our equipment.”

Automation is one of the best ways to increase efficiencies when contamination is a concern.

Niverplast incorporates modularity into its inspection, counting, batching and packing system for easy disassembly and assembly. An integrated brush system for conveyor belts reduces crumb buildup and, together with collection bins, can keep lines up and running for longer. The machine’s control programs also notify operators when and where maintenance is required throughout automatic packaging lines.

“When weekly cleaning procedures for conveyors or packing robots are implemented, they can be wiped down and back up in operation in 5 to 10 minutes,” said Mark Finneran, United States sales representative, Niverplast.

Sanitation has always been critical for bakers and snack manufacturers but because of the current hyper focus on food safety, sanitation and inline safety have been amplified in importance.

This article is an excerpt from the November 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on inline safety and sanitation, click here.