Gareth Lenton, director of the power transmission technology centre at Eriks UK says: “90% of bacterial contamination in the food processing industry is caused by poor hygienic design, with gearboxes and motors a primary cause of problems. Our experience has helped us to identify three common problems, which form the basis of our three-step plan.”
First, specify motors equipped with anti-condensation breathers. Lenton states: “Condensation build-up can harbour bacteria, shorten operational life, and result in unnecessary downtime and increased maintenance costs. An anti-condensation breather compensates for the pressure differential between the warm air inside the motor and the cooler air outside, which prevents condensation and water from building up inside the motor. This leads to less corrosion, less monitoring and longer meantime between failure.” An ingress protection rating of IP66 to IP69 will also protect a motor from water jets and chemical cleaning products.
Second, choose gears and motors with smooth surfaces. He continues: “Cooling ribs, hollow areas and sharp edges are the perfect hiding places for food because they’re often immune to daily wash-down procedures. For the best results, look for motors without tag plates. Hollow torque arms and shaft covers, are also easier to clean.” Motors with round and easy-clean designs prevent food from accumulating, thereby reducing the risk of contamination.
Third, make the switch to stainless steel. Adds Lenton: “We know of one multi-national grocery retailer that wants its suppliers to exchange existing geared units for stainless-steel designs. Our experience suggests that the use of stainless-steel geared motors would speed up cleaning times and reduce the use of chemicals, which could potentially save food processors up to 60% on cleaning costs. Gear corrosion – specifically housing and bearing rust – can build up over time and even enter the food.
Eriks argues that, although these actions are limited in scope, they will still significantly improve the lifespan of critical equipment, overall costs for cleaning, as well as compliance with food industry regulations such as IFS certificates.