There is one thing that food processing plants cannot afford: downtime as a result of equipment failure. The loss of a single piece of equipment can halt production and lead to product loss, not to mention a loss of revenue.
Some studies have shown that downtime for a typical food packaging line can result in $15,000 per hour of lost revenue. That’s $25 per minute.
The costs are simply too high for plants to risk equipment failures — especially because they are preventable. The key is being proactive. Here are five ways to increase the reliability — and extend the life — of your plant’s central equipment:
1. Train Plant Employees
Your employees operate your machinery on a daily basis, and they play a major role in protecting it. The question to ask is: Are they using the equipment properly? Your staff should also be able to identify potential problems before they happen. Understanding common red flags with your plant’s equipment can be the difference between a quick fix and a crisis. Engage manufacturers’ programs and train employees on critical equipment to ensure your machinery operates efficiently for years to come.
2. Use High-Quality Lubricants
High-quality oil may cost more upfront, but it will benefit your plant in the long run by keeping machines running efficiently and for longer. Talk to your equipment vendor about the recommended frequency of preventive maintenance measures to ensure you’re on the right schedule to maintain equipment warranties.
3. Invest in Equipment Redundancy
When you build proper redundancy into your processing, you’ll have a backup so operations can at least partly continue if a particular component fails. Your mechanical engineers can recommend which systems require redundancy to eliminate the potential for downtime due to such failure. For instance, since air compressors are vital to plant operations, a redundant system minimizes the possibility of a shutdown should that system fail.
4. Conduct Consistent Cleaning and Maintenance
A scheduled, documented cleaning and maintenance program can go a long way and benefit your processing in a number of ways, such as:
- Minimizing wear and tear on machines
- Saving you money on repair and replacement parts
- Extending the overall life of your equipment
Work with your equipment vendor to develop a formal maintenance program and properly train employees to conduct these tasks regularly.
5. Use Automation Solutions
Investing in automation can increase your equipment’s reliability — and as technology develops, more and more options are now available for incorporating automation into your plant. For example, a simple processor such as a sequencer allows multiple compressors to communicate with one another and coordinate demand to improve each machine’s operating efficiency and extend equipment life.
Stellar is a fully integrated firm focused on planning, design, pre-construction, construction, refrigeration, mechanical & utility, building envelope, and total operations & maintenance services worldwide. Visit the company's blog at www.stellarfoodforthought.net or learn about its projects at stellar.net.