22 May, 2022

Food for thought

27 March, 2018

British Fluid Power Association and British Fluid Power Distributors Association member companies FPE Seals, MP Filtri UK and IMI Precision Engineering outline some of the current key areas of discussion within the food & beverage industry and consider how to aim to achieve optimum performance.

Like the manufacturing sector in general, the food & beverage industry is reliant on the continuing efficiency of its plant and equipment in order to deliver customer orders on time and to the right specification. However, while it is widely recognised that any unscheduled equipment downtime can be costly both in terms of lost production, periods of staff inactivity and even compromised brand reputation if goods are not delivered on time to the customer, John Crofts, business development manager, FPE Seals considers that some manufacturers still do not fully appreciate the importance of sourcing parts that are best suited for the specific type of machinery in question.

On the positive side, in the case of parts such as seals Crofts believes manufacturers’ sourcing practices are now moving in the right direction. He makes the point that in the recent past many manufacturers within sectors such as food & beverage were more interested in buying sealing products based upon price as opposed to buying higher quality parts that last longer and extend the Mean Time Between Failure – the predicted time between failures of equipment during operation.

Crofts adds that there was also less of a focus on planned maintenance and optimising periods of uptime. “However, this attitude is changing to some extent now as differences in ‘seal quality’ are better understood,” he says. “Those companies that still choose to source on price rather than understanding the level of quality of parts required to ensure they are fit for purpose, usually pay more in the long term. There’s always a cheaper product, but is it the one you need?. It can take a maintenance engineer many hours to strip a machine down to replace a seal that costs a few Pounds. Surely, then, it has to be worth spending more on a seal that is going to last 10 times longer?”

Service and maintenance

Continuing the machinery reliability theme, Stephan Brueckl, director food and beverage at IMI Precision Engineering, reminds us that the food & beverage industry uses fast-actuating rotary machines that are required to produce high-volume goods. “These machines are becoming increasingly fast in terms of operation,” he says, “and with this increased speed there is also an increased need for a suitably robust service and maintenance regime that can ensure maximum uptime and equipment reliability. Any downtime can be very costly for these fast-producing manufacturers.”

Brueckl also states that products used within the machinery need to be proven to be reliable, not just at the beginning of their operational life but throughout their lifetime. “Many products, such as pneumatic actuators, work well for a period of time when first installed, but then their performance can deteriorate quite quickly,” he says. “So, what is needed are products that can increase service life and thus reduce maintenance costs. For example, IMI Precision Engineering’s new ISOLine pneumatic cylinder range has been designed to offer a system that offers these advantages. This range also introduces the IMI Norgren Adaptive Cushioning System (ACS), which automatically adjusts the cylinder cushioning for changing loads, so manual cushion screw setting is not required.”

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