How to Write Better Electrical Specifications for Food Manufacturing Equipment

There are certain performance expectations your food processing equipment should meet to maximize your return on investment (ROI). Failing to establish and standardize equipment specifications (specs) during the procurement process can directly impact your plant’s safety, sanitation, efficiency and profitability.

You may be thinking, “But Michael, I already have a specs list written out, and it’s worked perfectly for us so far.” And that may be true! However, in my experience, many small- and mid-sized companies have room to improve in this area. 

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2022 Recap: Our Top 5 Blog Posts of the Year

This past year has been a big one in the food and beverage industry, with new technology rolling out and (some) supply chain constraints waning. While new trends and practices are already appearing for 2023, it’s critical for manufacturers to reflect on 2022’s challenges and successes when planning for the one ahead.

That’s why we’re revisiting the topics our readers found most useful this year. From coffee trends to labor availability to cyberattacks, here are the five most popular Food for Thought posts of 2022.

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How to Choose the Best Process Valve Solution for Your Food and Beverage Facility

Designing the processing system for a food and beverage facility is a lot like doing a jigsaw puzzle. You can probably force many of the pieces to fit into various spaces. However, if you do not find the perfect fit, you’ll ultimately wind up with holes and weaknesses in your finished puzzle — or in this case, elevated food safety and quality risks that may cost your business valuable time and money.

To make an educated decision about valve selection, owners and their construction partners should consider the different types of valves available in the market and how they will interact with other components in the individual facility’s production lines.

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Selecting the Best Drainage Systems for Food & Beverage Processing

Whether you’re building a new facility or upgrading an existing one, it’s vital to have a well-designed drainage system throughout your processing areas. In fact, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) lists the prevention of liquid accumulation as one of the top three principles of sanitary facility design

Poor drainage in a food and beverage facility can impede the sanitation process and greatly affect overall food safety. Meanwhile, proper drainage design speeds up cleaning and reduces health and safety risks for both workers and production. 

When done incorrectly, your facility’s drainage system can contaminate ingredients and products that then must be discarded, directly impacting your bottom line. In addition, recalls caused by product contamination can damage both your company’s reputation and your product category.

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7 Best Practices for Designing a Clean-in-Place System

A clean-in-place (CIP) system is a cost-effective and time-saving tool that rinses and washes the inside surfaces of food processing piping and equipment without mechanical disassembly. When designed well, a CIP system improves sanitation and enhances food safety while both simplifying the cleaning process for plant operators and reducing downtime. It automates what has traditionally been a laborious and time-consuming manual process of disassembling the piping, hand-cleaning each component and reassembling equipment.

In addition to lost revenue from halted production, improperly cleaned equipment can spread foodborne contaminants from batch to batch, which is dangerous to consumers and can lead to recalls that directly impact a company’s bottom line and reputation.

If you’re considering investing in a CIP system for your facility, it’s important to ensure you’re getting a design that is reliable and up-to-date. Your process design team should consider the overall needs of your operation, including changeover efficiency, water conservation and how the design will affect the complexity of the system.

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Food Plant Safety: Lockout/Tagout Best Practices

It’s no secret that working in a food processing plant can be quite dangerous. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has listed the food manufacturing industry as one of the most hazardous. A big contributor to workplace accidents is improper lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures. 

When production in a food processing plant is halted for the installation, servicing or maintenance of machinery and heavy equipment, there must be a LOTO procedure in place to prevent the machine from turning back on and injuring a worker. 

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What the USDA’s new Billion-Dollar Plan Means for Food Processors

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is renewing its commitment to strengthen critical supply chains and address long-standing challenges within the food production and processing industries. 

“As the pandemic has evolved and Russia’s war in Ukraine has caused supply chain disruptions, it has become clear we cannot go back to the food system we had before,” said the USDA in a press release. 

The USDA aims to make the industry more competitive, equitable and resilient by investing billions of dollars in the food system. These investments are designed to build on a framework of similar legislation introduced in 2021 and could make the industry even more competitive.

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Should You Automate Your Packaging Process to Meet Growing Demand?

Food and beverage companies have seen a major increase in demand for their products in the past few years. The COVID-19 shutdowns changed consumer habits: Instead of dining out or ordering takeout, consumers spent more money having their groceries delivered, making their own meals at home and discovering new food and beverage products. 

This increase in demand is driving many food manufacturers to consider automating their packaging processes to improve efficiency. However, choosing the right level of automation takes time and research. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, since the level of implementation will impact your initial costs as well as your return on investment. 

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Choosing the Best Flooring Material for Food & Beverage Processing Areas

The flooring systems in food and beverage processing areas are an essential component of the facility’s daily operation. Whether you’re evaluating flooring in a food production, storage or welfare space, the floor’s cleanability, resilience, durability and surface characteristics are integral to the space’s sanitation and safety. 

Selecting the appropriate flooring system for each area is an important and nuanced operational and budgetary decision, especially in a highly regulated industry like food processing. The decision requires careful consideration in the earliest stages of the design and construction process.

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How Ergonomics Affect Employee Wellness (and What Manufacturers Can Do to Improve it)

Americans have been quitting their jobs in record numbers since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The so-called Great Resignation is significantly impacting the food and beverage industry. In response, many industry leaders are focusing on ergonomics strategies to improve employee comfort and safety, and in turn, retention. 

“If the workplace is designed to meet peoples’ needs, it demonstrates the employer’s commitment and enables employees to be fully engaged in the workplace,” says Jeff Sanford, an ergonomics expert at VelocityEHS, a provider of environmental health and safety (EHS) solutions.

Sanford recently spoke at a webinar hosted by Food Processing magazine, in which he shared best practices for improving ergonomics and employee safety within the food and beverage industry.

The goal of ergonomics is to prevent soft-tissue injuries and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) caused by sudden or sustained exposure to force, vibration, repetitive motion and bad posture. This is especially important in the U.S. food and beverage industry, which has the highest lost-workday incidence (LWDI) across all industries with a rate of 6.5 injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers, compared to the standard of 3.3.

These numbers especially matter in today’s competitive labor market. A recent study on ergonomics cited in the webinar found employee turnover dropped anywhere from 23% to 49% within companies that employed an ergonomics strategy. Meanwhile, the same study found absenteeism dropped between 42% and 116%. These statistics could help some processing facilities justify the cost of implementing ergonomic changes. 

What can facility owners and plant managers do to improve employee ergonomics? Below are some common issues and solutions shared during the webinar.

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