The food and beverage manufacturing industry is one of the world’s largest industrial sectors. Here, Meirion Buck, Senior Design and Technical Manager at ABB for Adaptaflex, explains the valuable contribution of effective cable protection in the drive to add value to the supply chain.
With a growing population the demand on the food and beverage industry is greater than ever before, which has subsequently been felt throughout the supply chain. This means that processing food products efficiently and hygienically, and ultimately providing protection from unforeseen down-time is also more important. With the journey from ‘farm to fork’ expected to be as quick as possible by the consumer, it’s easy to see why these factors pose a substantial challenge to the food and beverage industry.
Hygiene and stringent health and safety standards are a core part of achieving the required efficiency and security throughout the supply chain. After all, if it’s compromised at any stage, down-time, wastage, and final productions figures are all going to be impacted; equalling additional and unforeseen cost.
Considerations need to not only cover raw materials and personnel, but all of the equipment which includes electrical parts and cables. Failure of these components within challenging environments – from sub-zero to elevated temperatures – could seriously impact production, meaning that those operating in the food and beverage industry are fighting a constant battle to ensure process equipment operates as efficiently, safely and hygienically as possible, without compromising critical power and data connections. Furthermore, as systems become more integrated, the value of data and its role in the production and distribution process is only set to rise.
Despite being a significant part of the processing line and data management, cables and fittings, in process areas, commonly only have limited, if any, protection. Given the volume of mechanical process equipment involved in the food and beverage industry, such as pumps and motors, combined with the shift towards increased automation, there are often thousands of power and data cables that need to be protected from failure due to potential ingress, chemicals, industrial cleaning agents, and other physical and thermal stresses.
Regardless of the choice of protection used, they are still susceptible to bacteria growth. As a result, these systems require continual wash-downs up to five times a day. Not only does this take time, and ultimately mean production down-time, but in reality it only temporarily reduces the threat of infection. Plus, regular and continued wash-down increases the likelihood of liquid ingress and material corrosion, which can have an even greater impact on production and ultimately the supply chain. As such, manufacturers experience regular periods of equipment down-time to cater for repairs or replacements; all of which will come at a cost, both in terms of production time and new materials.
Keeping return on investment at the fore, applying a more reliable and effective conduit solution to make future savings, whilst providing a potentially more secure method of bacterial protection, makes sense for food and beverage manufacturers. There is now a conduit system that will enhance current processes offering the benefits of reduced downtime and potential reduction in contamination risk. The solution created with technology partner BioCote, is to integrate anti-microbial protection in to a new generation of liquid tight conduit. Featuring a smooth, FDA, EC and FSA compliant DuPont Hytrel® thermoplastic jacket, the conduit is complimented by, an industry first, single piece liquid tight 316 Stainless Steel fitting. The new system poses a viable alternative to other types of conduit systems and is perfectly suited for the protection of processing equipment and surrounding process area.
The anti-microbial additive contains inert ionic silver, meaning it doesn’t react or change the appearance of the final product, additionally the additive won’t diminish in extreme temperatures, such as steam or deep freeze. Crucially, the anti-microbial protection will not wear off or wash away, as it is more than just a surface coating, in that it is incorporated to form an integral aspect of the product during manufacture. Most importantly, the bacteria cannot survive contact with the silver ions in the anti-microbial protection, because it in effect turns off the bacteria’s basic properties.
The science behind anti-microbial protection is fascinating. The silver ions on the surface of a material treated with anti-microbial additives bind with microbes they come into contact with and irreparably damage them, disrupting their normal cell function, stopping them from reproducing and finally resulting in the death of the cell.
Tests completed by BioCote, see the level of bacteria reduced by up to 80% in the first 15 minutes and 99% in just two hours. Based on the work and materials BioCote provided to ABB, in addition to in-house testing, it’s been proven that the effectiveness of the anti-microbial treatment does not degrade over time, throughout storage, or during repeated wash-downs.
Ultimately, the journey from farm to fork needs to be as efficient as possible, an effective conduit system can offer enhanced security for cables and fittings whilst maintaining the highest possible standards of hygiene across all areas of the food production environment.