Maintaining product integrity through condition monitoring

Maintaining product integrity through condition monitoring

When a critical appliance fails in a food processing plant, there are wide-reaching consequences. It’s not simply about the expense of repairing or replacing the equipment, or even the lost productivity. Any food that was on the production line when the appliance was malfunctioning will be compromised, and if the integrity of a food product is compromised, the implications regarding food safety and health, can be grave.

As BSC Australia Engineering Services Manager Ryan Kendrigan explains, this is why it is important for food processors and manufacturers to have a condition monitoring system in place.

“Condition monitoring is important for machine reliability but there are further implications than machine uptime in the context of food production or manufacturing. We’re talking about maintaining product integrity. A faulty machine could be damaging the integrity of the product, meaning it will no longer be meeting the food safety standards identified by HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point),” he says.

“If any of that product goes to market not meeting the food safety standards, then that could mean product recalls, which would reflect badly on the company and their brand’s reputation. In an extreme scenario, it could be as catastrophic as an outbreak of food poisoning, which could lead to the closure of an entire operation.”

In a scenario where food has been compromised on a production line, the best outcome is still an expensive one for a processor or manufacturer – it would mean that all that product would go to waste rather than to market.

BSC has a long-standing history with the food and beverage (F&B) sector when it comes to setting up condition monitoring systems – and this has been for a variety of operational types and sizes.

“It’s been very common for us to implement condition monitoring programs in the F&B industry – in fact, the genesis for our condition monitoring program was a project we developed over a decade ago for a global confectionary manufacturer,” Kendrigan enthuses. “We partnered with them to implement a condition monitoring system to their site that is still running to this day and has evolved into a whole range of services that go beyond the monitoring aspect.”

BSC offers a comprehensive suite of condition monitoring solutions that range from the traditional – such as vibration analysis, ultrasonics and oil analysis – to the predictive, which extends from condition-based assessment and diagnostics. Importantly, all the solutions are scalable and are determined by the specific needs of an individual F&B operation.

“All the services we provide are scalable. We would come on-site to discuss what a customer wants to achieve from their condition monitoring program. Do they want a simple warning system that will inform them of an imminent failure, or do they want a more sophisticated system that involves diagnostics? It will entirely depend on the type of operation and what they see as a priority or is deemed critical,” explains Kendrigan.

“In the F&B sector there is a lot of infrastructure that could cause large-scale product losses if stopped. It could be a product mixer, a conveying system, a fridge, or an oven. Whenever there is unplanned downtime, it will affect the food that is being processed or produced and that product will be detrimentally affected.”

The team at BSC not only have the skillset but the experience to customise and deliver a solution that will meet the individual plant requirements. Harnessing the data to improve on operations is also a large part of what they offer.

“There is a definite advantage in knowing if an appliance or critical piece of equipment is looking like it might fail and being able to intervene before it becomes catastrophic – and a simplistic condition monitoring system will provide that,” says Kendrigan.

“However, the more data you have, the better your assessments will be. A solution that couples condition monitoring with condition-based assessment will provide customers with quantifiable savings in terms of mean time between failures, increased production, improved output and efficiency gains. It will also lead to process improvement.”

In the F&B sector, however, there are many variables. This is why Kendrigan says it is paramount for the BSC team to visit the plant and assess the requirements – then they will recommend an appropriate condition monitoring system.