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Looking beyond the purchase price

20 May 2016

Selecting products for use in mixing and blending operations in the food and beverage sector should never be based on cost alone. 

Blending and mixing machines employed in the food processing industry are predominately manufactured in stainless steel for obvious hygiene reasons. Strangely, however, the motors used to drive them are typically conventional painted motors with cooling fins.

Stainless steel machinery driven by conventional motors would appear to be a contradiction when the objective is to achieve maximum hygienic conditions. Painted motors present the risk of potential paint flaking and possible build-up of contaminants in the often difficult to clean recesses between the fins.

Food processing equipment is frequently washed down with high-pressure hoses and corrosive cleaning fluids are often employed. High pressure washdowns pose a risk of damaging the motor through moisture ingress while corrosive cleaning fluids will, progressively, impair paint finishes. In addition, residual moisture serves to exacerbate the chances of rusting and subsequent paint flaking presenting the potential problem of contamination. This is particularly a concern with mixers where the motors are installed vertically, shaft down above the mixing vessel.

In an attempt to minimise such issues, many companies take the step of shrouding their motors to guard against contamination. However, this has been shown to be only partially successful. Also, in some instances the practice of ‘bagging‘ (temporarily covering motors with plastic bags during hose down cleaning) is employed. While this guards the motor from water jets it means that the motor is not being cleaned properly, which poses a serious hygiene risk.

Stainless steel motors have been available for some time and do offer an effective means of avoiding all the above mentioned issues. They also help to improve the all-over aesthetic appearance of machinery which has become so important for customer visits.

Typically, smooth bodied and IP66 rated, they are easy to clean and can be safely high-pressure hosed down. They do not have cooling fins and terminal boxes are designed not to entrap potential contaminants.

The drawback to adoption of stainless-steel motors is usually down to the initial purchase price. This can be a mistake. Companies who have installed them are seeing some significant downtime reductions due to reduce incidences of motor failure. One leading cereal manufacturer has stated that it has saved £4,250 on maintenance engineering costs alone in just one year since fitting two Lafert ‘Marlin’ motors. These cost savings do not include the increased throughput benefits that have resulted from the reduced downtimes!

The Marlin range of motors feature a proven design for use in clean-in-place environments. All external components, including motor shafts, are produced from stainless steel and the motor does not have cooling fins. The range is said to exceed IP66 requirements.

There are multiple benefits to be obtained by switching to stainless steel motors for use in food production environments, such as improved hygiene, easier cleaning, reduced downtime and increased production. So, it is important to focus on the lifetime benefits of the solution and not just the initial cost.

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