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Motors: can you have it all?

03 January 2017

Brian Bannister, motor specialist and managing director at Lafert Electric Motors, spoke to Food Processing about what specifiers should look for when choosing a motor. 

What is the most asked question from the food industry when it comes to choosing a motor? 
The most common questions are ‘How long will it last and is it hygienic?’ followed by ‘how will it benefit our company?’ In other words they want to know why they should buy or specify one of our motors rather than just accepting what their regular supplier is likely to deliver. This seems a fair request! There are many good reasons why our stainless steel motors should be chosen for certain applications. We also manufacture 3,500 standard, painted motors every day so we are by no means limited to stainless steel. It is simply a case for us of matching the product and its benefits to the application and the needs of the industry. 

The Commission Regulation 640/2009 states that from 1 January 2017, motors with a rated output of 0.75 - 375 kW shall meet the IE3 efficiency level, or meet the IE2 efficiency level and be equipped with a variable speed drive (VSD). Do you think the food processing industry in the UK is prepared for this regulation?   
No, the food industry is not prepared. But they are not alone in this, as I don't believe that many industries are up to speed with the new mandatory regulations. Some of the blame for this is, without doubt, down to motor manufacturers not educating their distribution network fully as this is often where the end user processing plants buy their equipment. If the suppliers are not fully educated the end users also can't be. Our team of internal support engineers and external motor specialists are on hand to assist with this education process wherever possible. We have been speaking to all of our customers and are confident that they have been updated with the new rules as they stand from January 2017 and if we can help support any of your readers in the same way we would be quite happy to do so. If you need advice, give us a call.
Do you think that it is a simple task for those in the food industry to meet the requirement for higher efficiency motors and the need for hygienic motors? 
Yes. For example Lafert can fully comply with the mandatory rules that are just around the corner with painted motors or even with hygienic stainless steel designs. The key is to speak to someone that understands the legislation, understands the products available and also understands the requirements and tough demands within the food processing industry. The fact that we have been supplying the Marlin range of stainless steel hygienic motors into the industry for over 10 years means that we really have knowledge and infrastructure to offer something that many others cannot. Whether you need IE2, IE3, IE4 or even an IP66 VSD to meet with the legislation then Lafert can assist or advise as required. 
Economics or hygiene?  What is the biggest driver when it comes to motor specification in food production environments… and is it possible to satisfy both? 
Economics and hygiene are both keen drivers with product selection within the industry. People want the best with the lowest cost… Don't we all? Having said that, I do believe that hygiene is less likely to be forfeited due to cost these days as every inspector, assessor and customer has a certain level of hygienic acceptance in mind and the days of being prepared to see a motor with flaking paint on a mixer directly over the product are thankfully history. Of course, the fact that there didn't used to be a solution to this issue and now there is means that processing plants cannot play the ‘well, what choice do I have’ card. To be fair, the majority don't want to… they have longed for a solution and now have one. As far as economics are concerned, we have numerous examples where people have saved many thousands of pounds per year by buying stainless motors so there is nothing more economical than that.

Do you think that the aesthetics of stainless steel motors are important to end users in the food industry? 
I think that aesthetics are important to the food processing factory customers, assessors and also to all of us as end users. They also attract a lot of initial attention when first seen by factory engineers as they are aesthetically so different to the finned painted motors that we have all been so used to seeing for the last 100+ years. The simple fact that they are smooth bodied and stainless steel means that, by comparison, the inspectors are far more likely to approve that part of the plant compared to others where they see finned motors looking worse for wear, rusty and corroded in some cases. The IP rating also assists, however, as being IP66 means that they can still be high pressure hosed with far less fear of failure, meaning that the aesthetics remain for the lifetime of the product and any deterioration is kept to a minimum. 
In your experience does the practice of ‘bagging’ motors during cleaning processes still happen today?  And why is/was the practice frowned upon? 
Hopefully this does not happen so much today, although I do know it still does, in some cases, behind closed doors, and is certainly not something that a processing plant would want to broadcast. Our solutions if used, really do negate the need for this dubious practise which principally means putting a polythene bag over the motor and drive system while the rest of the machine is hosed down. Of course, when the bag is removed the motor may get wiped down at best by hand but is certainly not getting the thorough cleaning that the rest of the machine is benefitting from and obviously needs. Clearly, a motor that has multiple cooling fins, that runs warm or even quite hot and which is then not cleaned effectively surely must be a hygienic hazard? ‘Ban the bagging’ should be a tag line adopted by the assessors and inspectors in my opinion, particularly now that there are far more hygienic and practical alternative solutions available, which really does make the practice completely unnecessary.

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