PET Food Processing - June 2020 - 42

EQUIPMENT

"The number of ingredients and subprocesses
in a pet food facility require a great number
of different conveyor media." Pete Ensch, WEM Automation, LLC

Intelligent air
monitoring systems
provide compressed
air usage data, an
alarm when there is
a leak, and lower air
consumption when
the process is
in standby.
Festo

In fact, many of the improvements in bulk material
handling technologies and equipment are related to automating certain processes.
"With the advent of Industry 4.0, vast amounts of
data are available and collected through the control system in real time," Ensch said. "The automation can make
decisions based on preconfigured algorithms to divert
contaminated or adulterated product. The ability to do
so can reduce scrap and the cost associated with postproduction inspections."
Turner added that automating minor and micro
ingredients can help mitigate or eliminate risks associated with insufficient staffing, inaccurate batching and
accidental cross-contamination.
Careful selection of components can also help address food safety challenges.
"Many bulk material handling machine builders are
actively upgrading components with food safety in
mind," Bain said. "In particular, using stainless steel
or corrosion resistant materials and components with
NSF-H1 grease and FDA-approved polymers should all
be considerations."

Plant efficiency and product quality

Dry bulk material handling systems can have a huge impact on overall plant efficiency and product quality.
"Any time there is a transfer of material
from one material handling system to another or one process to another, there
is always the chance of lost or damaged
material," Ensch explained. "Product
that falls between processes is lost material and needs to be disposed of. It leads
to inventory variances and cost because
it usually involves labor to deal with
housekeeping and disposal services."
One way in which pet food and treat
processors can increase processing
efficiency is by implementing preventive
maintenance plans.
"Having good preventive maintenance
procedures that include maintaining your
conveyors and smooth transfers can greatly improve the plant's overall efficiency,"

42

Ensch said. "Oftentimes, material handling systems are
overlooked and not proactively addressed, leading to
unscheduled downtime."

Food safety best practices

Turner highlighted the effect of automation on plant
efficiency and the safety of the end product.
"Plants that implement minor/micro automation
experience significant reduction in costs associated with
scrap and rework of products that fell victim to typical
mistakes and oversights of manual processes," he said.
"The food is safer, the production is faster and the facility is cleaner."
Bain suggested compressed air used in pneumatic
conveying should not be overlooked.
"Pay attention to compressed air quality for densephase pneumatic conveying systems," Bain said. "If you
consider the compressed air to be an ingredient, or at
least a potential food safety hazard, then it's important
to ensure that food or food ingredients are not contaminated with unlawful indirect food additives. In addition
to the air quality, ensure any valves or control systems
are also meeting food quality requirements if these processes are deemed potential hazards. Utilizing aseptic
valve technologies such as the VZQA pinch valve can
help substantially in this effort."
Mettler Toledo, Columbus, Ohio, a supplier of product inspection equipment, manufactures Gravity Flow
(GF) metal detectors that help improve food safety.
"As product falls freely through the metal detector's
inspection zone, the unit detects metal contaminants
and the contaminated portion of the product is quickly
segregated from the main product flow and removed,"
explained Sarrina Crowley, marketing communications
manager, Mettler Toledo.
Automation also plays an important role in ensuring
food safety and product quality.
"In addition to picking the right conveyor technology
and selecting the right food grade materials, design automation and control can be a major part of best practices
around food safety," Ensch explained. "With consumers
demanding a wide variety of pet food, it is more and more
important to not inter-mix or cross contaminate materials. Automation control systems can be programmed to

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