Extreme Makeovers for Processing Plants

Need to give your plant a facelift? Start with materials and designs that spell safety, cleanliness and a spankin’ new look.

By Mike Pehanich, Plant Operations Editor

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Many are moving toward materials, principles and standards of pharmaceutical or laboratory hygiene or extending “clean room” conditions as broadly as is practical in the plant environment.

Share your knowledge and experience with quality, food safety and hygienic principles – those that you apply in the lab – with plant personnel to help extend that shield of safety over your entire plant.

One such product from Degussa Building Products is marketed under the name “Degadur” in the U.S. It was developed in Europe, where it is still sold as “Silikal.” Degussa purchased Silikal in 1998. The unit operates today as SRS Flooring.

“It’s a material that will expand and contract with the concrete,” says Gunst, noting its use in meat plants, bakeries, fish processing plants, dairies and beverage plants in Europe. “You see fish processing plants in Europe that have had the flooring for 20 years. Next to a floor that’s one or two years old, you couldn’t tell the difference. It’s one of those products that, for some reason, has been slow to come to the states.”

Creating a clean room

The same food safety logic that applies to flooring can be applied to nearly all materials used in the creation of a processing facility. Food and sanitation materials may cause corrosion in surfaces all over a plant – walls, ceilings, work surfaces, pieces of machinery – and this corrosion creates homes for microbes, weakens materials and makes cleaning difficult.

As a result, the concept of creating a “clean room-like” environment is getting a lot of attention across the food sector, notes Mike Steur, director of marketing at Hixson Architects/Engineers, Cincinnati. “Processors are seeking materials that match up to the environment.”

Hixson suggests to clients that they study standards for food contact surfaces for material selection within their plant. The 3-A Sanitary Standards and Accepted Practices provide good guidelines. They recommend, for example, 150-grit stainless steel for food contact surfaces due to its easy-to-clean and corrosion-resistant characteristics.

“Materials in food processing spaces should be corrosion-resistant, nonabsorbent, inert, easily cleanable and non-toxic,” says Scott McGlamery, Hixson engineer. He refers to specific guidelines compiled by his firm for materials used in the presence of different foods, chemicals and processes employed in the food plant environment. For example, PVC resists a wide range of chemicals extremely well, but it is a lot less durable than other materials and may not stand up as well to the heat encountered in the process.

Products addressing corrosion challenges are getting more play in plant upgrades. Rust-Oleum offers its Sierra Performance Coatings, a line of steel coating materials. “It is 100 percent safe and has zero voluble organic compounds and no hazardous air pollutants,” says Cross. “We also have an epoxy that goes straight over rusted metal. You don’t have to sand or prep the surface.”

Other small renovation touches can make for a more pleasant and productive plant environment.

“We go into older plants with a lot of ceiling penetration, disconnect the piping and put in a new ceiling layer, often an insulated metal panel ceiling,” says Shambaugh’s Opperman. “With the new piping coming through, you have a nice, white, better-illuminated plant. It makes the plant clean, with no history of holes.”

He also touts the benefits of insulated metal panels, which hold up well in wet areas. “These are 20- to 30-year products. You can get them in stainless steel and with chemical-resistant coatings.”

For energy efficiency and better illumination, he recommends high-efficiency fluorescent lamps. “You get more lighting out of a smaller unit.”

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