No part of a food plant takes more punishment and abuse than its floor. Fortunately, most plant managers understand this and devote sizable dollars to its maintenance, upgrade and sanitation treatments annually.
Stonhard recommends a smooth, flat surface, but with some texture to provide secure footing even when the surface is wet or slick with matter
What some may be overlooking, however, are the advances in flooring and floor-cleaning technology that make maintenance and sanitation easier and more effective than ever before. The science of floor hygiene seems to advance every year.
Addressing the strict hygiene standards required by food regulatory agencies, including the FDA and USDA, make food plant floors a constant cause of concern. Most food plants are subjected to radical temperature fluctuation, human and machine traffic, food and chemical abuse and the punishment of heavy equipment installation and use. Dangerous pathogens find floors the best places to hide.
One important issue floor coatings manufacturers have been addressing diligently is VOCs -- volatile organic compounds. "Our Dura-Top product, sold under our Krylon industrial brand, is a 100 percent solids epoxy, and its VOC content is zero," says Sharon Sammon, product manager at the Sherwin-Williams (www.sherwin.com), coatings division, Cleveland. "It can be used anywhere in the country, no matter what restrictions are in place. More than 50 percent of our sales are going to food processing facilities."
Concrete is porous, and its pores are potential harbors for bacteria. Constant pressure from traffic, machinery and, even more significantly, heat, cold, water and water pressure can deepen and multiply those pores. "A lot of things in food are rough on surfaces, too," says Sammon. "Even the composition of food can be corrosive."
Strength and uniformity of finish are fundamental to maintaining a hygienic floor. "Our 100-percent solids 8200 Overkote HD line is a set of monolithic resin-rich coatings unique to Rust-Oleum," says Chari Droessler, product manager of industrial flooring for Rust-Oleum Industrial Brands (wwwrust-oleum.com), Vernon Hills, Ill. (The Overkote HDV line is designed for vertical applications.)
The product has twice the resin content of competitors' products and provides a stronger bond, she claims. "It's more juice than sand, more binding material," she explains. The product also offers exceptional resistance to chemicals, foods and acids common to the plant environment." It's recommended primarily for plants in which temperatures can be maintained generally above 65°F.
Urethane concrete, she says, tolerates the thermal shock of cold floors subjected to hot water cleaning more effectively. "You need flooring systems that are easy to clean and will withstand your cleaning method," adds Droessler.
She also notes plant flooring demands will vary with the segment of the industry served and even the section of the plant. She recommends specific epoxies for different conditions or resistance to different types of chemicals. For an environment where electrical equipment can be adversely impacted by static electricity - such as where robots or heavily automated equipment are in use -- she might recommend her company's ESD coating. Overkote is the preferred choice for meat and dairy plants to protect against the creation of fissures in which organic materials might build up.
Rust-Oleum also carries patch and repair products for rapid turnaround and a Sierra line with zero VOC and zero HAP (hazardous air pollutant) content. "These are ‘green,' environmentally friendly products," she says.
Although all Rust-Oleum products are designed to reduce the required preparation time, application time and production downtime, Droessler stresses proper surface preparation is critical before installing a new floor or finish.
An anti-microbial floor was a key concern when Olympia Food Industries renovated an old factory building into a food processing facility.
Andre and Kostas Papantoniou knew their company would need to invest millions if they were going to get the specialty products plant they needed for their food operation. And they did, spending nearly $20 million in an old factory building in Chicago Heights, Ill. At 60,000 sq. ft., it would soon become the world's largest pita bread manufacturing facility, making pita, flatbread and cheese-filled breadsticks.
While Olympia Food Industries would invest some $15 million in state-of-the-art equipment, roughly 25 percent of its overall investment -- more than $4.5 million -- went into upgrades and construction. But no part of that investment was as important to the project as its flooring, which proved to be a major challenge given the state of the factory. That flooring proved to be a success in more ways than one.
"We turned that old factory building into a really nice food processing facility," says Jeff Fleming, technical sales representative for Valspar Flooring, Wheeling, Ill. "They needed a floor with thermal shock resistance, but they also wanted coatability and an anti-microbial addition."