Plant Operations Experts Answer Your Plant-Floor Questions

Sept. 30, 2008
We’ve assembled a panel of plant operations experts to answer any question you have on plant-floor issues.

What is the best way that you have seen to control moisture in electronic devices?

Electronic devices use desiccants to help seal in dryness. Desiccants can take on many forms, from tablets to paste to inert gas. They come in many sizes, and their cost directly reflects their application. Since the job of a desiccant is to adsorb moisture, it can over time reach a point of saturation. Once this saturation level is reached the desiccant should be replaced.

Since many food processes operate in high humidity environments, it is not uncommon to find electronic devices enclosed in their own environmentally controlled containers. Usually, each of these containers maintains some type of desiccant barrier for the protection of the electronic device. While these containers can extend the time required to reach the point of saturation, they usually do not eliminate reaching this condition.

Today, control rooms have been employed to provide another level of temperature and humidity control for the wide variety of control equipment being used. These rooms have their own continuously operating support equipment to maintain the proper level of temperature and humidity control. They provide an important level of centrally controlled environmental protection for today’s increasingly automated food processing equipment. They may not be as prevalent in the food industry as in some others, but they probably provide the best protection for sensitive electronic devices.

As a small regional food manufacturer, we are trying to develop a waste reduction program. What advice would you provide on how to get started?

One of the best places to start is focusing on in-plant reduction programs. Focusing on where you are creating waste is probably the best way to demonstrate to your employees your commitment to this program while developing the educational programs that can improve your overall operation.

In-plant reduction programs concentrate on how waste is generated. Studies have shown that the two main improvement areas involve more frequent preventive maintenance and improving employee work methods related to how they recover from line stops. With improved uptime and a stronger level of employee awareness of how they impact the creation of waste, you will have the foundation to work as a team to develop a source reduction program. This level of activity will focus on improving your raw, pack and finished goods material delivery and processing methods to further reduce your waste creation.

We’ve heard a lot about more fresh food product recalls lately. What are the core issues?

As health conscious consumers try to improve their diet by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, their demand exceeds the ability of local suppliers to provide local products. This daily demand for fresh produce in turn places a strain on a global supply chain that currently lacks consistent practices for sanitation. Add to that problem, the issues of stronger bacterial strains appearing around the world and you understand the major issues with fresh food delivery.

While food processor have always maintained employee training programs to address the in-plant issues of hygiene and sanitation, we as consumers need to be more aware of how we handle fresh products. Today we live in a far more casual world. Our behavior and attitude reflects a lack of understanding of how our hygiene impacts what we eat and how we eat it.

Remember, that piece of produce you’ve bought probably has not been grown locally. And it has already been handled by someone else, probably numerous people, maybe in locations all over the globe. In many cases it has traveled a long way to get to your store and it has passed through several transfer stations.

So, think of that fresh produce you’ve just brought home from the store as a raw material, like any ingredient in your processing plant. You as the consumer have a responsibility for the final processing steps of this type of food. Make sure you wash and clean these products before you eat them. Fresh is good, however in today’s world, fresh does not mean ready to eat.