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Importance of Predictive Maintenance in Food Processing Industry
Process automation, digitalization, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and predictive maintenance have emerged as some of the latest buzzwords in the manufacturing world. However, some of the industrial sectors have been somewhat conservative in terms of accepting these advances. Compared to industries such as aerospace and automotive, the food and beverage manufacturing sector has always lagged behind in adopting the latest digital trends. It is often said that food processing plants encounter highly specific manufacturing and maintenance tasks related to their safety and hygienic standards. As a result, the plant managers find it difficult to adopt new solutions, particularly if there are no issues with the established practices.
Cost is another constraint that has been responsible for the reluctance of the food processing industry towards implementing predictive maintenance techniques. However, with declining prices of condition-monitoring tools such as ultrasonic probes, infrared thermometers, and monitors, the preferences of the industry are beginning to change.
Before discussing the role of predictive maintenance in food processing, let us discuss what predictive maintenance is.
What is Predictive Maintenance?
Predictive maintenance may be defined as a maintenance methodology that monitors the condition and performance of equipment during usual operation with the objective of minimising the probability of failures. Based on certain factors, it forecasts the likelihood of equipment failure and prevents those failures by regular implementation of corrective maintenance.
The entire idea of predictive maintenance revolves around condition monitoring, a maintenance practice that involves continuous monitoring of machines to ensure their optimal utilisation. Proper implementation and execution of preventive maintenance can be the cornerstone of any robust and efficient maintenance program.
Predictive Maintenance V/S Preventive Maintenance:
- Unlike predictive maintenance, preventive maintenance involves inspection and maintenance regardless of the equipment’s maintenance needs. This schedule is generally based on a time trigger or usage.
- Condition monitoring is an integral part of predictive maintenance, but not for preventive maintenance.
- Preventive maintenance is carried out based on an asset’s average life cycle. On the other hand, predictive maintenance is performed on the basis of predetermined and preset conditions of specific equipment.
- Compared to preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance requires more investments in equipment, training, and people.
Predictive Maintenance Tools for Food Processing:
As already mentioned, a predictive maintenance routine is built around certain condition-monitoring tools. Sensors are used to generate regular data on the health of an asset and detect deviations. Based on these data, maintenance specialists can forecast when equipment failure may take place. Some of the common techniques include thermal imaging, oil analysis, and vibration analysis.
Once a successful predictive maintenance strategy is successfully implemented, regular maintenance activity is required only at the lowest possible frequency. This results in significant cost savings by minimising the loss of production hours.
Lets us now discuss different predictive maintenance technologies that can make a significant impact on any food processing unit.
Infrared (IR) thermography makes use of IR cameras to detect high temperatures or hotspots in equipment. In the thermal image, the heat emitted by the worn components is displayed as hotspots. Infrared inspections can help avoid costly repairs and downtime by identifying the hotspots.
This technology helps detect liquid, gas or vacuum leaks in equipment on an ultrasonic or sonic level. In this predictive maintenance technique, sounds in the 20 to 100 kilohertz range are converted into signals that can be seen or heard by the technicians. These are the exact frequencies generated by leaky valves, faulty electrical equipment, underlubricated bearings, etc.
Used mostly for high-speed rotating equipment, this technology allows monitoring the vibrations of a machine using real-time sensors or a handheld analyser. All machines exhibit a particular vibration pattern while operating in peak condition. A different vibration pattern, however, is displayed when the components begin to wear. Trained technicians can determine the concern areas by comparing the readings.
This useful tool is used to check the oil condition and find out whether any contaminants or other particles are present. Oil analysis reveals the particle counts, presence of metals or water, viscosity, and the base number or acid number.
Predictive Maintenance Benefits for Food Industry:
Food processing industries can benefit from predictive maintenance in terms of both functional performance as well as operational efficiency. The former is about sustaining a product quality that is consistent. On the other hand, the later involves keeping the assets operational and well maintained.
In spite of the high initial investment, long-term predictive maintenance in food processing promises to be a cost-efficient strategy as significantly reduces the spare parts and maintenance parts expenses while increasing the production hours. Equipment located in critical work environments can be prioritized and observed more frequently. It will also save maintenance cost and time because the machines will be maintained only when required.
In combination with the latest CMMS technology, preventive maintenance can help maximise equipment uptime and improve the response time to failures and breakdowns. This, in turn, can help the units comply with the stringent safety and health related regulations. Use of reliable maintenance software powered by the latest digital trends can be critical to food processing plant operations because it guarantees efficient and responsive equipment performance.
If you are a food processing plant manager looking to improve the efficiency of your unit, please get in touch with us immediately. At Lumix, we provide a wide range of high-quality services that have been tailored for the food and meat processing industry.