Why machinery maintenance is a priority for the food industry

Prevention is cheaper than the cure is a phrase that could be applied to most industries and issues – and none more so than the food industry and machinery maintenance.

Machinery maintenance plays a key preventative role for food manufacturers that saves time, money, and a lot of unnecessary stress that comes with breakdowns and equipment not delivering at optimal performance.

Waiting until a piece of machinery is run into the ground, or for it to break before addressing any issues is reactive and costly. Not only will teams and processes be interrupted by unexpected downtime, but it can also put workers and consumers at risk.

Health and safety in the food industry is non-negotiable with product safety a high priority. Food manufacturers have to be absolutely certain that everything they produce is completely unspoiled and free of harmful contaminants.

Keeping production line equipment in good condition helps prevent contamination while making sure the produce is properly prepared for consumption.

Whenever equipment breaks down in a food manufacturing facility, it puts the product itself at risk. The longer food is left to sit out, the higher the chances they will have to be discarded, due to spoils. For products that have strict temperature control requirements, the likelihood of food going bad increases. In a facility that produces thousands of pounds of product every day, that can result in massive losses in addition to the reduced production time.

There are many strict regulations that manufacturers in the food industry must comply with and failing to comply with those standards can result in hefty fines, as well as damage to reputation. Quality control, therefore, goes hand in hand with any machinery maintenance planned works.

Challenges around machinery maintenance

The machines used in continuous food manufacturing processes are often highly complex, and require specialized training or expertise to diagnose problems. Having a team or identified personnel who are familiar with the machinery, and regularly reviewing and maintaining the equipment, again will ensure production is kept in check.

The difficulty of maintaining food production equipment can be identifying appropriate downtime, with many machines are involved in a continuous process. As more machines are added to a production line, the higher the odds of a breakdown, thus causing the whole line to halt.

This is where careful maintenance planning and procedures are crucial.  Routine maintenance often needs to be planned for times when the equipment is not running, so that foodstuffs aren’t left to spoil. Additionally, maintenance processes shouldn’t put the product at risk for contamination.

Tips / best practice

  • Maintenance personnel should be trained on current best practices when it comes to food safety, occupational safety, and quality control.
  • Sanitation is vital to food manufacturing, and that means your maintenance team needs to make sure they keep up on regular washing and hygiene. With Covid-19 a fundamental consideration for all work environments, regular health questionnaires and testing can form part of an ongoing health and safety measure.
  • Scheduled maintenance that aligns with downtime or amended processes to limit exposure and any health and safety risks for produce.

Advantages of preventative maintenance

In summary, the primary benefits of having a preventative machinery maintenance approach for your food manufacturing business include:

  • Operational efficiency: A well-maintained machine is a top-performing machine.
  • Functional performance: In addition to operating faster and with fewer interruptions, the quality and consistency of the food you produce will also improve, such as more consistent cooking times and temperatures.
  • Food safety: Better-maintained equipment also means higher safety standards for the food it processes.
  • Documentation and traceability: Adhering to a maintenance schedule helps you keep better tabs on the performance of your facility, aiding in root cause analysis should something go wrong, and giving you proof of maintenance in the event of a third-party audit.
  • Reduce repair costs: Maintaining your equipment on a fixed schedule can help you make the most of your equipment investments.

Here at FESS Group, our specialist team of skilled welders, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and designers work on large- and small-scale machinery projects for food producers across the country.

We offer repairs, refurbishments, installations, and decommissions of machinery ready for inspection and review and provide machinery maintenance contracts for a wide variety of food manufacturers across the country.

With 24/7 emergency engineers available, you can rely on a professional, skilled service team to maintain your machinery to a certified, compliant standard.

Get in touch if we can help or advise your food manufacturing business.

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