Ask The Expert – In this interview, Toby Porter looks at how today’s food-grade (NSF H1) lubricants are fitting into food-processing applications.
Q: Lubricants used in food-processing equipment are subject to stringent requirements. What do you bring to the table to assist manufacturers and operators with compliance and best practices?
A: There are so many changes occurring in food, beverage and pharmaceutical markets. As a leader in lubricants servicing these areas, we assist manufacturers and operators in handling various process and equipment challenges. For OEMs, we ensure that each application point on their machinery, which ultimately ends up in the food plant, delivers the highest performance possible while using a food-grade (NSF H1) lubricant. For operators, we work on site to confirm each solution handles the specific tribological environment they are operating in.
Q: Then application support by the lubricant manufacturer is critical?
A: Yes. There’s too much at stake for a lubricant manufacturer to make quick recommendations then back away. What sets us apart is individualized and on-site support from our local engineers. A long-term partnership ensures continued machinery reliability. It also gives us deep insight into customer needs. For example, our unique lubricant formulations are designed for specific environments. While we do have some basic food-grade greases and oils, we look to design and recommend the lubricant that will provide the highest level of performance given the tribological environment.
Q: What lubricant issues are most important in the food-processing industry today — and how do they affect lubricant selection?
A: Safety and uptime are important issues. Through recent advances in technology, a food-grade (NSF H1) lubricant can now be formulated even for applications that in the past may have demanded a more conventional lubricant. Also when selecting lubricants, a food producer needs to keep in mind that even beyond NSF H1, there is an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard which certifies that not just the formulation, but also the production process for a lubricant is deemed hygienic. This standard is ISO 21469 — and it applies to the lubricant manufacturer and facility.
Q: What steps have you taken to ensure reliability and performance?
A: With our emphasis on food safety, we have achieved the ISO 21469 certification for lubricants and maintain more than 200 NSF H1 registrations, which demonstrate our commitment to the food and beverage industries. We manufacture our specialty lubricants in 14 production facilities around the globe — and specific to the food industry, five of these sites are certified and listed as ISO 21469.
Q: What types of lubricant products meet the specific needs of food producers?
High-performance, industry-leading oils and greases are commonly used on such applications as bearings, chains, gearboxes, hydraulics and compressors. We also cover often overlooked areas including release agents, and even cleaners and degreasers. Unique solutions are available for applications in difficult tribological environments, where common general purpose lubricants may fail. These stressing environmental factors include temperature, speed, load and contamination. Covering these varying factors with a food-safe formulation is what food producers are often looking for with lubricants in their operations.
Q: Are conventional and synthetic lubricants both applicable?
A: White oil-based lubricants — which some would consider conventional — can be combined with certain additives and/or high-performing thickeners to make a unique formulation and attain high levels of performance in an application. These specialty lubricants can achieve longer lubricant change intervals, extend equipment life and provide reasonable levels of efficiency. However, we typically work to provide the highest performance possible in an application and in most cases, this leads to the use of synthetic formulations to get the most out of each of these areas.
Of course, higher performance often involves higher expense, which is typically justifiable in most cases. While a conventional lubricant typically costs less, often the result is a drop in performance and potential for higher component and maintenance costs.
Q: What trends are on the horizon for lubricants in the food plant?
A: The trend is to utilize all food-grade (NSF H1) lubricants throughout the manufacturing facility to increase food safety and reduce risks. My view on this is that advances in the industry are making it possible to cover even challenging applications or uses with a food-grade formulation. This is something we will continue to encourage to help increase food safety. Moreover, we promote our ISO 21469 certification, which means that even beyond the formulation, by making our lubricants in a hygienic process, we give customers ultimate assurance of reliability and safety.
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