The adequate lubrication of machines and equipment used in the food and beverage industries can considerably help companies to achieve positive results in terms of productivity as it is fundamental to ensuring operational efficiency and high performance of production.
The selection of the non-toxic special lubricant, known as “food-grade”, and its correct application require technical knowledge in order to prevent machines from breaking down or unnecessary shutdowns of production lines for maintenance purposes, to avoid any damage to the industries in this sector. In this context, it is worth emphasizing that many of the parts that can be damaged by inadequate lubrication may not be available in the companies' warehouses, causing long delays in production and a high replacement cost.
One of the possibilities of improvement is the use of automatic lubricants, which contributes to equipment reliability and in addition to an increase in labor availability, reduced health risks for workers (risk of falls, places which are not easily accessible) and reduced food contamination risks.
Considering a highly competitive situation such as that of the food and beverage industries, the use of automatic lubrication devices with special lubricants and the technical knowledge applied in this process help meet many of the sector's needs and demands.
Among the positive factors of automatic food-grade lubricating systems, the following are of great emphasis:
- Increased food safety by means of application of non-toxic lubricants;
- Reduced risks for the industry workers;
- Reduced overconsumption of lubricants and, consequently, reduced costs;
- Reduced risk of external contaminations of lubricants;
- Increased labor availability;
- Reduced risk of breakage of machine elements;
- Reduced quantity of accessories to perform the lubrication;
- Easy storage;
- Adjustable for long periods;
- Easy handling.
Industry safety with high technology
In addition to the high performance, the “food grade” lubricants should meet the requirements for quality and safety of the product deriving from HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points). This requirement is necessary due to the risk of contamination, and it also helps to improve site hygiene.
To further enhance food safety and reduce the overconsumption of lubricants at the lube point , the use of automatic lubrication devices is is an excellent alternative for industries. Dosage is adjusted as required by the lube point concerned and according to the lubricant characteristics for periods which could last up to one year. Another positive aspect is the elimination of the contamination risk in the form of lubricant mixes at the point of application and in the equipment, further increasing food safety in production.
It is worth mentioning that automatic lubrication devices set for periods of up to one year, also improve the workers’ safety by reducing their exposure to unhealthy conditions, such as height and places which are not easily accessible.
In production lines that use these devices, workers will just replace the cartridge instead of using a lot of equipment to perform the lubrication, which means they are less exposed to risks; not to mention the gain generated with regard to availability of labor when eliminating the time that was formerly required for performing the lubrication.
Another benefit of automatic lubricants is the reduction or even the total elimination of the risk of cross-contamination of the food-grade lubricant with non-compatible materials, humidity or even other types of lubricants. This is due to the fact that it is not an open system, but one where the lubricant is constantly renewed in a continuous process. This further reduces the risk to food safety or of product alteration and damage that could generate problems in the equipment performance. It also helps keeping the temperature stable, which is a good indication that the lubrication is adequate.
Automatic lubrication: technology combined with technical knowledge
Currently, there is a good number of automatic lubricants available in the market. However, it is essential to have the support of an expert to understand the entire process and to recommend the proper lubricants, which should be selected to match the specific application and be used continuously, since, in addition to high performance, food safety is an essential requirement.
Thus, it shall not suffice to invest in the acquisition and application of a food grade lubricant. It is equally important to rely on the support of experts on the issue in order to optimize the investment, assuring food safety and the safety of the personnel involved in the production and obtaining productivity gains due to the increased operational efficiency of the equipment and reduced cost.
(*) Diego Bratkoski is a chemical engineer and works as a Food Market Advisor at Klüber Lubrication South America.