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Why Agitator Solutions are Important to Quality and Throughput in Cooking Operations

The type and viscosity of food product, thermal processing technology, desired texture, and cooking/processing cycle times are considered when specifying the agitator solution. Primary consideration for mixing or blending agitator solution begins with the ability for the food product to self-level. Agitator configurations also include scrapers with indirect cooking applications.

In some applications, the agitator itself may not significantly affect throughput improvement, but the overall solution does. The driving forces for throughput in batch processing is cycle times, loading, and discharging.

However, the wrong agitator solution will not mix or blend the product well. Solids need to be homogeneous and remain intact during processing operations. Further, the product must remain in a mixed state throughout the process and discharge operations.

During project discussions, Mepaco’s application team defines mixing as adding ingredients for the correct mix and consistency, while blending provides a change of the food product's properties.

The thermal processing solution is customized to the specific application. The PLC is programmed to include agitator speeds, pauses, and direction changes for the desired results. Further, the Mixer or Blender equipment will be sized for the batch volume required along with options (vacuum, cooling, searing, caramelizing) to meet the batch cycle times, quality and throughput goals for the processing solution.

Visit Mixers or Visit Cookers


Practical Equipment Strategies to Remove Foreign Contaminants from Processing Lines

Large-volume automation in the meat processing industry brings a higher risk of foreign material contamination. Foreign material can include metal shavings and shards from grinders, mixers and dicers, wood and nails from pallets, and numerous other materials like plastics and glass.

The following are equipment options and proper maintenance practices that can help mitigate foreign material risk in food handling transfer areas:

  • In areas where a tote dumper is used to transfer meat to secondary processing equipment, equipment manufacturers can offer a PRS (Pallet Retention System) that removes the pallet out of the food transfer zone.
  • A drop belt conveyor can be included in system designs that provides repositioning of the meat product during conveyance to allow for visual inspection before the product is transported to downstream equipment.
  • Magnetic grates can be integrated into food transfer areas on processing equipment.
  • The best way to limit foreign material such as nuts, bolts, and metal shavings is to have a robust preventative maintenance program on all equipment.  Machinery vibration can cause nuts and bolts to loosen over time. Wear points on machinery that are not aligned can produce loose metal.  Brittle plastics such as seal holders, conveyor guards and plastic bearings can break down into small pieces and become difficult to detect. Proper construction of the equipment that withstands high-volume and high-speed production is equally important as regular maintenance audits to make sure the equipment is in good working order to help eliminate preventable foreign contamination.

[Infographic] Why Processors like Mepaco's Dumping Equipment

Mepaco’s Meat Processors opt for dumping equipment features that provide the highest level of personnel and food safety, including:

  • Personnel guarding designed for the entire dump-zone footprint and safety relays that control the e-stop position; and optional pocket door designs that allow for safe fork truck access for loading and unloading.
  • A Pallet Retention System (PRS) that allows the combo to complete the dump cycle while separating from the pallet, limiting the potential for contamination in the food stream.
  • A liner hold-down that prevents the liner from separating from the combo and falling into the hopper.
  • An optional electropolished finish on the chute solves for sanitation efficiency and effectiveness.

Compare EP Food Contact Surfaces under 200X Magnification

Apache routinely conducts tests for customers and in-house studies on the benefits of electropolished surfaces on food contact surfaces.

Highlighted above, is a study that compares high-end finishes under 200X magnification:

  1. 304 Stainless Steel Bead Blast Finish with readings from 35 – 45 RA
  2. 304 Stainless Steel 2B + Electropolished Finish with reading from 5 – 6 RA
  3. 304 Stainless Steel 2B Finish (12-gauge material) with reading from 15 – 17 RA
  4. 304 Stainless Steel 2B Finish (10-gauge material) with reading from 20 – 30 RA

It shows the RA (Roughness average) reading in four finish examples of 304 stainless steel. In the study, the electropolished finish is more than six times smoother that the bead blasted finish.

What makes this study significant is that food processors can leverage electropolished surfaces to increase food safety performance.  Our customer’s who choose electropolished food contact surfaces tell us that food safety is significantly enhanced, and sanitation efficiencies are realized in time savings and water usage.


Maintenance Audit Discovers Repairs that Decrease Batch Time by 2 Minutes

We received a request for a maintenance audit on a high volume meat processing line that is a supplier to fast food restaurant chains.  The first round of inspection uncovered several maintenance issues:

SYMPTOM
A Pump Feeder motor kept tripping the breaker and caused constant down-time.

RECOMMENDATION/REPAIR
The gearbox bearings were bad and was causing excess loading. The gearbox was replaced which fixed the issue. Reducing down-time for that Pump Feeder.

SYMPTOM
Mixers on the processing line did not pull sufficient vacuum.

RECOMMENDATION/REPAIR
Both mixers had multiple vacuum leaks through cracked welds, worn out seals, incorrect seals and improperly installed seals The seals were replaces and the cracked welds were repaired which allowed the unit to pull required vacuum 2 minutes faster, decreasing cycle times.

SYMPTOM
Inspection uncovered possible catastrophic failure of the agitators.  

RECOMMENDATION/REPAIR
Both mixers had agitators with cracked welds. They were repaired during scheduled maintenance.

SYMPTOM
Vacuum Stuffers were underperforming.

RECOMMENDATION/REPAIR
Two stuffers in the processing line were underperforming and producing poor quality product due to lack of vacuum. Both stuffers had worn out pumps that were rebuilt and worn out seals that were replaced.  These changes gave the processor a 28% increase in throughput out of the stuffer and better-quality product without air bubbles.

The cost for the maintenance audit, including a detailed report was $2000, plus travel expenses. The result was savings in energy, down-time, batch turnaround and overall increased production. This processor in fact, contracts with Mepaco every six months for a maintenance audit to avoid unplanned delays and to make sure their line is running as efficiently as possible.

Learn more about Field Services

 

 

 


Column Dumpers - Featuring 60 degree dump angle

Processors should be able to focus on critical operations and not have to worry about auxiliary equipment. That's what Mepaco's CD1000 Column Dumper delivers; a Column Dumper that is heavily built, engineered for easy maintenance, built to strict sanitary design standards, and like our processing equipment solutions, modifiable to meet specific production requirements.

The animation features a new option in Mepaco's Column Dumper, a 60 degree dump angle for applications where every particulate must be added to the batch.

For more information, download our Column Dumper Flyer.


7 Parts to Consider for Holiday Shutdown

Holiday-Blog-Post.jpg

Here's a quick infographic and guide with 7 common parts in food processing equipment that should be in stock for year-end / holiday shut-down maintenance.

EMERGENCY

1. Motors: Extra motors can prevent unnecessary emergency shut-downs and lost production.

LONG LEAD TIME

2. Agitators: Agitators are custom fabricated to your machine specification, and require longer lead time than typical parts.

3. Cylinders: Make sure you have cylinder back-ups, which can also have  long lead times.

RECOMMENDED SPARES

4. Safety Switches: Keep extra safety switches in inventory to reduce downtime.

5. Bearings: Mepaco's recommendation for bearings is 1 or 2 back-ups. Check to see if the bearing is a common stock item; if it is not common, plan for longer lead times.

PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE

6. Shaft Seals: Plan on 2 - 3 seals per shaft, depending on usage.

7. Gaskets: Gaskets are usually sold in bulk by the foot, check your inventory to make sure you have an ample supply.

 

If you want to review your parts needs, contact Monica Planasch, Mepaco's Parts Manager, at monica.planasch@apachestainless.com.  

 

 

 


Interactive PDF Highlights Food Safety Compliance and Processes

Education-Finishes-Bakgrnd.jpg

We've developed an interactive PDF that includes industry news and best practices, paired with Mepaco's solutions and videos to help processors solve food safety challenges.

Discover:

  • USDA, FSIS and FSMA Compliance and Validation as it relates to processing equipment design and recommended construction
  • Removal of foreign contaminants using modifications to system layouts and equipment
  • Acceptable level of environmental hygiene and best practices for surface cleanability
  • Improved sanitation training and processes featuring CIP and COP equipment designs that are maintenance-friendly
  • Traceability and how equipment and controls programs help prevent food recalls

10 Food Processing Equipment Designs that Drive Safety

 

  1. Safety guarding is recommended on equipment like the dumper shown in the animation.  Relays control the e-stop position and if personnel trips the switch, the equipment will cease operation.
  2. This PRS (Pallet Retention System) shown on a DP3000 Dumper, and allows the combo to complete the dump cycle by separating from the pallet, limiting the potential for contamination.
  3. A liner hold-down prevents the liner from separating from the combo and falling into the hopper.
  4. A drop-tier conveyor can be included in system layouts to provide visual inspection of the food product.
  5. The articulating screw conveyor is designed to pivot to allow for versatile production and lower for maintenance.
  6. Custom stainless and passivated platforms provide personnel safety and easy access for sanitation.
  7. Electropolished food contact surfaces guard against bacterial attachment and create sanitation efficiencies.
  8. Tool-less quick-release seals provide quick access for maintenance and sanitation.
  9. Durable food safe coating on equipment components resists corrosion in harsh environments.
  10. Type 304 or 316 stainless construction is a best practice for equipment designs using either open-frame construction with exposed threads or tube frame designs with non-exposed threads.
That's our top 10 safety best practice call-outs for this system, learn more at www.mepaco.net. 

 

 


Tech Tip: Troubleshooting Vacuum

The effects of a vacuum leak can be subtle. The Mepaco equipment may appear to be holding a vacuum, yet a small leak, especially in the feed pump, will affect the performance of the machine.

 

Look for these symptoms:

  • Air bubbles in finished product
  • Reduced product output rate
  • Loss of vacuum in deaeration chamber

 

General Troubleshooting:

  • Make sure top cover gasket is seated firmly and the lid is coming in contact with the gasket evenly.
  • Make sure to use the original thickness gasket. Each machine is engineered for a specific lid gasket. Use of a thicker or thinner gasket can cause  uneven sealing.
  • Welding on any portion of the lid, hinges or sidewall of the unit can cause warping and create an uneven lid seal.
  • Ensure that valves are holding vacuum.
  • Ensure that vacuum hose fittings are tightly seated in their hoses. 
  • Do not use heat on fittings. Use of heat to expand the vacuum hose to remove and install fittings will eventually lead to a poor fit between the vacuum hose and vacuum fittings.
  • Make sure seal is in good condition and replace if worn. Look for excessive wear between the shaft and shaft seal. If the shaft is excessively worn, consult Mepaco Field Services for options.
  • Check to see if the fitting leaks and fix with a compound if necessary.
  • View ports not correctly closed and replace or tighten.
  • Check to see if cylinders are out of adjustment.
  • Make sure the feed pump is correctly mounted.

 

Mepaco equipment available with vacuum are Vacuum Stuffers, Thermablend Cookers and Mixer Blenders. If the cause cannot be determined, please call Field Services at 920-356-7334 for further assistance.



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