Proactive approach is key to long, reliable freezer life

Gert Nilsson, JBT FoodTech
Tags: manufacturing

To maintain profits in an increasingly competitive market environment, food processors are striving to find ways to maximize the output of high-quality food while containing costs and maintaining high safety standards. Processors running lines from eight to 24 hours per day for five to seven days per week do not always have the flexibility to respond to unplanned downtime – and some may not easily recover from the lost production time. One bakery processor in Italy, for example, has calculated that every hour of downtime comes with a US$14,700 price tag for its operations.

Equipment failure at any part of the production line can affect yield. For example, an unreliable freezer can compromise product quality and cause product loss. The average life span of an industrial spiral freezer is about 10 years, but that number can be as low as five years or more than 20 depending on the quality of the equipment as well as the level of upkeep processors maintain.

Reliable design, then and now
Since the introduction of the Frigoscandia GYRoCOMPACT spiral freezer in 1978, JBT FoodTech has supplied more than 3,500 spiral freezers to processors globally.

Lantmännen, a Swedish company, has three GYRoCOMPACT freezers operating on its bakery product lines. All three of the freezers have experienced an above average life span and have been in operation for more than 100,000 hours. One freezer ran for 105,000 hours before needing to have its FRIGoBELT conveyor changed, while the other two freezers have continued running for more than 20 years with their original belts.

The newest version of the freezer is the Frigoscandia GYRoCOMPACT M Series spiral freezer, a highly modular design that can be configured to match the precise food product and processing needs of any operation. The freezing technology offers up to 99 percent uptime potential, a life expectancy of 20 years and a higher residual resale value.

The third-generation drive system in the GYRoCOMPACT M Series offers processors more than 30 percent greater stack load than previous models, plus belt speeds of up to 130 feet per minute (40 meters per minute). The M Series also requires up to 50 percent less lubricant, which reduces consumables cost, labor and cleaning. A 50 percent lower drive force reduces belt tension and prolongs the life of the belt.

Proper maintenance is a must
Healthy equipment life starts with quality and reliability in the original design, but it is determined by the service performed throughout the life of the equipment. Lantmännen, for example, holds service agreements with JBT FoodTech in which technicians inspect and make adjustments to equipment every six months to ensure it runs at its ideal production capacity.

Reactive, just-in-time maintenance practices, as opposed to proactive, preventive maintenance, can cause long-term equipment issues and costs, including income losses due to product jams, longer defrost-and-clean downtime and losses due to shorter freezer life cycles. These issues can result in a lower resale value and the need for an overhaul or replacement earlier than expected.

For processors with demanding production requirements – such as Bazin, a France-based bacon cube processor, and Panavi, a France-based cake processor – downtime is not an option. Bazin’s bacon processing line is running six days per week for 16 hours per day. Panavi freezes cakes 24 hours per day, seven days per week with a short stop on Sunday afternoon for cleaning. Both companies look to JBT FoodTech service technicians twice per year to guarantee production is constant.

Quality, reliable manufacturing, engineering and design in processing equipment will provide processors with a long-term return and lower cost of ownership. But regular maintenance is the essential tool that helps processors extend the life of that equipment and deliver maximum uptime and profits.

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