Hygienic designs of packaging machines can go far in protecting food and other companies from costly recalls by helping to prevent product contamination from the get-go.
Pres Lawhon, president, Bosch Packaging Technology, talks exclusively to Packaging Digest about trends in the packaging machinery market.
Q: How do you make a machine or an operation more hygienic?
A: Plants are cleaning more often and more aggressively. So you have to use a material that won't rust, such as stainless steel. You've got to have sealed bearings. Ideally, the customer would like to be able to use a high-pressure sprayer and spray the machine off from top to bottom. It's not really possible to do that all the way, but you try to make it so as much as you can.
When it comes to hygienic operations, we're seeing a push for more automation so humans aren't involved. People carry bacteria that, transferred through touch, could contaminate the food or other product. So the more robotics you can put in, or the more product distribution systems you put in, and take away hand loading and those types of things, the better.
Because people are so focused on cleaning, the speed at which we can enable that to take place-with tool-less belt removal, for example-is becoming more important, too.
Q: From a hygienic point of view, how important is clear guarding in machinery design?
A: It's getting to be more important. You can't clean it if you can't see it. To be able to see the actual machine helps a lot in the cleaning process. And then, of course, the more open design you have it, the less surface areas you have for product to collect and bacteria to grow.
Q: Bosch is an international company. What washdown standards do your customers prefer, NEMA or IP, or does it not matter?
A: We rate our machines for both IP and NEMA. Most of our product line is a standardized global product. To a large degree, customers can buy the same machine here in the U.S. that they can buy in Europe or in Asia. There could be control differences. But, in general, the machine is the same and meets all the qualifications for the standards of that region.
Q: Any other major trends facing packaging machinery manufacturers?
A: More customers want to buy a machine along with integration or with project management. It's not just buying a single piece as it used to be. They want a total solution. It has been that way for about four or five years and it hasn't slowed down.
Also, designs have to be flexible. Quick changeovers are still important. And there's more push to be energy and environmentally conscious. So, from our standpoint, we look at energy savings in our designs. Lighter weight overall helps in that regard. The types of motors used are important, too.