The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) puts some pretty strict regulations on how food can be processed. Many of the key regulations that the FDA enforces are related to the sanitation of food processing equipment. For example, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requires food production facilities to “have and implement a written food safety plan that includes… procedures, practices, and processes to ensure that the facility is maintained in a sanitary condition to minimize or prevent hazards such as environmental pathogens, hazards from employees handling food, and food allergen hazards.”
While broadly-worded, this part of the FSMA is designed to get food manufacturers to take any and all reasonable measures to minimize the risk of cross-contamination of food products or of microscopic health hazards. However, this does place an extraordinary amount of pressure on food manufacturers to ensure that their food processing equipment is as sanitary as possible—something that requires a comprehensive (and well-documented) parts washing process.
Recently, a major food manufacturer approached Marlin Steel for a custom stainless steel wire basket and sheet metal basket racks to help them clean corn chip dust and other food debris from their funnels and processing equipment in between uses.
Designing a Better Food Equipment Washing Basket
For this particular equipment washing process, Marlin’s engineers were charged with creating a complete parts washing solution that included not just baskets, but stainless steel carts to hold the baskets as well.
The washing process would be done in a large, open area with the baskets still in the carts. So, the carts (and baskets) needed to be accessible from all sides. Additionally, the contents of the baskets, once washed, would need to be kept free of any dust, dirt, or other debris particles in the air.
Another major requirement was that any held parts would have to be able to dry off quickly—leftover water could damage the dry food product and ruin its quality.
To address the challenge of making the carts open and accessible for the wash process, but still able to protect held food processing equipment from exposure to dust and dirt, Marlin’s engineers settled on a cart design that incorporated a removable curtain which the client’s employees could attach or detach as needed. To keep each curtain secure to the cart, small hooks were added to the top of the cart. This would allow the client’s parts washing team to remove the curtain with ease just before washing the contents, while also making it simple to reattach the curtain afterwards.
By adding a removable curtain to the design, the client was able to control the amount of air flow in the cart (and the baskets) at any given time. Each of the baskets was designed to maximize open space as well. This virtually eliminated the risk of water from the aqueous washing process pooling on the baskets, as each basket was made entirely out of narrow, rounded wires with several inches between them.
To ensure that the carts and baskets could withstand the client’s wash process, they were made from grade 304 stainless steel. This material possesses a superior resistance to oxidation from exposure to water compared to plain steel, and provides the optimal balance between long-term performance and cost during finite element analysis testing.
To maximize throughput for the client, each stainless steel food processing equipment rack was designed to hold up to 16 baskets—and each basket could hold eight of their large funnels at a time. This let the client wash 128 large pieces of food processing equipment simultaneously.
Delivering Quality, Engineered Quick®
For this client, time was of the essence. They needed their new food equipment washing baskets as soon as possible—in addition to needing those baskets to meet strict FDA sanitation standards.
To maximize the speed of the delivery, Marlin’s production team used several pieces of manufacturing automation to assemble each basket and rack assembly, including:
- CNC Press Brakes and Punches. To help bend sheet metal components into the right shape for fast assembly.
- Wire Bending Robots. To pull wire straight from the spool, bend it into shape, and cut it at the exact right length.
- Robotic Welding Machines. To ensure that no welds were missed, and to minimize the risk of weld spatter.
- Sanding Machines. To finish each basket and cart while removing any sharps or burrs that may have occurred.
Using these tireless machines, Marlin’s production team could rapidly assemble all of the custom parts washing baskets and steel racks the client needed—all while ensuring each and every last one would hold to a consistent set of parts tolerances. In fact, Marlin Steel was able to take the carts and baskets from initial design request/concept to a finished product ready for shipment in under two weeks thanks to heavy investments in factory automation and virtual physics simulation software.
Need a custom food processing equipment washing solution? Or, just want to learn more about how Marlin Steel delivers Quality, Engineered Quick®? Then contact us as soon as possible, or download our seafood processing baskets guide at the link below: