In industrial processing facilities, corrosion is the single biggest cause of plant and equipment breakdown. Chemicals can be the origin of such corrosion issues, especially if titrated incorrectly. Curtain University estimated corrosion to cost the Australian economy a staggering $30 billion per annum. Stainless steel is regarded as the best anti-corrosive solution for industrial use, which is why it is commonly used for machinery in the food & beverage industry. Stainless steel eliminates the need for harsh cleaning chemicals and decreases the instances of leaks, rust and corrosion.
It is important to remember stainless steel is classified as a soft metal and using a chemical titration to strong will eat away at the mental, rubber and the grease critical for bearings function will be dissolved which will inevitably lead to machinery failure. Perhaps more critically though is the use of aluminium in many systems nowadays. Aluminium is a very lightweight metal with a strong set of favourable characteristics which make it great to use for many parts in machinery. Whilst rust-resistant, aluminium is a very soft metal and is susceptible to corrosion from acidic chemicals.
COVID-19 has been challenging for industry, presenting many new challenges, restrictions and requirements for food & beverage producers. But amongst the pandemic, there is a little known epidemic – the corrosion of expensive machinery in food plants.
What does COVID-19 have to do with corrosion?
The pressure of coronavirus has caused many cleaning companies to unnecessarily increase the titrations of chemical. Which, is destroying the integrity of protective coatings resulting in exposed aluminium & stainless steel surfaces to corrode. Two main rationales exist for increasing chemical titrations:
1. Increasing the titrations will more effectively kill COVID-19. Ironically it more effectively kills your facility.
2. Businesses have been squeezed so in an attempt to cut corners by reducing hours, chemical titrations are being unsafely bumped up.
Both are incorrect and unprofessional. The maximum titrations to kill COVID-19 for various different chemical compounds (even down to the brands) can be found here as recommended by the centre of disease control. Use the recommended concentration and save your facility from the expensive pains later down the line.
Some’s Good, More’s Better?
This old-school saying would be a definite red flag for auditors. Always stay within concentration ranges specified on the chemical label for the product and how it’s being used. Lower concentrations may not effectively sanitize the food production area, while higher concentrations would be wasteful and costly.
The only way to know for sure that you are using correct chemical concentrations is through titrations to verify products have been mixed with the proper amount of water. Titration data is one of the key metrics that inspectors will look for during an audit of your chemicals.
Real-time titrations are recommended. Here’s why: If you mix and use a chemical product on a Monday and don’t run titration tests until Wednesday, you may have spent two days using the wrong concentration. That could jeopardize food safety as well as raise issues at inspection time. (Source: foodqualityandsafety.com)
Using ‘more’ chemical is a surefire way to destroy a robotic system, automated machinery and basic machinery. Once the grease is dissolved or enough of it cleaned from moving parts critical failure is imminent. As if the cost of breaking expensive equipment isn’t enough of a hit, unfortunately, you don’t get to choose when the machinery fails… so you could lose hours, days or even weeks of production capacity.
Additionally, it is important to note whilst increasing the chemical concentrations might keep the bacteria under control in the short term it will unavoidably cause an increase of bacteria over the long term. Mostly caused by the microscopic (and/or visible) scratches & troughs that allows for the easy formation of biofilms – the corrosive damage is responsible for producing this biofilm friendly environment.
How can you prevent machinery corrosion in your facility?
Firstly, ensure that the correct chemical titrations are being used. Ideally, your quality team would conduct your own internal audit on chemical concentrations every so often in order to verify your facility isn’t having corners cut or being cleaned by inexperienced / ill-informed service providers. If your machinery goes through visible changes such as paint fade, has returned to bare metals, has increased noise from the operation and specifically clunky joints, then your facilities chemical titrations might be too high and your machinery might be getting damaged. If you notice any of the physical signs it is strongly recommended you conduct an audit on chemical titrations.
If your internal or external hygiene team increased chemical concentrations then you should re-grease bearings and other moving parts. This alone, especially when it comes to conveyors is critical for longevity and can importantly save your business time, money and resources.
We hope you gained some insight from this article and prolong the lifespan of your machinery.
Thanks for reading.
Regards, The SGA Team