Striving Towards A Safe Grading and Washing Line
As a potato processing factory nowadays needs to run 24/7 to be efficient and produce high-quality products at high capacity, any (unforeseen) standstill of the line will cause a decrease of efficiency. This means that in the design of a receiving, grading and washing line, more focus is given to safety and durability. And safety is a broad concept focusing on many aspects. In this article, the focus will be given to food safety and safety of the staff operating the factory, keeping optimal efficiency in mind.
By Tolsma Grisnich
Investing in a new processing line is a process that takes a long time and needs in-depth preparation. Market research has to be executed, to identify in which segment of the potato chain the market potential is and to justify the elaborate investments in a building plot, but also in buildings and installations. This process may take years before the first groundworks can start. During this preparation stage, the market insight may change, or new legislation may even cause a necessary adaptation in the installations. This article presents a couple of cases, which occurred in the day-to-day practice of a manufacturer of potato pre-processing lines, where changing conditions from technical and legal origin required a rethinking the plans.
One of the big items nowadays in potato growing and processing is food safety. During growth, the use of plant protection and fertilizers are increasingly limited, a fact which may also apply to processing, in terms of legislative measures. Consumers and retail organizations have started to increase their demands with regards to fresh processed food, which, for example, resulted in the increase of the food carbon footprint.
With regards to a potato processing factory design, this implies a couple of starting points:
- Combine cleaning functions on a specific location to limit accumulation of soil and other foreign materials
An example of combing functions is a desoiling unit, with several technologies integrated in one. In this unit, a sieving web is combined with desoiling cross rollers, axial rollers and a porcupine belt. Depending on the amount of pollution in the potatoes, the intensity of cleaning can be adapted by changing rotation speed of rollers or even bypassing certain segments of the unit. This also avoids intensive cleaning and reduces potato damage. The combination of cleaning technologies in one frame enables us to collect and remove the soil and haulms/weeds and to remove them quickly from the processing line. This will limit the formation of dust in the processing area significantly. Another example is a unit which is able to remove large parts which come with the potato flow. These large parts can be weeds, stones or wood, which will not be separated with a sieving web or porcupine belt but need to be removed as quickly as possible to avoid damage of potatoes and the grading and washing line itself. To separate large parts and potatoes, the unit consists of moving steel bars connected in a web, which are gliding over supporting bars. This construction creates openings of about 200 x 200 mm. Potatoes will fall easily through the openings, but large parts will be separated and collected in a bin. Additional to this unit, a belt with magnets can be mounted above the separation unit, to split up bigger and smaller steel parts from the product flow, in order to avoid getting those materials in the processed potatoes.
- Make a physical separation between the low risk and high-risk areas, for safety of people and produce
To improve food safety, more separated spaces can be designed for different activities in the potato process. By splitting up the cleaning activities, for example in a dry and wet zone, different safety precautions regulations can be established and the same applies to the use of materials for the construction and the conveyor belts. By applying this separation, free dust cannot mix into the spaces where water is used for cleaning. Moreover, safety measurements for staff and operators can be taken, to meet the humid or dusty conditions. Think about rough and open materials on the floors and stairs. At the same time, on places where there is a risk of falling, safety guidelines and fences need to be installed.
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