One of the most important aspects for the food and beverage industry is sterility. Preventing cross-contamination on the plant floor is crucial. Any company creating pieces of equipment needs to adhere to the industry's strict regulations.
"There's more and more guidelines as to how to design equipment for processing. Seals are not exempt from this … and in recent years, they've become a big part of it because seals are wear items," said David Kaley, Trelleborg Sealing Solutions' segment manager for food and beverage, water and robotics.
"Wear items have a bad habit of leaving trace material in the food, in the content. They are supposed to seal the inside in and the outside out."
With so much food and drink being processed in plants, sanitation is key for the safety of those people consuming the end product. The term "processed food" often has a negative connotation, Kaley said, but that's just a term describing any food packaged in a factory.
"It could be a bag of frozen fruit that's just as fresh as can be, but it's still considered processed," he said.
From fresh fruit to salad bags to snack crackers, there is a lot of food and beverage processed in manufacturing plants, and Kaley said now there is an easier process to sterilize equipment.
Cleaning in place and sterilization in place works like a dishwasher—there is a sprinkler system that sprays hot water and chemicals into the vessel to clean and sanitize.
"When the scientists figured out how to do (cleaning in place), it was a big boon for the industry," Kaley said.
Before these processes, he said equipment had to be removed to properly clean and sterilize to avoid cross-contamination to adjacent equipment and processes.
"Which means you have to disassemble the equipment, take it to a cleaning station, clean all the components and then bring it back to the production area and reassemble the pieces," he said, adding that is "cumbersome and time-consuming under the best of circumstances."