Stay-Clean packaging machines are chargeable

The best cleaning is no cleaning. That doesn’t mean you have to use dirty packing lines. That means you have to keep them from getting dirty. How? Look for packaging machines designed for maximum cleanliness.

The “dirt” on a packing line can include spilled or stray products. It also includes oil, grease, and belt shreds, as well as dust, scrap, and residue from packaging components (e.g., easy-open notches on pouches).

Cabinet type wrapping machines are popular but can be a snake pit inside. A common problem is that cabinet door seals become worn or damaged and are not replaced. Damaged seals allow product dust to accumulate inside a machine. Closed doors mean no one sees it, so it never gets cleaned. Out of sight, out of mind.

Liquid fillers will spill the product no matter how hard you try to minimize it. If the top of the machine is not sealed well, the spilled liquid will drip into the machine. Good joints, a sloped machine top and a gutter will catch any spill before it hits the ground.

Whether the machine is an open or closed design, avoid flat surfaces as much as possible. Frames should be made from tubular or square material placed on an angle. This will prevent dirt from building up.

Drawing by John R. Henry

A tilted table with gutters to catch any spills; and angled square tubing or round tubing so spills slide off rather than build up.

The invisibility can be corrected by replacing the stainless steel door panels with clear Lexan. This encourages cleaning, as well as repairing leaky transmissions, as the mess is now visible. One company went a step further and installed LED rope lights in all of their machines. Between the well-lit interior and the Lexan doors, no dirt can hide.

Have you ever looked inside a conveyor? It can be quite unpleasant. Portholes in the conveyor frame can facilitate inspection. Even better are sanitary conveyors. These are standard in pharmaceutical factories. Raised chain and enclosed frame help prevent spills and make cleaning easier. These are rarely used elsewhere but can remove a lot of contamination.

Open frames are another solution for keeping conveyors clean.

Photo courtesy of AutopakSanitary Conveyor Autopak-web2.jpg

Open frames make cleaning a conveyor easier.

Square inside corners are excellent dirt traps (so they are bad models). Tanks and bins should also have rounded (often called “coved”) inside corners rather than square ones to make cleaning easier.

Drawing by John R. HenryCoved vs square corners-web.jpg

Eliminate right angles wherever and whenever possible.

What about the cost? Some of the structural improvements can increase the cost of the machine. This is a one-time but highly visible cost as it appears on the purchase order. The temptation to save money is great.

Resist.

The benefits of not having to clean so much are harder to see because they occur in small amounts day after day. This does not mean that they are not significant.

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Saving 10 minutes on daily cleaning means the line can run an additional 41 hours per year (known as the 10W-40 rule). In other words, 10 minutes, on a line of 200 products per minute, equals almost half a million additional products on the market, and even more in a multi-shift operation.

This extra half million products year after year will pay for many packaging machine extras in the design of cleanliness and ease of cleaning.

The most effective cleaning is the one you never have to do. Never do more than necessary.