“Without conveyor belts, the world wouldn’t move,” laughs Olaf Heide, the Industry Segment Manager of Habasit. He smiles as he says it, but as we sit down to discuss the momentous challenges of the food industry, I soon realize that it is hardly an exaggeration.
Whether transferring meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables, fruit or dairy products, there are few fields which require as much precision and rigorous attention as the wet food industry. The slightest slip in hygiene can mean mass contamination for consumers.
In America alone, approximately 48 million people become sick every year and 3,000 die from foodborne illnesses. Globalization has only multiplied the risks as the food chain is sometimes stretching across countries and oceans before a product even reaches a processing plant. Recall is no longer a simple procedure, and often only comes after serious consequences.
The risks of the wet food industry, with its unique variety of juices and germs, goes beyond the individual cases of food poisoning that we are all familiar with and can affect the economic livelihood of entire communities which depend on food production as a basis for social development.
Hygiene innovation at its best
Employees at Habasit have dedicated themselves for many years in order to develop and supply risk-free solutions to these problems. Their hard work has been rewarded with recent product breakthroughs which have the potential to make a global impact on manufacturers as well as food processing equipment.
One of the most exciting products to emerge is Habasit Cleandrive™. With the incredibly varied requirements of the wet food industry, these monolithic belts target the most hygiene sensitive applications. Manufacturers will notice a significant difference in the ease of guaranteed hygiene maintenance. Habasit has smoothed out the slightest sink marks from the surface so that any residue on the belt can be simply scraped away. The homogenous thermoplastic polyurethane belts will soon be available in 1.8m / 72” seamless width (See “Habasit goes wide” page 10). The material of Habasit Cleandrive™ is not only more resistant to microbiological attack than other TPU grades, but also withstands some of the strongest chemicals commonly used as disinfectant. Reinforced with aramid cords, the belt guarantees long-lasting reliability in one of the world’s most demanding industries.
The second area of innovation has been the expansion of Habasit’s coated fabric belts. After extensive research and experimentation in the laboratory, the company has now produced a second generation of Cleanline® thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) coating which not only increases the lifetime and resilience of the belt, but also features a nearly stick-free surface. The coating withstands even under the frequent use of harsh cleaning chemicals and prevents warping or delamination caused by humidity. All of these factors ensure a hygienic transport of foodstuff.
Finally, Habasit continues to discover the benefits of their award-winning HyCLEAN CIP cleaning system. With its EHEDG certification it is completely unique in its field and designed for optimal efficiency and reliability. Working with drastically reduced water pressure, the HyCLEAN CIP system removes the majority of manual belt cleaning needs, but more importantly, also ends the gamble with contamination. This has been a welcome development for a variety of manufacturers, but particularly important for customers of our plastic modular belts in the food industry. These belts require the most demanding and strident cleaning since every hinge, corner and crevice becomes a possibility for microbiological contamination if not washed properly. Habasit did not think this was a risk that customers should have to continue to take and was proud to present a solution.
In addition to HyCLEAN CIP, Habasit also introduced the Saniclip system, a basic but innovative device which allows customers to open their plastic modular belts for maintenance or repair without the use of time consuming tools. To disassemble, customers simply have to snap and pull for a rod to come loose. This makes the belt easily available for thorough and effective cleaning.
The difference a belt can make
In this unique industry of wet food, there is never one belt that works for every application. Whether it is oil and fat resistance, protection from UV-C, belt strength for the most robust processes or the necessity of timely and smooth transfers, each belt must be created with these particularities in mind. Similarly, there is not one coating that can cover every product range. This is what motivates Habasit to be continually searching for new solutions to meet the technical and hygienic needs of every customer far and wide.
It is easy to take the versatile nature of the belts for granted as they move seamlessly from one industry to the next, but the earliest form of the conveyor belt dates back to as early as the 17th Century when the primitive machines were still made out of wood. It was around that time that the plague was also repeatedly ravaging Europe, a disease which could be contracted a number of ways, one of them being through contaminated food or water.
As Olaf Heide speculated, perhaps the world wouldn’t move without conveyors belts, but even if it did, it seems clear that we would be moving in a very different world. (ST)
EHEDG certificate for HyCLEAN CIP