April 5, 2018

The demand for gluten-free products is not a passing trend, with the market projected to reach a value of $7.59 billion by 2020. The rise in celiac disease rates further emphasizes the continued need for gluten-free options. When producing gluten-free products, it is important to consider principles that ensure safe and efficient catering to this growing market. Challenges such as cross-contamination, segregation, and product consistency must be addressed to meet the needs and safety requirements of gluten-free customers.

April 1, 2018

Bell & Evans, a US-based chicken producer, is investing over $260 million in a new poultry processing facility in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. The facility, scheduled for completion in early 2020, aims to meet the increasing demand for Bell & Evans' chicken products and support its retail and foodservice business. It will also enable the expansion of the company's organic product line. The state-of-the-art plant, covering 560,000 square feet, will feature four processing lines capable of handling 600,000 birds per week. The facility will also include supporting infrastructure such as a wastewater treatment plant, rendering plant, warehousing facility, and composting building. Bell & Evans plans to source chickens from local farms within a 60-minute drive from the facility. The project is expected to create 1,069 full-time jobs and retain an additional 1,650 jobs in the community. Stellar, an engineering firm, is responsible for the design and construction of the facility. Bell & Evans is known for its high-quality poultry products, including fresh and organic chicken, and its customers include Wegmans and Whole Foods Market.

March 30, 2018

China's growing population of 1.3 billion and a packaged food market worth $226 billion have attracted baking and snack manufacturers seeking global growth. However, many companies have made haphazard plans when constructing plants in China, neglecting important factors affecting construction and site design. Enrico L. Chua, an engineering manager at Stellar, emphasizes the need for a detailed feasibility study and conceptual design before opening a plant. He advises conducting thorough research, establishing site criteria, and working with real estate companies and design/engineering teams. Establishing relationships with government entities and staying updated on regulations are crucial due to China's top-down approach. Construction methods, building materials, and equipment in China differ from other countries, requiring adaptation. To find contractors aligned with their goals, businesses should create comprehensive Requests for Proposal (RFPs) and interview potential contractors. Selecting a project management team or consultant is essential for successful project execution, requiring expertise, cultural understanding, and a mix of international and Chinese team members.

March 26, 2018

The article highlights the double standard in food facility safety management, where stringent measures are taken to ensure food safety but often neglected in maintenance areas or on the roof of a food plant. The author emphasizes that maintenance and construction accidents can have severe consequences, including negative publicity and lawsuits, similar to product recalls. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fines are increasing, and safety measures are a small investment compared to potential fines or accidents. The ideal approach is to proactively engineer safety hazards out of the facility, involving the contractor's safety team in the design process. The article also discusses updated OSHA standards for roof safety, including requirements for fixed and portable ladders, safe distances from roof edges, skylight safety, guardrails around hatchways, parapet height, roof walkway pads, and permanent anchorage systems. Additionally, maintaining safe maintenance areas inside the building, such as interstitial spaces, is crucial for worker safety. Overall, rejecting the double standard and prioritizing safety can prevent accidents and protect lives while avoiding financial and reputational risks.

March 18, 2018

This article discusses the potential problems that can arise in aging food plants and the importance of regular facility inspections to ensure food safety. It highlights examples of issues faced by older food facilities, such as Salmonella contamination and bacterial growth, and the steps taken to address these problems. The article emphasizes the need for proactive food safety planning, including routine inspections, maintenance, and mitigation procedures. It also provides insights into specific issues like roof leaks, improperly sloped floors, cracks, drains, and wall contamination, and suggests possible solutions for each. The importance of conducting facility surveys, involving multiple departments, and considering codes and regulations when planning facility upgrades is also emphasized.

March 1, 2018

Stellar, an industrial refrigeration systems company, has introduced its NH360 packaged refrigeration systems that utilize low-charge ammonia. These systems have an ammonia charge of less than 1 lb/TR (typically 0.90 to 0.98) and are suitable for various industrial applications. Stellar has already successfully installed these systems in multiple locations, including a distribution warehouse and food plants in New Jersey, a pharmaceuticals plant in Chicago, and a food plant in Bakersfield, California.

February 26, 2018

The article discusses the impact of mergers and acquisitions in the food industry and the changing consumer landscape, particularly with the rise of millennials and Generation Z. These younger consumers are less brand loyal, tech-savvy, active on social media, and prioritize factors like food origin and sustainability. Traditional food companies have been slow to adapt to these changes, creating opportunities for smaller companies to deliver niche products and disrupt established categories. When acquiring smaller brands, food manufacturers should carefully consider their processing strategy, including options such as operating out of existing plants, integrating manufacturing processes into current campuses, or partnering with co-packers. It's important to assess efficiency, scalability, and potential impacts on product quality. Being nimble and responsive to the marketplace is crucial, and companies should build flexibility into new facilities and renovations to accommodate changing consumer demands. The article suggests working with fully integrated design-build firms for faster project execution and informed decision-making. Choosing a partner with market expertise is emphasized for accurate estimates and successful outcomes.

February 2, 2018

The article discusses the importance of detection technology in food facilities and compares metal detection systems to X-ray systems. Metal detectors are generally less expensive and more durable but can have limitations and false positives with certain products. X-ray systems can detect various contaminants but are more expensive and require higher maintenance costs. The article recommends having both types of detection systems in a food facility, strategically placed at different stages of the process. Redundancy and line independence are emphasized to increase the chances of catching contaminants and minimizing the risk of costly recalls. X-ray systems have additional applications beyond foreign object detection, such as verifying product composition, analyzing fat-to-lean ratios, detecting packaging seal contamination, and confirming packaging requirements. The article emphasizes the importance of a company's dedication to food safety and detection, going beyond regulatory minimums and investing in proper equipment and training. Maximizing the performance of the equipment through education, preventative maintenance, and calibration is crucial. It is recommended to consult with experienced partners when choosing detection equipment to meet specific needs. Cutting corners in detection systems can lead to potential recalls and lawsuits, making proper investment worthwhile.

January 22, 2018

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) refers to connected devices and technologies that can collect, monitor, analyze, and exchange data to improve processes, quality, and maintenance activities within a plant. This technology offers several advantages, such as improved manufacturing flexibility and performance, preventative maintenance, increased overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), and access to real-time production data. However, migrating to IIoT technology in older facilities can be challenging, and security concerns should be addressed by coordinating with the IT group to ensure network and device safety. When it comes to cloud services, real-time decision making is not recommended, but the cloud is suitable for long-term data storage. Major cloud service providers offer robust security measures, but implementation at the plant level is crucial for maintaining security.

January 21, 2018

Nestlé, the food group, opened a $50 million research and development (R&D) center in Solon, Ohio in July 2015. The R&D center aims to create healthier and tastier products by combining R&D capability and nutrition science. It serves as a global Product Technology Centre (PTC) focusing on developing innovative products for Nestlé's frozen and chilled food businesses. The center features offices, laboratories, test kitchens, sensory labs, production areas, culinary center, oven technology lab, packaging and design testing areas, pilot plants, and a Consumer Connect lab. It employs a team of experts including chefs, researchers, engineers, and designers who develop R&D strategies and provide technical assistance to Nestlé's global production facilities. The center uses various technologies related to dough, sauce, pizza, microwave, taste, aroma, weight and energy management, packaging, design, consumer perception, and preference. Stellar, a design, engineering, and construction company, was awarded the design-build contract for the project and also constructed an energy plant for the R&D center.

January 21, 2018

The article discusses the challenges and opportunities for food processors in achieving sustainable operations and LEED certification. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a rating system that promotes sustainable building and development practices. Food processors interested in going green must go through a thorough investigation to determine the type and level of LEED certification they want to pursue. While achieving higher levels of certification, such as LEED Gold or Platinum, requires a significant investment, even achieving LEED Silver can lead to tangible results in terms of energy efficiency and sustainability. The article highlights that planning is crucial for pursuing LEED certification. The three categories that matter to food processors are Building Design and Construction, Interior Design and Construction, and Operations and Maintenance. Food processors need to determine the category and level of certification that makes sense for their facility, which will help shape the project's scope and inform decisions on equipment and operations. For new construction projects, there are opportunities to earn points in categories like "Location and Transportation" and "Sustainable Sites." However, achieving energy and water efficiency goals can be challenging in production spaces due to the high energy consumption of equipment. Processors are encouraged to consider innovative solutions, such as heat recapture and water reuse, to improve efficiency. Existing facilities can also pursue LEED certification through renovation projects. Planning becomes more complex as ongoing operations need to be considered. Site utilization plans and proper project management are essential to minimize disruptions and avoid contamination. Overall, while achieving LEED certification may present challenges, it is possible for food processors to operate efficiently and meet sustainability goals. The investment in time and resources required to pursue LEED certification can lead to real savings in energy and water usage, benefiting the environment and the triple bottom line (social, environmental, and financial).

January 8, 2018

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a toolset that enables the improvement of operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness in industrial plants. IIoT devices, such as sensors, actuators, motors, and controllers, securely transmit vital information to optimize plant operations. IIoT offers benefits such as enhanced efficiency, increased productivity, and reduced operating costs. The cloud and edge computing play a role in IIoT applications, with the cloud offering storage, data cleansing, and processing capabilities. Getting started with IIoT can be challenging, especially for facilities with outdated equipment, but incremental upgrades and integration of IIoT functionality into existing systems are possible. IIoT can help in various ways, such as real-time data collection and sharing, performance monitoring, predictive maintenance, and improving fleet management. Security is a crucial aspect of IIoT, protecting against cyber threats and preventing engineering mistakes. Communication protocols like MQTT and OPC UA facilitate efficient data exchange in IIoT systems. The role of sensors and devices has evolved, with modern sensors offering additional diagnostics and enabling seamless connectivity between the physical and digital worlds.

January 1, 2018

Columbus Foods opened a new food slicing and packaging facility in Hayward, California, in 2011 to replace its previous facility that was destroyed by a fire in 2009. The state-of-the-art facility was built with an investment of $31 million and received funding from insurance proceeds. The plant has three production lines for slicing and packaging and incorporates advanced technologies to improve efficiency and ensure product safety. It includes specialized rooms and restricted process flows for hygienic zoning and utilizes high pressure processing (HPP) technology to kill microbials in the meat without using heat. The facility can process and pack approximately 17 million pounds of meat annually. Stellar, an engineering and construction company, was responsible for designing and building the facility, while other consultants provided expertise in areas such as USDA compliance, sanitation design, air handling equipment, and food safety.

November 29, 2017

The article discusses the importance of achieving eco-friendly practices in facilities while avoiding unnecessary expenses. It highlights six factors that should be assessed for potential improvements:

  1. Analyzing Utility Bills: By examining energy and water usage patterns over a 12-month period, facility managers can identify inefficiencies and establish energy goals for the year.

  2. Assessing the Thermal Envelope: Weaknesses in the building's outer shell, such as doors, windows, and insulation, can lead to energy inefficiencies. Airtight envelopes not only reduce energy costs but also prevent contamination and the entry of pollutants.

  3. Conserving Water: Food plants consume significant amounts of water, so optimizing cleaning practices and implementing water reuse systems can help conserve water and reduce costs.

  4. Strategic Placement of Equipment: The location of equipment affects its lifespan, and failure due to inadequate protection can lead to costly downtime. Proper equipment placement is crucial in wet and dusty areas.

  5. Optimizing Lighting: Evaluating lighting systems in the facility can identify opportunities for energy savings. Different areas may require specific lighting fixtures, and compliance with safety regulations is important.

  6. Efficient Refrigeration: Industrial refrigeration systems can account for a large portion of a facility's energy expenses. Proper equipment selection, maintenance, and control system programming, along with reducing foot traffic and improving insulation, can lead to energy savings.

A comprehensive facility assessment by an outside perspective can help identify specific optimizations, save money, mitigate risks, improve return on investment (ROI), and enhance overall business operations.

October 1, 2017

Faribault Foods, a canned goods manufacturer, has been in operation for over a century and has built a brand portfolio that includes well-known names such as Butter Kernel, Luck's, Chili Man, and KC Masterpiece. In 2014, the company merged with Arizona Canning Company after being acquired by La Costeña, a Mexican food company, expanding their offerings and capabilities. To support their ongoing growth, Faribault Foods constructed a new plant in Faribault, Minnesota, in 2016. The new facility incorporates faster and more efficient production lines, as well as a can-production line, and expands the size of the complex to nearly one million square feet. During the construction of the state-of-the-art plant, insulation played a critical role. The chosen insulation needed to be resistant to moisture, as the facility required frequent wash downs. The insulation also had to provide thermal efficiency and protection against corrosion under insulation (CUI), which is a concern for stainless steel piping in food-processing environments. The selected insulation product was an EPDM elastomeric foam closed-cell insulation, which offered high thermal efficiency and moisture resistance. It was paired with a PVC jacket to enhance water and water-vapor resistance and protect against efficiency losses. The insulation was also fire-safe, resistant to the growth of microorganisms, and environmentally friendly. CUI was addressed by selecting an insulation system with low levels of halogen compounds that could react with moisture and cause corrosion on stainless steel. The insulation system was tightly sealed to prevent moisture intrusion and designed to meet the specific requirements of the project. The size of the project posed a challenge, with over five miles of pipe insulation and more than 20,000 square feet of rolled EPDM insulation installed. Skilled labor was essential for the installation, ensuring effective sealing and proper application of the insulation. Overall, the project aimed to achieve cost-effectiveness, system longevity, and reliable temperature regulation. With a well-designed and properly installed insulation system, Faribault Foods could expect a return on investment and a reliable and efficient production process.