The short answer is yes. Stainless steel conveyors are specifically designed to meet the strict hygienic requirements of the food and beverage industry where regular wash downs are a critical part of the daily manufacturing routine. However, knowing where to use them on your production line can save you a lot of money.
In many cases, the most practical and cost effective solution is to use a mix of aluminium and stainless steel conveyors. “Without a doubt, stainless steel conveyors are the preferred solution for demanding production environments where contamination or chemical exposure are a potential risk. However, in production areas where these risks don’t exist, aluminium conveyors offer a cost effective alternative,” said Rob Winterbottom, technical sales engineer at FlexCAM.
The use of caustic cleaning products in daily washdowns is common in a range of industries, including food, beverage, dairy and bakery productions. These caustic cleaning products have a high alkaline content which requires sturdy material handling solutions and equipment to withstand the corrosive nature of these chemicals.
“Manufacturers often make the mistake of installing aluminium surfaces along critical parts of their production lines and not thinking about the long-term consequences (that) cleaning products have on their machinery. Aluminium parts can oxidise and corrode which can negatively impact product safety and maintenance of the line. Damaged parts become impossible to fix resulting in the replacement of a much bigger section of the conveyor line than would otherwise be required,” explained Winterbottom.
Stainless steel conveyors are designed to cope with the corrosive nature of these chemicals making them safe and hygienic to use in areas of direct food contact or where regular spillage and contamination is expected. With proper maintenance, stainless steel conveyors have indefinite life expectancy. “When you use quality conveyors you are guaranteed durable moving and wearing parts that will stand the test of time. Industry leading systems such as FlexLink solutions are based on a modular design making maintenance and line modification a fairly simple process. In addition, the same components are typically available both in stainless steel and aluminium allowing us to transition into lower cost aluminium sections where possible,” said Winterbottom.
Another key feature of leading stainless steel conveyor systems is their ability to run completely without lubrication, even at high speeds. This further eliminates the possibility of contamination, which is another important criteria in food and beverage production.
In summary, demanding production environments that require frequent wash down are strong candidates for stainless steel conveyor systems to support safe and clean operations. While the upfront investment is higher with stainless steel systems, this expense can be mitigated by installing aluminium sections in non-critical parts of the operation. This will ensure optimal system cost and low total cost of ownership.