Ask the Experts
What should I look for in a supplier of cryogenic freezing systems?
Consider three criteria: equipment, cryogen supply and services. For equipment, work with a supplier who understands and has experience with your type of process. The vendor's access to a food lab for product testing can help ensure the right size and type of equipment. Request and scrutinize details about equipment safety, cleaning, sanitizing and maintenance. Regarding your cryogen supply, make sure the supplier has sufficient production capacity close to your facility. Finally, make sure your vendor has adequate resources for a variety of services: equipment optimization, maintenance, troubleshooting, spare parts and even safety programs. Although easy to operate, cryogenic freezing systems require high levels of expertise for initial calibration to specific products and processes—something that the low-cost vendor may not always provide. When possible, consider sourcing equipment and cryogen from the same company. In general, those companies seek long-term relationships and will provide ongoing support and service with the convenience of a single point of contact.
How can I better understand my nitrogen usage?
Measuring the quantity of liquid nitrogen (LIN used during food freezing and chilling is vital to remaining operationally competitive. Unlike other materials, LIN can be troublesome to measure continuously, so it’s important to implement a daily LIN use tracking program. This data provides a benchmark against which to measure your LIN use. The amount of LIN used continuously is less telling than the changes in use as time progresses. Did the new startup operating procedure make the freezing process more efficient? Did changing from an insulated pipe to a vacuum-jacketed pipe really save costs this year? Questions like these can be answered in pursuit of continuous improvement if LIN is tracked daily.
How do you get started on tracking your LIN usage? Air Products’ Food Technology Specialists connect customers to the cost side of using LIN with daily tracking tools while providing the support and training to improve usage. Air Products’ Freshline® solutions reflect our continuing commitment to the food industry, providing a single point of reference for customers. For more information, call 800-654-4567.
How can I minimize costly, unscheduled equipment downtime?
Preventive maintenance programs can reduce the likelihood of downtime and enable you to respond more quickly to problems. Consider these simple steps when establishing and running your program.
Adopt a plan. Detail the who, what, how and when for each aspect of maintenance—then obtain the commitment of management. It’s essential.
Perform the work. Emergency repairs usually take priority over preventive maintenance. This can snowball as emergencies reduce time for preventive work, which then leads to more emergency repairs. Break this cycle by sticking to your plan.
Collect data. Preventive maintenance programs are living documents. Use the data you collect to adjust the plan for changing information and conditions.
Inventory the parts required for maintenance. Keep renewable parts on hand to complete the repetitive tasks as scheduled by your plan.
For more information on establishing and executing preventive maintenance plans, call the experts at Air Products at 800-654-4567.
How can I optimize liquid nitrogen consumption of my cryogenic tunnel freezing system?
Optimizing freezer operation typically involves three variables—retention time, belt-loading, and production rate. Retention time must be adequate to freeze the product thoroughly, yet not so excessive as to overfreeze it, which leads to unnecessary consumption of refrigeration. Belt-loadings less than the required density will reduce the freezer output rate and increase liquid nitrogen/unit consumption. Similarly, excessive production rates can reduce the efficiency of a freezer. At increased rates, the freezer attempts to meet the additional heat load by increasing nitrogen flow rates. If excessive, this can reduce the freezer's ability to control temperature.
By identifying and correcting potential problems such as improper retention time, belt-loading, and production rates, you can often realize significant savings in liquid nitrogen consumption.
How can I improve factory output of a mix of frozen products?
A 20 to 30 percent improvement may be hiding in production inefficiencies. Start by measuring downtime and the relative loading of your equipment components and its variation. Then examine product recycle and waste, as well as the time required to change products. By identifying and correcting problems such as capacity bottlenecks and other process variations, you can often realize substantial production increases.
Air Products offers a free Efficiency Improvement Checklist that includes the above-listed variables and many more. It can help you evaluate and optimize your operation. It's also a great starting point for a no-cost consultation with our food processing experts. Call 800-654-4567 today for your checklist . . . and begin pinpointing your prime areas for improvement.
How can I retain the quality of my packaged food?
Food products spoil differently, whether through microbial growth, discoloration, oxidation or even moisture loss. Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) is a way to help preserve the quality of packaged food. By replacing the earth’s breathable atmosphere in a package with a pure gas or a gas mixture, the shelf life of products can be significantly extended without losing quality. Typical MAP gases include nitrogen, carbon dioxide and oxygen; the right mix of these gases depends on the food product and how it spoils. The achievable shelf life of products packaged with modified atmosphere gases depends on the type of food, the packaging material, the initial microbial load and the storage temperature.
In a marketplace in which consumers value quality, MAP can provide significant benefits to both the retailer and the consumer—resulting in a product that looks good, smells good and tastes good far longer.
For a Freshline guide to MAP from Air Products, call 800-654-4567.