The food and drink processing industry is the fourth highest industrial energy user in the UK, according to The Carbon Trust. In 2010, it consumed nearly 37TWh, which is enough energy to power 125,000 homes for nearly 15 years and up to 3 times as much energy per square foot as the average commercial building. With this in mind, the importance of successfully managing the energy efficiency and running costs of any food processing facility becomes immediately obvious.
This coupled with the continuous production pressures of the industry means that an emphasis must be put on keeping production machines running at optimum capacity. Maintenance downtime costs almost every production line at least 5% of its productive capacity, and many lose up to 20%. Maximising efficiency and minimising downtime then, is a clear challenge faced by any production team.
Thermal Imaging Cameras can help drastically reduce downtime and improve energy efficiency in the food processing sector; it is a mature technology and already often used in food processing facilities both for maintenance and monitoring food product temperature and levels.
Component wear, and subsequent failure, is one of the biggest causes of unplanned downtime and any increase in operating temperature is an early indicator of potential problems. Using a hand-held thermal imaging camera as part of a preventative maintenance programme can quickly and easily identify failing components (without interrupting production) before an incident occurs.
Thermal Imaging Cameras can also be used to identify opportunities for energy saving measures, which not only reduce carbon emissions but also operating costs for businesses. Wasted energy, in the form of thermal leaks and inefficiencies, can be easily identified using a thermal imaging camera to visually inspect oven temperature spreads, door seals on refrigerated areas, pipework, ventilation and any other thermal processes on site.
Thermal imaging cameras employ a versatile technology and the latest hand-held devices are increasingly affordable and provide considerable benefits. The primary benefit is that all tests can be performed quickly and without any contact with the equipment, minimising any disruption to production.
The ideal strategy for using thermal imaging in a preventative maintenance schedule is the comprehensive understanding of the operating environment and the conditions components are under in everyday operation. A thermal imaging camera can be used to capture and log the process and its components. Thermal survey reports can be created as a reference showing temperature profiles in normal operation and subsequent anomalies can be compared with the reference reports to aid decision making in a condition-based assessment.
Similarly in a predictive maintenance schedule which involves the monitoring of wear conditions and equipment characteristics against a predetermined tolerance to predict possible failures. The regular use of thermal imaging can highlight when certain tasks are needed, rather than wait for the allotted time on a fixed schedule. If a bearing begins to show signs of operating at a hotter than expected temperature, lubrication can be applied to remedy the situation.
The key to the successful use of thermal imaging is in determining basic parameters so that when abnormal conditions are encountered they can be easily detected, analysed and remedied. This means establishing operation criteria as part of the original acceptance inspection or following a planned maintenance overhaul when everything is operating within expected tolerances. By reviewing these images against the reference images, more effective decisions can be made about repairing or replacing components.
The adoption of increasingly accessible thermal imaging technology (as described) will lead to cost savings through reduced maintenance hours, increased plant operating efficiency and allow the more effective operation of maintenance engineers.
Visit the Testo Limited website for more information on our full range of Thermal Imaging cameras.