Cleaning slatted and textile conveyor belts in the meat industry

1 April, 2020 Twan Koenen

Cleaning conveyors and their appendices is one of the greatest challenges in open plant cleaning. Conveyor belts are common in modern poultry and red meat processing and are often used to transport animal protein products, such as meat, bones, fat, skin etc. These meat products and proteins build up soil on the conveyor belt surface during production time, which is often 18-20 hours in a double shift operation. In between production days, the conveyors are usually cleaned manually by cleaning contractors, which is a time consuming and labour-intensive process.

In red meat processing in particular, slatted belts are also used for cutting up or deboning. Operators use knives for deboning or cutting up on a conveyor belt and this creates all kinds of scratches and damages where dirt and bacteria can hide and grow well in. This makes deboning belts even more challenging to clean.

Challenges in cleaning conveyor belts

Cleaning conveyor belts is done manually in most cases. Cleaning contractors spend hours and hours cleaning belts. Modern, well designed conveyor belts have an open design, belt lifters and few hinges. Slatted belts must be washed on the inside, the outside, but also in between the hinges. This last aspect is the most difficult. To clean the hinges and between the slats you need to clean from the inside out in the drive or turning roll. This is the only place where the hinges are open and where it is possible to clean. This is not possible to do manually. Another challenge is cleaning conveyor belts with side skirts, flights or very wide belts. Cleaners have to approach the flights and side skirts several times from different directions, which is very time consuming.

For cleaning purposes, it is better to let the belt run and clean it in the rolls where the hinges are open. However, for safety regulations it needs to stand still, or you have to take complicated safety measures. A solution is to let the belt run in ‘production mode’ with optimised belt velocities and clean the belt automatically. By automating the cleaning process, you also shorten the cleaning time. This way, there is more time for the belts to dry and for general maintenance. Moreover, automation saves a lot of labour costs.

How to clean a conveyor belt fully automatically with Undine®

At first, do a pre-rinse or foaming operation on the conveyor and its accessories, without any focus on the belt. Depending on the dirt load, clean the inside and outside of the belt in the ‘return pocket’, just before the turning roll with a set of nozzles or spray bar. Clean the whole width of the belt simultaneously in order to get it clean. The belt width can be ‘scraped’ clean using a diagonal mounted nozzle beam (spray bar). For very wide belts, this can be a V-shape. The slats and hinges should be cleaned from the inside out in the drive or turning roll, where the hinges are bent open. Preferably, this is done automatically with the washer and conveyor belt in operation.

The advantages of using Undine®

Undines® extreme high velocity droplets and its extreme small droplet spectrum allows a very deep cleaning on surfaces and into scratches and damages on the belt surface. Even after a thorough conventional cleaning procedure, incl. foaming and disinfection, Undine® still washes off a lot of bacteria. Tests have shown, the rinse water contained a high number of CFU’s using Undine®, even after the belts had already undergone a complete washing procedure.

Saving water and time

Undine® uses up to 65% less water, allowing multiple automatic washers to operate simultaneously.  This allows operators to perform the open plant cleaning. So, Undine® does not only improve cleaning results, it also saves time for the operator. A great advantage, as in double shift operations, there is often only 4 hours available for cleaning in between the production days.

To make the right combination between manual and automatic cleaning, it may be required to increase the pump capacity. Even though it’s hard to believe that increasing the pump capacity can deliver a huge water and labour saving, it is possible with the Undine® technology.

Cross contamination is reduced to a minimum

With Undine®, cross contamination in the open plant is reduced to a minimum. Tests have shown, that because of the small droplet sizes, the removed dirt is only found within 50 cm next to the conveyor. A comparison in the same setup with conventional high-pressure water nozzles has shown, that the dirt was spread around the whole area and machines, due to the big and heavy water droplets that travel further. When you also clean during production, you may also prevent cross contamination between products with Undine®.

Conveyor belts can pass at a much higher velocity and still be cleaned perfectly

Field tests have shown that Undine® is more effective than standard spray bars. The belts get cleaner, less water is used, and the belts are cleaned more efficiently. This allows the belts to run at a higher speed during cleaning, or less revolutions (belt passages are needed). This means a shorter cleaning time. Undine® generates so much more cleaning power, that the belts can pass at a much higher velocity and still be cleaned perfectly. Even foaming can be integrated in an automated PLC-controlled washing program. However, the speed is not always adjustable for the cleaning operation. Fortunately, with Undine®, we can adjust the water and air consumption to the passage time. The slower the belt moves, the less water we have to use while achieving the same hygiene outcome.

We know which solution is right for you

Would you also like to improve hygiene and save water, energy and personnel costs? Do not hesitate and get in touch with us. You can call +31 (0) 527 745 932. Together with you, we will look for the best solution. Then, we will make a proposal, including the ROI, payback period and a quotation.

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