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What role does industrial lubricant play in sustainable poultry production?

Next-gen lubricants smooth way to lower energy and maintenance costs and greater profits for poultry processors.

16 July 2019, at 9:33am

If your company hasn't asked this question yet, you've missed a key area in which your business can discover significant savings.

Poultry processing involves harsh daily sanitation regimes, fluctuating temperatures, high levels of moisture and humidity, and omnipresent contaminants, such as feathers. All this is notoriously hard on lubricants, resulting in frequent bearing and chain replacements due to rust, stretch, or breakdowns. These costs add up quickly and, when compounded with labour and downtime, negatively impact a company’s profits.

New lubricant technology emerging from Europe is enabling American poultry processors to achieve performance levels that were unheard-of ten years ago. This new tech involves solid lubricant particles that have been micronised to as small as .05 microns, or many hundreds of times smaller than the tip of a pencil, and have also been polarised to carry a negative charge.

Their tiny size allows the particles to penetrate everywhere, even into microscopic spaces, while the negative polarity causes them to adhere to the positive particles on surfaces. The result is lubrication that lasts up to ten times longer than ordinary petrochemical lubes, bringing a dramatic increase in chain and bearing life, lower environmental impact, lower energy costs, and lower expenses. This new lube is also extremely resistant to water, and dry formulations even help prevent feathers from adhering to chains and gears.

Combining this technology with some practical lubrication tips can have very positive results for your plant. Knowledge is power, so below are a few lube-related issues and terms that every processor should be familiar with.

Viscosity

One lubricant does not suit all uses. The viscosity, or thickness, of the lubricants you select should depend on the application. For example, chain pitch, or the length of individual links, is one of the factors that determines required lubricant viscosity. The longer the pitch, the more viscous the lubricant must be, or it won’t adhere properly. Another factor to consider is speed.

This means the lubricant you use on your transport chain might be different than the one you use on a chain that drives a gear.

Determining chain pitch is easy - measuring tools can be ordered online, or you can just use a ruler - and from there it’s a simple matter of consulting your lube manufacturer’s chart to see what they recommend.

Action item: Measure the pitch of your chains and consult your lube manufacturer’s charts to find out what they recommend.

Benefit: Chain life can be doubled or even tripled when modern lubricants with the correct viscosity are used.

DN Factor

DN factor is a value calculated from the size and speed of bearings. Along with environment, temperature, and load, it’s one of the factors used to determine the correct lubricant for a bearing application. Bearings are used in feather pluckers, sorters, eviscerators and many other pieces of equipment, so the longer you can keep them clean and rust-free, the more you’ll save.

DN factor is obtained by multiplying the average diameter of a bearing by its revolutions per minute, plus a correction factor. This correction factor can vary by manufacturer, so it’s important to ask your lubricant provider what they recommend. You can also search for DN factor calculators online, or use ours.

Don’t just guess at what lubricant will work best on your bearings. Although finding DN factor is slightly more complicated than chain pitch, it still only takes a few minutes to make your measurements and calculations. The extra effort can translate into thousands in savings.

Action item: Calculate the DN factor for your bearings and ask your lube manufacturer what product they recommend for the value you obtain. Or, just ask one of their techs to do the calculations for you on their next visit.

Benefit: Bearing life can be increased by several times. Choosing a lubricant with resistance to water washout will also help prolong bearing life.

NSF rating

Lubricants used in the production of food must be certified food-safe by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). The highest rating is H1, which means that accidental contamination up to 10 parts per million (ppm) is considered acceptable. You can also look for manufacturers with ISO 21469 certification. This is a voluntary designation that regulates hygiene requirements for the production of lubricants.

Action item: Assess your lube cabinet to make sure you’re using H1 lubricants on machinery that processes food. If not, look for multi-purpose lubes in the market that are food-safe and long-lasting. Some H1 lubes are also certified kosher and halal, so you can accomplish multiple goals with one product.

Benefit: Stay in compliance with 21 CFR 178.3570 while getting all the benefits of new lube technology.

Predictive Maintenance

Predictive maintenance (PdM) techniques involve measurement of machine performance using devices that can detect noise and vibration levels. Because over-lubrication is just as dangerous as under-lubrication, it’s important to achieve the optimum lube level. The old days of just pumping until lube starts to come out the other end are over. That’s the best way to destroy a bearing and shorten lube life. Bearings may need one shot this week, three shots the next.

Using PdM, rather than scheduled or preventive maintenance, will ensure that you get it right.

Action item: Invest in an acoustic vibration meter. Many of these also store data and allow you to upload it to a computer and analyse it.

Benefit: Because over-lubing can increase internal temperature, and every 10°C (18°F) rise in temperature above 65°C (150°F) cuts the service life of lubricant in half, ensuring optimum lube levels will also ensure you get maximum use from your lube, as well as avoiding damage to bearings and seals.

HVAC

Most lube talk in poultry facilities will focus on production-related machinery, but your HVAC system is another area where a little bit of extra attention can go a very long way. Many companies don’t even realise how much lubrication their HVAC system needs. We recommend an automatic dispenser system on these devices, because they’re often out of sight, which means out of mind.

Action item: Analyse the cost of installing automatic lube dispensers on HVAC equipment to avoid issues like runout or lube churn, while avoiding dangerous trips to the roof in inclement weather.

Benefit: Greatly reduce the risk of surprise maintenance or replacement costs on HVAC equipment, as well as risk to employee safety.

The benefits of a re-assessed, enhanced lubrication regime are many. Thanks to reduced friction and wattage requirements, next-gen lubricants reduce electricity usage by a noticeable percentage, meaning lower power bills. Less used oil going into your filtration system also means a cleaner environment. Reduced equipment replacement and labour expenses, plus increased productivity, means more profits for your company.

If your business is concerned with helping to ensure a sustainable food chain while lowering environmental impact and bringing costs down, look into using the next generation of lubricants on your machinery.