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Industrial Vacuums Leave Shop Vacs in the Dust

Tue, 02/12/2008 - 4:07am
David Kennedy, General Manager, Vacuum Cleaning Division, VAC-U-MAX

Although using industrial vacuums isn't new to the food industry, many companies have tried in the past to use shop type vacuums to clean up dust and debris, and have found them inadequate under the rigorous demands in the food processing environment. Thus, when companies begin researching industrial vacuum systems and compare them against the concept of shop-type vacs, they are often surprised by the power, size and cost of the industrial units.


        Today's industrial vacuum cleaning systems are far more advanced than the common shop vacuum that was never designed for industrial use. In fact, nearly all regulatory agencies recommend the use of industrial vacuum cleaners to remove surface dust and debris from the environment.


        Capable of picking up material as heavy as bowling balls or as fine as mist, industrial vacuum cleaners can generate cost savings in material, equipment, and labor as opposed to ordinary shop type vacuums, purchased from a supplier for a couple hundred dollars.


        Some companies spend literally tens of thousands of dollars on shop vacuums that quickly find their way into the trash heap, while standard industrial vacuums, that run from less than $1,000 for small installations to more than $100,000 for highly customized ones, can save companies literally tens of thousands of dollars or more in material, equipment and labor costs.
       

Labor costs

Industrial vacuums have a greater capacity - in some cases, five times or more - than ordinary shop vacuums, allowing staff to stay productive at their stations instead of stopping production to dump and clean the shop type vacs several times a day.


        Because industrial vacuums suck up tons of material hour housekeeping gets done much faster and there is no need to manually clean up dust and debris that common shop vacs leave behind.

Product reclamation

In many instances, the benefits of a correctly chosen vacuum cleaning system include product recovery, such as pharmaceutical applications where active ingredients are worth hundreds of dollars an ounce.


        Unlike ordinary shop vacuums, industrial vacuum cleaners can also be equipped with continuous bagging systems to reclaim fine powder product giving the operator better control over dust and disposal.

Equipment performance

Dust and debris can cause excess wear and tear to equipment by lodging in gears, slides, tracks, or bearings and cause maintenance problems. Industrial vacuum cleaners have maximum suction power to maintain and clean critical production equipment to reduce downtime.

Safety

Common food products such as sugar, grain, or cornstarch can have dangerous explosive potential when airborne in powder or particulate form. In fact, fires or explosions may inadvertently be set off by a number of common causes such as the ignition spark from start up in typical electric shop vacuums.


        Air operated industrial vacuums can be equipped with static-conductive filters, rated 99.9 percent efficient at one micron, further reducing sparking danger, while virtually eliminating any fine particle discharge from the vacuum's exhaust back into the work area. This helps to create healthful, productive breathing conditions in the workplace.


        Many manufacturers and processors are completely integrating industrial vacuum cleaners into production and process systems. Vacuum cleaners can become a key component of critical strategic issues, ranging from productivity to environmental safety and worker health.

For many growers and produce packaging operations like Ed Sobiech's, third generation onion grower/packager and president of Green Valley Onion in New Hampton, NY, the key to staying commercially competitive is making decisions that are based on long term prosperity rather than short term profits. "We have to mechanize more and make things easier to do all the time. Technology is always something we have to push for," he says.
     Sobiech attributes his success in business to annual investments in equipment that optimize his packaging operation. Last year he invested in large industrial fans that circulate more air in the facility ensuring the onions don't become moist and this year he invested in a central vacuum cleaning system to clean the grading line and building which also gained him higher food safety ratings.
     Sobiech's facility, which packages approximately 600,000 lbs of onions per week, has many belts and conveyors going every which way, and where conveyors come together or packaging machines come together, there is debris from the onion leaves and dirt left behind.
     The onions, first dumped into a hopper, travel about 300 ft down the grading line where they run through a series of machines that ready them to be bagged and shipped.
     To accommodate the 300 ft line where each piece of equipment creates its own debris, a VAC-U-MAX 20hp Monobloc Central Vacuum was installed in the back of the packaging facility with a two yard hopper that collects the debris. The system, piped throughout the building, spans 160 ft on each side of the facility with outlets spaced approximately 15 ft apart. The unit can facilitate 20 stations allowing workers to use a short hose to clean around each machine.
     The system installed at Sobiech's facility was created with standard equipment and hose outlets near areas that typically accumulate dust and debris to make clean up more efficient.
     "Having the VAC-U-MAX has added to the cleanliness of the facility and enhanced our food safety efforts," says Sobiech. "If there is debris on the floor from the pallets it gets sucked up into the machine - essentially, all the things that could harm the onions are eliminated from the room."
     Most of the waste that dumps into Sobiech's two-yard hopper consists of dirt, dust, wood chips from the pallets, and onion leaves that have fallen through the belts and inspection tables.
     When dirt and debris fall through belts and conveyor systems, that dirt and debris can wear parts sooner than normal causing unscheduled downtime, slowed production and costly maintenance.
     "If we can keep these belts free of debris and clean it makes it easer on us; and, in the long run on the machines. Just like if you run with a cleaner vehicle, you get more mileage out of it."
     "Sometimes you have to spend more money with the initial purchase, but if you can get a piece of equipment that you'll get a lot of years from before you have to put money into it and spread the initial cost out over the years, it's very little money for what it can do for you for business."
     For more information about the industrial vacuuming arena visit www.vac-u-max.com
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