The Food Manufacturing Trifecta: Three Things You Don't Want to Overlook (#1: HVAC Measurement)

There is one thing that is certain: Change is inevitable. Food manufacturing is not exempt from this, requiring the plant environment to evolve along with new technology and market demands. Buildings grow in size to accommodate increased production, but subsequent additions to the physical plant may not be integrated effectively with the original layout. HVAC equipment, intended to service a certain space, is expected to continue operating efficiently within a completely reconfigured area and different performance parameters. The result? What once worked actually ends up being counterproductive.

All of this can lead to airflow problems in the facility. From simple temperature comfort issues to product contamination, the detriments and inefficiencies can become serious if left unchecked. When dealing with original equipment and reconstruction, the only accurate method to determine true existing conditions is field measurement during process operation. Blueprint and/or nameplate data analysis is simply not enough to determine true, real-time facility function with respect to airflow. Cataloging each piece of HVAC equipment and its performance, along with the physical size of each space, is the only way to fully understand how the air in the building is moving throughout the manufacturing process.

Once good data has been collected and analyzed, it is then possible to make educated determinations for makeup air and/or exhaust needs. In some cases, equipment can be decommissioned to achieve the desired results from a food safety standpoint. The field measurement exercise may also uncover equipment that is not functioning properly or even installed incorrectly, and can then be serviced accordingly.

Before a company can look ahead, it must pay attention to the here and now. The entire system hinges on this vital first step; unless time and effort is dedicated to collecting accurate data centered on the HVAC system operation, there is no way to move toward a food safe manufacturing environment.