Food Engineering

Field Report: Smooth transition

March 22, 2003
Maple Leaf Foods streamlines its lubricant product line with food-grade lubricants



Staying competitive in the food industry means keeping food processing machinery working harder and longer. At Maple Leaf Foods, a global food processing company, equipment is routinely expected to operate at 3600 rpm for up to 16 hours a day. To keep the machinery running effectively, Maple Leaf has to constantly find new and innovative ways to eliminate downtime and improve its maintenance program.

One way the company has managed to maximize productivity and save money is by streamlining its lubricant product line with food-grade lubricants. Previously, Maple Leaf was using several different types of lubricants at its Toronto, Ontario, canning facility. The maintenance team at the plant believed that the old products were not performing well in conditions of extreme temperature and were causing undue wear in the equipment. The company decided to switch over to a food-grade lubricant in 1995, following a particularly serious lubrication failure in its steam-injected machinery.

Lou Falcone, a maintenance manager at Maple Leaf for more than nine years, was responsible for implementing the change. "We were having problems applying our regular food grade greases in our steam-injected machinery," Falcone recalls. "The steam was melting the grease and causing the equipment to seize up because of a lack of lubrication. We switched over to a food-grade lubricant from Petro-Canada because it stayed in place in the face of extreme temperatures."

Maple Leaf chose a non-toxic, industrial-strength food-grade lubricant known as Purity FG, which is designed to handle demanding extreme temperature applications, and says he has found success with it in other food processing facilities. In 1997, when he was given the job of keeping 60 diverse pieces of food processing equipment running smoothly at the food company's deli processing plant, Falcone once again decided to use a lubricant from the same product line to deal with that plant's lubrication needs.

"The deli plant was outfitted with a lot of complex machinery, such as hamstuffers, emulsifiers, polyclippers, blenders hydroflakers and conveyors," Falcone explains. "Each of these processors needed its own specific lubricants and viscosity grades to operate effectively - products our old supplier didn't offer. Fortunately, our supplier carried a full line of food-grade products, which allowed us to optimize our equipment's performance."

Because the products are non-toxic, Maple Leaf does not have to worry about running afoul of stringent government regulations. Falcone chose products that pass the requirements for contact with food, including CFIA, FDA, CFR 178.3570 and USDA-H1.