Extruder keeps house with portable industrial vacuums
A supplier of grain-based intermediate foods steps up its plant sanitation and safety efforts.
At J.R. Short Milling, a large-footprint snack food extruder, sanitation has become a way of life. “We have worked very hard to train people to understand that,” says Nick Ladin, vice president of operations for J.R. Short.
The company supplies grain-based, intermediate foods that its customers further process by air-popping, pressure-popping or frying. At its Kankakee, IL plant, J.R. Short runs multiple production lines to process hundreds of thousands of pounds of raw materials per week, including flour, corn, chia, kale, fiber and proteins. In an effort to step up its sanitation practices, the company wanted to move away from manual sweeping and decided to try an industrial vacuum that could handle fine powders.
J.R. Short has been in business since 1910. Over the past 30+ years, it has extruded everything from small pellets to unique shapes, including brand-based custom shapes. Last year, it purchased two additional VAC-U-MAX portable industrial vacuums for its housekeeping arsenal. Strategically located throughout the facility for quick access, its fleet of five portable units are used for a combination of tasks, including spill cleanup and removing fugitive dust from floors, walls and machine surfaces, as well as process changeovers.
With 60 years of experience, Belleville, NJ-based VAC-U-MAX has produced products that handle over 10,000 bulk materials, such as powders, flakes, granules, pellets, fibers, capsules, gel caps and tablets. The company manufactures industrial vacuum cleaners that improve cleanliness, working conditions and safety.
J.R. Short uses pneumatic conveyors to transfer raw materials to its extruding machines that mix and cook its extruded pellet products. Pneumatic conveyors gently and quickly transfer bulk materials from point to point. Because these systems are completely enclosed, there is little risk of product loss.
“When moving flour around, you can have a 100 percent sealed system and still get a bit of leakage here and there,” says Ladin. “If you sweep a pile of flour, you are definitely not capturing everything you sweep. Sweeping creates airborne dust, moving that dust somewhere else. When you vacuum, you suck it all up.”
Because the extrusion plant is not under one footprint, Ladin says portable vacuums offered an ideal solution. Each VAC-U-MAX MDL110 portable vacuum can support one operator up to 50 feet away from the vacuum and provides suction for overhead cleaning. Equipped with a Teflon-coated leaf-type filter, each unit is rated 99.9 percent efficient at 1-micron particle size.
“The VAC-U-MAX units help keep our plant very clean,” continues Ladin. “Whenever we have small spills or leakage, it is very easy to grab a vacuum, turn it on and clean up the mess right away.”
In addition to general housekeeping, the vacuums are used in the dry phase of cleanup during changeovers. The new units were purchased to enhance the company’s stringent sanitation protocols by increasing the availability of units throughout the plant. Additionally, because the plant is now producing non-gluten products, some of the units are dedicated to only that processing area.
“I’ve seen some flour milling plants where it is standard to use an air wand for cleaning surfaces, taking dust from one area and transferring it somewhere else,” Ladin notes. “But if you vacuum it, you eliminate it. I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but it is amazing how many people don’t understand it.”