Meeting the demands of a growing world
An expanding global population and rising living standards are fueling demand in the process industries. Requirements for safety, quality and performance mean growth for Trelleborg.
From food to pharmaceuticals, chemicals to petrochemicals, processing companies strive constantly to increase efficiency and reduce waste and maintenance costs while meeting ever more stringent environmental and product safety regulations.
Though many industrial sectors were heavily impacted by the global downturn, the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries have been relatively unscathed.
“The world population is growing, and more people have access to processed food and medicines, so this market is showing consistent growth,” says Ferdinand Schwabe, Food, Beverage & Pharmaceutical Segment Manager Europe, at Trelleborg Sealing Solutions. The company supplies a wide range of static, linear and rotary seals in polymeric materials to food, beverage and pharmaceutical producers globally.
Not only are convenience foods in greater demand today, but an increasing level of health consciousness among consumers has resulted in processed foods that are lower in fat and sugar, and this creates food safety issues.
“Sugar is a preservative, so products that contain low amounts of sugar are often more susceptible to microorganisms,” says Schwabe. “As microwave food is only heated up briefly, pathogenic micro-organisms are not killed, and this raises hygiene requirements within the industry.”
The need for hygienic design to ensure product safety while maintaining economic efficiency is affecting demand for Trelleborg’s products. For one thing, customers need materials and components that can handle higher temperatures. “Hygienic design is a big issue within the food and pharmaceutical industries,” Schwabe says. “This puts big demands on the seals. For example, manufacturers want to increase cleaning temperatures from 80°C to 140°C to make cleaning more effective. Our seals must handle these conditions.” These trends keep Trelleborg’s R&D departments busy, with customers calling for solutions that fulfill hygienic design requirements and meet food contact regulations.
“Business is growing,” Schwabe says. His segment recently had its best month ever, and Schwabe says he expects the trend to continue. “A leading player like Trelleborg finds it easier than other companies to meet the costs of developing and testing the special compounds required to fulfill legal and quality management requirements.”
The chemicals industry, one of the largest sectors in the process industry, is a US$ 3.7 (€2.77) trillion global enterprise that is continuing to grow. European and U.S. chemical companies remain the world’s largest producers, but China and India are the main growth markets, and Western companies are investing heavily there.
Olivier Libes is the Marketing & Product Development Manager for Trelleborg in Clermont-Ferrand (F), which supplies many of the world’s major chemical producers with hoses. It recently opened an office in China west of Shanghai. This migration is not a case of outsourcing production but rather of moving to where demand is. “Western companies are establishing themselves in China, and they know what they want in terms of component quality and performance, so we are now there to provide them with our solutions.”
Spills and accidents at chemical and petrochemical production facilities in recent decades have highlighted the need for high-quality components and systems. “A malfunction in these industries can cause extreme environmental issues, so companies are looking increasingly towards high-performance products,” Libes says. “This is where Trelleborg is strongest and where we can develop our business. So this is a very promising area for us.”
Keeping us safe
We expect food and beverages to be safe, but food safety has not always been assured. As early as the 1820s, chemist Frederick Accum raised the alarm about food adulteration. He highlighted cheap versions of expensive tea and coffee made from used tea leaves boiled with sheep’s dung and exhausted coffee grounds mixed with sand and gravel. Worst of all were poisonous colorings used in candy to attract children that contained lead, copper or mercury salts. (see “The Mutually Poisoning Society” for more on Accum’s campaign!)
Following on from this work, Thomas Wakley, surgeon, British MP and founding editor of the medical weekly The Lancet, started a long campaign against the adulteration of food and drugs to secure legislation to protect the public. He worked with London-based physician Arthur Hill Hassell, who during the 1850s proved that adulteration was the rule rather than the exception.
Today, regulations are tight controlling the processing of anything that will be consumed by people. Bodies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Britain’s Food Standards Agency and the European Commission, among others, set and administer standards globally. As polymer components are used within processing systems in contact with foodstuffs, numerous standards are applicable to them and compounds are specifically formulated to be compliant.
On the floor
Forklifts are widely used in the processing industry to move materials, transfer products between locations within a facility and load trucks. Trelleborg is a leading supplier of industrial tires for forklifts and other industrial applications. Its products include a wide range of tires with high durability and excellent grip supplied through the brands Bergougnan, Monarch, Rota and Trelleborg.
The perfect match
It doesn’t matter whether a polymer is used in a seal, hose or other component within a processing system, the material will always face the same issue of media compatibility. Making sure that a polymer is able to withstand the media that is processed or the media with which the system is cleaned is vital in ensuring length of life and effectiveness.
The wide variety of food, beverages and chemicals that are processed along with stringent cleaning-in-place regimes, now normal practice in hygienic industries, have led to the development of a wide range of polymers. Making sure the polymer selected is a perfect match for the processing conditions is no easy task. A material that works well with one medium being processed may not work well with another.
The company undertakes extensive testing so it can recommend the perfect match of polymer to system and cleaning media. This information is then used in compatibility data available either in printed form or via online tools.
Technology on the inside
From the outside one hose looks much the same as another. Beneath its outer surface, though, advanced technology makes these vital lines integral to any processing system. Innovative rubber hoses are used throughout the food industry. Whether for transferring milk from farm to factory, for washing down food production areas or for filling barrels with wine, food-use hoses play a key role in the production of virtually everything we eat or drink.
Due to requirements of the different processing areas, hoses tend to be developed specifically for each application. For instance, Vinitrell is a hose developed by Trelleborg Engineered Systems especially for the wine industry. It offers the superior benefits of a rubber product, while its advanced polymer coating allows it to move as easily as a PVC hose around wineries.
“Rubber hoses have significant advantages over PVC products,” says Christine Dhiersat, Product Manager for performance hoses at Trelleborg in Clermont-Ferrand, France. “These are the maintenance of pressure and flexibility over the whole of their operating temperature range and absorption of impact. Their disadvantage is that they are heavier and sometimes difficult to maneuver within wineries.” Vinitrell, with its unique polymer coating, solves this problem, and many wines in Bordeaux, Champagne, Languedoc-Roussillon, Rioja and Ribera del Duero are already flowing freely through these hoses. For its annual production of 5 million bottles, the wine cooperative UDPSE in Saint-Emilion (F), uses Trelleborg hoses.
“The key to a great wine is quality, which you get from treating wine with respect. We only use hoses from Trelleborg and have over 1,500 meters at present,” says Bertrand Bourdil, Technical Director at UDPSE. The hoses are utilized wherever the wine needs to be transferred, such as from the vats to the barrels.
For transfer of milk there is the Lactadial. Milk trucks can make as many as 50 milk stops per day, which is not a problem when they are equipped with automatic rollers to extend and recoil the hoses. However, many drivers are obliged to manipulate the hoses themselves, which can make for backbreaking work. “Lactadial uses new polyesters,” explains Dhiersat. “This not only makes it 20 percent lighter than previous hoses for milk transfer, but also offers much better resistance to fatigue.”