10 Feb 2020

How Dehumidification Can Improve Quality Control For The Food and Beverage Industry

Aggreko Dehumidifiers
 

No matter what you do, you can’t control the weather. When the temperature and humidity suddenly jump up, you need to find ways to adapt and accommodate this, to protect your critical processes and products. 

I don’t need to tell you that in the food and beverage industry, it’s absolutely vital that your production environment is kept absolutely stable. Water pooling in your manufacturing equipment can cause blockages that interrupt fuel flow. If there are health hazards that stem from products being exposed to too much heat or humidity, you would have to shut down the whole plant, taking a massive hit to revenue and profits. 

The scary thing is, just a fraction too much moisture or other impurities in the air can cause foods or ingredients to spoil. You could end up having to throw away huge amounts of inventory or items ruined during production and packaging. Even worse, if water gets into delicate equipment, this can lead to millions of dollars of damage - even when you’re only talking about a few drops of liquid in the affected parts.

This is precisely what happened to one of our customers. At this plant, persistent high humidity levels were affecting equipment so badly that they kept getting “fail” stamps. These units worked well otherwise, but nevertheless the company had to keep destroying the ones that failed, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, every single month. By the time they called us, they were on the brink of shutting down operations altogether. But more on that in a moment.

It’s not just the direct expense of items wrecked by exposure to humidity, either. If you have to slow production or temporarily close the facility, this will likely lead to missed orders and angry customers. Those relationships are very hard to win back - and you risk losing out to your competitors in a big way.

Can Your Facility Handle the Pressure?

It’s possible that your factory has the built-in cooling and dehumidification capabilities to adjust and control environmental conditions, no matter what happens. In reality, though, for most companies, it would cost far too much to have this kind of permanent equipment installed, only to have it sit idle for much of the year.

What’s more, you may not have the luxury of any warning to prepare for the extra humidity. After all, these challenges are tricky enough to manage when you’re dealing with relatively predictable seasonal fluctuations, but throw erratic changes or unseasonable weather conditions into the mix and you can really get caught on the back foot. 

In these situations, not only do you have to figure out what to do at little notice, you have no idea how long the situation may go on for. This makes it extremely difficult to assess whether it’s worth the cost of investing in additional equipment to beat the heat.

How Can Temporary Dehumidifiers Help?

In most cases, the most sensible strategy is to bring in powerful, temporary dehumidifiers, just for the period of time they’re needed. If you rent these from a company that knows their stuff, they’ll be able to select the perfect unit, whether that’s a desiccant dehumidifier, refrigerant dehumidifier or a combination of the two. They’ll also be able to combine these with other types of cooling equipment to create an installation that’s perfectly tailored to your needs. 

Take the plant we mentioned above. In that case, we didn’t just bring in a heavy-duty dehumidifier to strip the moisture from the air. We also provided state-of-the-art air handlers and a low-temperature chiller. Together, this proved to be a fast-acting system that gave the customer plenty of control over the ambient temperature and environmental conditions. 

As such, the team were able to bring heat and humidity levels back below the target level quickly and effectively, and to steam ahead with production without this impacting the quality of the items. 

Or take another one of our manufacturing customers for whom the stakes were incredibly high. This company creates medical-grade mono-filament, which is used in a large number of very delicate medical procedures and tests. As can be expected, quality control is extremely rigorous - and any slight alteration in airborne moisture levels can result in immediate shut down for the entire plant.

You can imagine how much pressure this put on our customer - and how certain they needed to be that our temporary system would kick into action without any teething problems. The slightest blip would mean a serious hit to their bottom line.
In this case, our expert team was able to pick out exactly the right dehumidifiers from our world-class fleet to work with the interior of the plant. These were set to maintain unfailingly consistent humidity levels, no matter what happened outside.

The result? Perfect conditions, 24/7. The manufacturers could continue, safe in the knowledge that their mono-filament would not be affected and they wouldn’t run into any quality control issues.

Controlling Quality in Your Plant

Dehumidification is one of those issues you’re unlikely to think about until it becomes a threat - but by the time the problem’s arrived, it could already be too late.
If your facility needs carefully controlled conditions, we advise strongly that you talk to a temporary utilities vendor as soon as possible. This means you can give them an idea of what you’ll need to protect your business if and when humidity soars, so that they can design a supplementary or emergency backup system that’s ready to roll as soon as you need it.