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Enclosures for the food & beverage industry

22 December 2020

RITTAL HAS published a white paper which considers the distinguishing characteristics of Hygienic Design enclosures and how they must align with current and relevant directives, regulations and guidelines

Enclosures for switchgear and electrical equipment are vital across the manufacturing and engineering sectors including food and beverage production companies. An enclosure creates a protective environment for sensitive electrical components, while also protecting operatives from contact with the electrical circuitry. The design of these enclosures needs to take account of their location; for food production lines, this means ensuring very high hygiene standards can be maintained. Enclosures specifically designed to meet the requirements of food and beverage production lines are commonly referred to as “Hygienic Design” enclosures. Rittal's white paper on the subject can be downloaded at https://bit.ly/2BQ7wKt

The hygiene regulations that govern our food and beverage companies contained within EU directives are necessarily stringent to protect public health.  Any breaches by the companies can be hugely expensive, in terms of the cost of product recalls, reputational damage and financial losses incurred while the problems are fixed.

Everything associated with a food production line must meet the required standards for cleanliness, and that includes the enclosures protecting the electrical equipment that drives any associated automated processes. These enclosures, because of their design characteristics are commonly known as ‘Hygienic Design’ enclosures (HD).

However, while there is an obligation for hygiene standards to be met, the directives and standards that bind the industry do not advise users how to judge an enclosure’s suitability to be in such a sensitive environment.

Without standardised and recognised guidance, enclosure manufacturers, the systems and mechanical engineers, as well as end users, must make their own decisions as to the type of of hygienic design that should be employed.

In response, Rittal has published a White Paper outlining the characteristics of an HD enclosure.

It considers:

- Suitable materials and surfaces, in terms of cleaning, corrosion etc

- Connection systems, including seals and seams

- Angles and corners, which are angled for easy washdown and which avoid niches that could collect contaminants

- How to avoid penetration into the circuitry, not least by water ingress

- Testing procedures to demonstrate the suitability of an enclosure for a food production line.

All this ensures that production facilities can be cleaned as easily as possible, to maintain the highest possible health and safety standards for the end consumer.
Rittal’s range of HD enclosures are designed to make them quick and easy to clean. They can withstand power washing while maintaining a fully watertight environment for the electrical components within them.

Rittal identifies three categories of hygiene ‘zones’ within food and beverage production and processing plants: high, medium and low hygiene spaces. Your choice of a suitable enclosure solution depends on the zone where it will be installed.

ZONE 1: FOOD ZONE - High Hygiene Zone

Of all the zones, the food preparation zone is the most critical. Due to the high risk of contamination, it is essential that the enclosures within this space are designed according to very strict hygiene rules.

Hygienic Design enclosures have become the standard housing for electrical controls in this environment because they allow rapid cleaning, they create a sealed environment for electrical systems, and they prevent the formation of pockets of dirt.

ZONE 2: SPRAY ZONE – Medium Hygiene Zone

The risk of contamination in this zone is lower than in the high hygiene zone.  Here, the food is already packaged or undergoing further sterilization treatment; so for example, products such as milk are enclosed in pipe systems and are therefore protected from the outside environment.

Solution: Stainless steel enclosures are ideal for use in medium hygiene zones.  Cabinets constructed from this type of steel have a long life as they are resistant to water vapour, humidity and weak acids. As always, adequate climate control for the equipment housed in the cabinets is essential.

ZONE 3: NON-FOOD ZONE - Basic Hygiene Zone

In low hygiene zones, the risk of contamination of food and beverage products is minimal, for example in the IT area or the offices withun a factory.  Needless to say, enclosures within these spaces do not have to comply with specific hygiene rules.   

Solution: Edge IT Solutions. The ever-increasing amount of data gathered from processing equipment’s diagnostic and IoT devices means there is a rising demand for fast data processing, as close to the source as possible. Edge data centers can handle a wide variety of tasks, and will assist organisations with critical processes - such as data capture and monitoring production processes - while providing scalability and resilience benefits to users.