It’s a rewarding moment for Working Group Chairman Taco Mets and his EHEDG Working Group experts from Fragol, Klüber and Tetra Pak, who contributed to this new EHEDG guideline publication. Mets has been advocating the use of food grade lubricants for almost thirty years now, partly to serve his employers at Van Meeuwen Industries, but also because he’s a mechanical engineer at heart, who strives to take away misunderstandings and to create awareness that the choice and use of lubricants determine the reliability and productivity, longevity and food safety of industrial manufacturing processes. Mets: “This guideline shows food producers and machine equipment engineers that lubricants are vital construction elements that deserve their full attention.”
Are there any industrial processes that don’t need lubricants to work properly?
“Almost none, but there are considerable variations with regard to the amount of lubricants needed for producing different kind of products. In general, it’s safe to say that closed and dry processes need significantly less lubricants than open and wet processes. With the exception of modern pumps, most industrial production machines need lubricants to function properly. Lubricants avoid wear and prevent internal damage resulting from friction by mechanical forces. All lubricants are meant to establish some kind of “aquaplaning” to separate moving components with a lubricant layer, but only H1 and HT1 registered food grade lubricants also take food safety into account.”
What parameters determine the quality and effectiveness of lubricants?
“Quite a few, but besides viscosity, one of the most important ones is the temperature. Just a rule of thumb: an incremental temperature increase of only ten degrees will halve the lifetime of most lubricants. Synthetic lubricants offer a better heat resistance and flow ability at low temperatures, and some fluorinated lubricants are even applicable for temperatures of up to 280 degrees, so they can be used to lubricate conveyor bearings in ovens. Another parameter is speed. Machines that operate rather slowly need thicker lubricants with higher viscosities than machines with fast rotating components. Other functional quality determining parameters are directly related to the specific use of an application. A hydraulic system needs other lubricants than a gear box or a compressor. The amount and frequency of relubrication and oil changes is also directly related to the applications, conditions, and the productivity of machines.”
“We included many new and very useful elements, like a list of requirements and recommendations for the use and storage of food grade lubricants, hand-on tips to minimize product contamination risks and information on the deterioration of lubricants during operation and the use of lubricants during maintenance. We also included real life examples with pictures, and a flowchart that illustrates how to shift from conventional to food grade lubricants. This document now offers a lot of practical value. It also clarifies a lot of misunderstandings about lubricants, especially with regard to the H1 and HT1 registrations that are often unrightfully perceived as EC 1935/2004 food contact materials regulation.
Why does this guideline only focus on H1 and HT1 food grade lubricants?
“Because our EHEDG Working Group members unanimously agree that to optimize food safety, food producers and machine equipment suppliers should exclusively use H1 and HT1 registered food grade lubricants. If you also use conventional (not H1 or HT1 registered) types of lubricants, you will need tight and strict procedures and documentation systems to keep your workers from using the wrong lubricant at the wrong places. Lubrication is an area of expertise that has been greatly underestimated for many years, but there seems to emerge a general awareness now that you just can’t use lubricants that contain lead, chlorine, sulphur or graphiten food production environments. Luckily, there are plenty of food grade lubricants available these days that don’t use toxic additives. This guideline helps you to learn what aspects you have to pay attention to when it comes to choosing the right lubricants for your needs. This basic knowledge will help you not only to protect your gear and your food safety, but it might even save you quite a lot of money in the long run, because lubricants are often sold in package deals and lots of end users don’t really know what they buy.”
Lubricants in package deals? How does that work?
“Lubricants are often sold in combination with machines, because some machine builders want to engage in the maintenance, repair and operations market. And some of them essentially force their machine users to buy aftermarket lubricants (often rebranded under some private label) by linking it to their warranty policy. It’s probably legal, depending on the full scope of their business model, but from a technical and food safety perspective, it is downright bad practice, because it totally disavows the importance of high-quality food grade lubricants. It’s another reason why all food and food equipment producers should read this guideline. The right knowledge is always the best way to protect yourself from scams and from taking decisions. It’s important to create more transparency in the food industry.”
Food grade lubricants are expensive compared to conventional lubricants…
“They certainly are, at the moment that you have to buy them, but when you look at the big picture and take the actual use of your machines into consideration, then high quality food grade lubricants often turn out to be very interesting investments. By using H1 and HT1 registered lubricants, food lubricant experts have managed to reduce their processing downtimes related to re-lubrication by up to 90 percent. This guideline helps you to make not only technical, but also well-thought-out economical decisions. Because the better your lubricants match with your applications, the less time and effort you’ll have to spend to keep your processes to run smoothly. “
“This guideline will serve the industry in the upcoming years, but lubricants will continue to evolve in line with new machine equipment industry developments like the ongoing miniaturization of sump volumes, increasing mechanical stress and rising operating temperatures. All of these developments have consequences for the future use of lubricants and will keep lubricant producers busy. In the meantime, EHEDG will develop an update for its EHEDG Training Installation, Maintenance and Lubricants, which will be based on this new guideline as well. Our goal is to make everyone in the industry understand the benefits that good lubrication offers for improving food safety, productivity and reliability of machinery. It’s an area where many food producers can still take advantage of untapped reserves, and it all starts with reading this EHEDG Guideline Doc. 23.”