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Thermography Lowers Operating Costs in Food Industry

Supplier: FLIR Systems Australia
17 July, 2007

Consumer demand for convenience is higher than ever before; the food industry’s response to these needs is to offer more products, twenty-four hour service and expanded store facilities.

Grocery stores and food production plants consume tremendous amounts of electricity and house many mechanical and electrical systems which are susceptible to failure if not properly maintained. Periodically inspecting equipment and systems with a thermal imaging camera can prevent costly equipment failures and subsequent shutdowns.

Thermal imaging, also called thermography, is the production of non-contact infrared, or "heat" pictures from which temperature measurements can be made. Since nearly everything that uses or transmits power typically gets hot before it fails, thermography detects anomalies often invisible to the naked eye and allows corrective action before costly system failures occur. Portable infrared (IR) imaging systems scan equipment and structures then instantly convert the thermal images to visible pictures for quantitative temperature analysis.

ThermaCAM Prevents Lost Revenue in Grocery Operations
FLIR Systems ThermaCAM family of infrared imaging systems have set the standard for thermographic inspections, offering unique camera and software capabilities to facilitate easy, fast and accurate predictive maintenance tasks.

The ThermaCAM is ideal for inspecting the wide variety of electrical and mechanical equipment found in food retail, warehousing, and production facilities. Power loss in food storage and production areas can be catastrophic to refrigeration and warehousing facilities.

The ThermaCAM’s temperature data is valuable when inspecting indoor electrical components such as motor control centres, breaker panels, disconnect switches, and transformers. Outdoor components monitored with IR include: substations, switchgear, transformers, and circuit breakers. Accurate temperature measurements allow maintenance personnel to prioritize repairs. ThermaCAM systems can detect temperature differences as small as 0.07°C. Since typical industrial electrical or mechanical problems occur when there is a temperature increase of 10°C or more, the ThermaCAM "sees" these problems well in advance of a failure.

Typical mechanical systems monitored in a predictive maintenance infrared program include bearings, motors, pumps, and compressors. Routine IR inspections can identify defective fan motors in open deli cases and faulty bearings on condenser fan shafts. Identifying and replacing defective discharge valves on air conditioner compressors can save thousands of dollars in replacement costs.

ThermaCAM systems can provide useful data in building maintenance studies, critical to efficiently operate large facilities. Evaluation of built-up roofing systems for water leakage is a common application. Since water has a higher thermal mass than the rest of the roofing material it retains heat longer and can be easily detected with the ThermaCAM at night, after the rest of the roof has cooled. The ThermaCAM can also identify air conditioning leaks and other problems that cause energy losses in heating and cooling systems.

Frozen food is typically stored at -18°C or colder depending on its ingredients. Food held in warmer air for only a few minutes will start to thaw, deteriorating product quality. The ThermaCAM can help maintenance personnel identify faulty components, suggest a course of action, and make repairs before refrigeration and freezer-units shutdown and product is lost.

ThermaCAM Keeps the Food Industry Running Year Round
As grocery stores expand operations to offer busy consumers more goods in one location, the food industry must continue to find ways to keep their stores stocked and running with minimal interruptions in service. Thermography has proven to be an excellent tool to help optimize operations and deliver quality and convenience to the consumer. Whether the application is electrical, mechanical or building diagnostics maintenance, FLIR Systems ThermaCAM provides maintenance personnel with the accurate thermal information necessary to make critical decisions about equipment repair, replacement and efficient food store operation.

IR at work at H-E-B Foods
At H-E-B Foods, located in San Antonio, Texas thermography is a tremendous success. The Energy Management Team uses a FLIR Systems ThermaCAM to scan all of their stores for general electrical, mechanical and building diagnostics inspections. H-E-B Foods evaluates all new equipment under warranty immediately after the equipment is installed and approximately one month before the warranty expires.

H-E-B’s Bryan, Texas store suffered an electrical fire in the main switchgear causing over $100,000 in damage and losses. After purchasing their first IR camera, members of H-E-B’s Energy Management Team returned to the Bryan, Texas store to evaluate the repaired switchgear. The first thermographic inspection revealed improper installation in the exact area that caused the original fire. The problem was immediately corrected potentially saving $100,000 and possibly a fire.

About Infrared Thermography
Thermal imaging, also called thermography, is the production of non-contact infrared or “heat” pictures from which temperature measurements can be made. Portable infrared cameras scan equipment and structures, then instantly convert the thermal images into pictures in a JPEG format for monitoring and analysis. Thermal imaging increases efficiency and maximizes safety in many industries and environments and is rapidly expanding into new markets.

About FLIR Systems
FLIR Systems is the world leader in the design and manufacturing of infrared cameras. The company has over 40 years of experience and more than 50,000 infrared cameras currently in use worldwide for applications including predictive maintenance, research & development, process monitoring, automation and many others. FLIR Systems has four manufacturing plants located in the USA and Sweden and operates direct sales offices in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, China, Japan and Australia. The company numbers over 1,300 dedicated infrared specialists, and serves international markets through a network of 60 regional offices providing sales and support functions.