In the meat processing industry, where the special machine builder Sleegers Technique is active, food safety has the highest priority. So the company is constantly looking for new ways to design, build and operate the machines even more hygienically. Knowledge partner SMC Nederland helps to develop such innovations and thus helps to strengthen Sleegers Techniques’ leading position.
‘Put a hygiene plus on the machine’
Sleegers Technique in Nieuwkuijk has been active since 1993 in special machine design for the food industry. The portfolio includes a machine for cutting and presenting carpaccio, which is then packed with plastic sheets. The approximately thirty employees also work for large production companies in the hamburger and bacon industry. In addition to the comprehensive range of standard machines, the company develops tailor-made machines in close consultation with customers. ‘Last year, we started an R & D department to be able to continuously innovate and be a trendsetter in the market. SMC is an important knowledge partner in this connection to work together on new processes in the coming years’, says CEO Huub Sleegers† ‘The aim is at all times to be able to guarantee food safety and to build equipment for this purpose with the necessary hygienically designed components.’
Safe and sustainable
SMC Nederland specializes in pneumatic components and is part of the Japanese parent company, which has more than 20,000 employees worldwide. The company profiles itself as a knowledge partner for safe and sustainable technology in industrial automation. Ivo Gels, a food industry specialist at SMC, takes up that challenge every day. His goal is to help customers with the practical application of applicable laws and standards by translating them into design and product. “We look at how customers (want to) use technology in their machines and how they can do this as safely as possible,” he says.
Control and monitoring
The long-standing collaboration is one of the reasons why SMC has now been asked to collaborate at a high level within R&D. “In the last fifty years, there have been many scandals about food safety, such as salmonella and legionella infections. We pretend to be a machine builder who places great emphasis on hygienic aspects’, says Sleegers. »Cleaning the machines is important, but so is the hygiene in the cabinets, where all parts are built-in, and in which compressed air is used. We are now embarking on a development process with SMC for this purpose: to control and monitor that compressed air. ‘ This monitoring concerns, among other things, the number of bacteria and the relative humidity inside and outside the cabinet.
Innovator meets early adopter
SMC supplies components that realize high-quality compressed air. Two years ago, an activated carbon filter was added to the package, which removes oil odor. »In the hygiene cabinet, the compressed air comes into contact with food. That filter prevents the compressed air from affecting the taste and smell of the product ‘, Gels explains. ‘We have also designed a microbacterial filter that stops the smallest particles. Sleegers is a great match for us as an innovator because as one early adopter will use new techniques and challenge us to keep evolving. ‘
Sleegers agrees that food safe design is the code of conduct for all machines provided by the company. “It is also an important selling point for us that machines are and remain hygienically built and that they do not contain polluting elements. We want to be proactive about this together with SMC. ‘
The project is still in its infancy: this year, Sleegers wants to give high priority to research and development, to take steps together in prototype construction, in air treatment and monitoring in food safety. ‘This is supported by built-in software so we can influence and control the quality of the compressed air and bring it up to a high level.’ Measurements in the machines must enable Sleegers to act on, for example, an increase in compressed air consumption and to investigate possible deviations, in real time and online.
This fits in seamlessly with the way SMC develops most of its products. ‘We do not think based on a fixed package, but develop products that exactly match the customer’s requirements,’ says Gels. ‘The collaboration with Sleegers helps with that, because in the end, they have a lot more knowledge about the needs of the market than we have.’ The ideal picture is clear for both. ‘A hygienic cabinet where we can monitor a number of parameters online, control the quality of the climate in the cabinet and proactively warn customers if there are processes underway that endanger food safety. Whereby we put a plus on the machine. ‘