Preventative Maintenance of HVAC and
Mechanical Systems
Picture billows of white flour dust hanging in the air in manufacturing
plants with bakery equipment. These particles penetrate the internal
burners, compromising their working condition. In addition, dust in the
environment of bakeries is a leading problem affecting mechanical systems.
These particles get sucked into burner fans, eventually causing buildup
on the blower wheels. Burners, then, run inefficiently and, in some cases,
won’t light.
One solution is preventative maintenance, which dramatically reduces risk.
A proactive approach allows manufacturers to reduce in-between service
calls, too. A good maintenance plan prevents machinery malfunctions and
extends the life of the equipment, reducing the cost of repairs down the
The first step to preventative maintenance is documenting cleaning
and inspection services, performance, and equipment efficiency. Make
sure burners, wiring and controls are cleaned properly. The goal is peak
performance at all times so each equipment component is important. For
boilers and burners, key areas to track include: flame signal, operating
pressure/temperature, stack heat loss, and carbon levels. For air
conditioners and chillers, it includes: coil cleaning, airflow measurement,
lubrication according to manufacturer standards, outdoor unit inspection,
and mechanical operation efficiency measurements.

Unique environmental concerns extend to smokehouses for hams and
other meats. Here, greasy smoke becomes a critical issue for mechanical
equipment. For manufacturers using double-walled kettles for steam,
boilers require the same attention as ovens.
In a roundtable discussion sponsored by American Combustion Service,
Inc., a participant from a national brand bakery that had installed a
computerized maintenance program for all facilities commented, “All
equipment is subject to failure. Based on history and input, we can
aggressively manage the high speed indexing equipment and each of
their operating hours to name a few. We cannot sacrifice preventative
maintenance. Our production schedule and available hours for service will
tell us if it’s necessary to bring in outside help or not.”

Keeping Systems Up-to-Date Reduces
Cost of Failure
Monitor systems so that manufacturing processes reach peak efficiency.
The cost of failure means wasted goods on the process line, unproductive
workers, and unexpected repairs. Outdated machines slow down the
manufacturing process. Look for technology that enhances productivity.
This doesn’t always mean new equipment. Adding capabilities to existing
equipment may offer advances in automation through upgrades and retrofit
Well-documented efficiency measures like “walk-through” inspections at
the beginning of each shift offer a great opportunity to “see” efficiency
first-hand. Document readings and conduct tests on the flour system,
boilers, refrigeration system and compressors, among others. Conduct
roundtable discussions with production staff to identify performance data to
be collected and tracked.
The benefits of such an approach may help to improve control of ovens and
cooling electrical equipment, recover oven heat, and lead to lower-carbon

Schedule Maintenance Windows
Scheduling maintenance windows involves preplanning and communication
with various departments. Scheduled shutdowns, holidays, nights and
weekends are perfect times to schedule maintenance work on burners,
boilers and mechanical systems

Energy Audits and Utility Rebates
Equipment that is not maintained requires much more energy than they
need. For food manufacturers with various internal groups working together
to produce products, energy audits identify opportunities that boost overall
efficiency. According to The Hartford Courant, about 3,500 businesses get
energy audits through their utility companies every year.
Utility rebates and incentives offer food manufacturers a great opportunity
for higher return-on-investment when upgrading or retrofitting mechanical
systems. According to Nicor Gas: steam system improvements, such as
tune-ups and steam trap repairs/replacements, save 10.6% in fuel costs on
average. High efficient burners are equipped with settings that allow flames
to be adjusted with very low “excess air” requirements – depending on
usage demand.
In addition to burners, cash incentives are typically applied to furnaces,
space heating boilers, space heating steam boilers, condensing unit
heaters, infrared heaters, steam traps, boiler reset controls, boiler tune-
ups, burner tune-ups and pipe insulation. For larger endeavors, Nicor Gas
will consider gas-saving projects through its Business Custom Incentive
Program, offering up to $500,000 in incentives on pre-approved projects.
For more information on the Nicor Gas Commercial Energy Efficiency
Rebate program, visit
. For information on the
Peoples Gas – Chicagoland Natural Gas Savings Program, visit
American Combustion Service, Inc. helps food manufacturers and other
businesses analyze fuel efficiency through its ACSI Energy Savings
Analysis, a step toward saving thousands of dollars through utility rebates.

Get Everyone Involved
Set goals, motivate team members or post status reports to educate
employees on their role in saving energy and keeping equipment running at
peak performance. Opening up communication about these issues will help
food manufacturers reach their goal of greater productivity.
One participant of American Combustion Service Inc.’s roundtable
discussion shared, “The entire plant has also increased meetings to ensure
fluid communication. We also review situations that occurred the previous
night. We discuss ways to take care of it faster, who is best qualified to
respond to that particular situation, and decide if there are better ways to
resolve the issue. If a customer calls to increase their order, we need to
adjust quickly and start a line sooner. This again relates back to energy
consumption and conservation, which is critical to the efficiency of the
plant too. Starting and stopping these lines properly by the right team
members is important. The team realizes that they control the efficiencies
of the plant that provide the job security for them.”


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