You’ve heard of “kicking the tires” while looking at a new car on the sales lot. What would food processing operations officials do when sampling a new piece of food equipment?

Interested in their opinions, R&FF put that question directly to Chris Celeslie, vice president of operations at Little Lady Foods, an Elk Grove, Ill., co-packer of frozen pizzas, sandwiches and other products; David Cowperthwait, senior vice president of manufacturing at McCain Foods USA, a Lisle, Ill.-based processor of frozen potato, snack and pizza products; David Konst, senior vice president of operations at Rich Products Corp., a Buffalo, N.Y.-based processor of frozen bakery foods, seafood, snacks, non-dairy products, barbeque meats and Italian entrees; and Dan Milovanovic, senior vice president of North American operations at OSI Group, an Aurora, Ill.-based giant with operations in prepared beef, pork and poultry products as well as prepared entrees.

David Konst: Product and associate safety are of the utmost importance when reviewing any potential piece of equipment we are considering for one of our plants. Then [a new piece of equipment] must be able to help us drive greater efficiencies than what we can currently drive using our current equipment. Finally, it has to help us deliver value to our customers. 

 David Cowperthwait: The most important part of any equipment is its performance capability. It must be able to deliver a product that will meet our specifications and criteria. It must meet or exceed our design for the products we are working to deliver.

Equipment must be safe to operate – in a manner that ensures both the safety of our food and the safety of our employees. It has to be easy to clean to meet our sanitation criteria, while also being able to produce the food design we want.

Finally, it has to be tough and efficient and it has to be flexible. This is becoming a much more important factor as we strive to keep up with consumer needs and wants that are changing at the speed of light.

Chris Celeslie: A definite must is sanitary design that minimizes food safety risks and improves ease of cleaning. Other “must haves” include a high range of flexibility and operator friendliness – supported with ease of changeovers, a footprint compatible to flexibility and safety, and a design that supports minimal maintenance or rebuild costs. 

Dan Milovanovic: When it comes to evaluating new processing equipment, our thinking has progressed far beyond simply assessing the equipment’s operating capabilities (i.e. thru-puts, functionality, etc.). We now consider the investment more “holistically” by incorporating advanced sanitation design, aggressive changeover requirements and ease of maintenance into the equipment evaluation process. This more thorough approach to is critical as it avoids longer term operating issues and aligns expectations.