In this Q&A, Klüber Lubrication’s Toby Porter discusses how lubricants can improve production in snack and baking
Q: How do lubricants factor into a
snack or bakery facility’s level of
A: The operating environment of a snack
and/or baking facility can have a challenging effect on the
performance of a lubricant. For instance, high levels of humidity
and increasing temperatures can work against both the surface
protection and long life that even some specialty lubricants can
provide. What this means is that the facility may be lubricating
more often than necessary — or perhaps isn’t getting the longest
life possible from its components. This can lead to increased
downtime, frequent maintenance and, ultimately, lower levels of
Q: What are some key advances in food-grade lubricants
within the past few years?
A: We’ve seen advances in both the formulation of lubricants
used in the food industry and also the type of safety standards
that have become increasingly important for both lubricant and
A good example is an advance in food-grade formulations that
use a calcium sulfonate complex thickener. This has become more
prevalent due to the unique performance, which depending on
the application, can mean improved load carrying ability and high
levels of protection, even in the presence of water.
Advances in the safety realm include additives and ingredients
that have attained NSF registration to be used in a food grade
formulation. Also, the ISO 21469 standard is a certification that
lubricant suppliers can adopt. The certification defines hygiene
requirements for the manufacturing and the use of lubricants that
can have incidental product contact.
Q: What are the most important factors related to specialty,
food-grade lubricants that snack producers and bakery
companies should understand?
A: The most important factors that snack and baking
facilities need to be concerned about include the potential for
contamination of the food product, the machinery specifications
from the OEM and the overall tribological environment.
It’s important to understand the risk level associated with the
application point so that a decision can be made on the type of
lubricant that should be used, the type of safety registration that
is appropriate and the proper storage and use of the lubricant.
The specifications from the equipment manufacturer need to be
reviewed, because, in many cases, the OEM has already partnered
with a lubricant manufacturer to dial in a specific type of lubricant
to provide optimum performance. It’s important to review, in
depth, why that original lubricant specification was made and if
any differences exist at the specific site where the machinery is
currently located and operating.
Finally, understanding the overall tribological environment is
extremely important. That’s because changes in factors such as
temperature, load, speed and outside media can have a significant
impact on the surface protection a lubricant provides. Just a 20-
to 30-degree increase in chain temperature, for example, could
mean a higher oil evaporation rate, which could necessitate either
changing the application method or, possibly, selecting a different
type of food-grade base oil to provide optimum protection at
Q: What lubricants are recommended in baking processes
for tortillas and flat breads, as examples, where chain
temperatures can reach over 1000°F?
A: Extreme temperatures are a challenge, because as
temperatures increase, a typical chain oil will evaporate and
sacrifice the protection of the chain. In these cases, a solid
lubricant, such as black graphite can be used. Therefore, when
the oil inevitably evaporates, the solid stays behind to protect the
chains. The problem is that with many solid lubricants, the food
grade registration is sacrificed.
The other option is to go with a food-grade lubricant with an
upper limit at 500 to 600°F. Above those temperatures, the oil will
evaporate, requiring constant re-lubrication and possibly leaving
behind high levels of residue inside the chain.
One solution is to use a formulation that combines the best of
both worlds — use a specific solid lubricant that maintains its
NSF H1 status for incidental contact, with a base oil that when it
does evaporate, does so without leaving high levels of residue.
Q: How does it work in application?
A: As with any solid lubricant, the solids are held in suspension
within a base oil, such as polyalkylene glycol. Consequently, solid
lubricants need to be mixed. In an automated pumping system,
some sort of agitator is used. Then applying the lubricant at
temperatures below 300°F gives the fluid carrier time to reach
the application points of the chain before it smokes off. This
allows the solid lubricant to be carried into the chain to protect
components even at extreme temperatures.
Improving Food Production Efficiency with Lubricants
By Toby Porter, Market Manager, Food and Beverage Industry, Klüber Lubrication