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Flooring to suit all tastes

Nic Collins argues that of all the elements in a food or beverage processing plant, flooring is among the most vital.

From fruit and vegetable processing plant to dairy, fish packing facility to bakery or winery, the vast food processing industry spans a wide range of businesses, each of which has its own specific flooring requirements.

Yet as one of the last items to be installed, flooring often runs the risk of being downgraded, particularly if budget overruns in earlier stages have squeezed available funds.

It’s easy to see how other items, such as equipment, are considered more critical if taking a short-term view but skimping on flooring choice can cost businesses dearly in terms of slow processes, downtime, accidents and more.

First, flooring needs to be impact-resistant to withstand the mechanical installation of heavy machinery. It’s not uncommon for heavy equipment to get knocked over and flooring systems with low impact resistance are the ones most likely to need frequent repair or replacement.

Second, food and beverage factories are demanding environments that operate around the clock. This makes meeting flooring requirements for durability, ease of cleaning, slip resistance and sustainability extremely challenging.

Flooring must be capable of withstanding a number of aggressors and still remain in ‘a sound condition’ to comply with food hygiene regulations1. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Cooking areas can be one of the most hazardous in a food manufacturing facility. There’s the use of heat, nearby personnel, hot equipment that usually needs to be moved, the discharge of hot waste with the potential for spills and the risk of exposure to chemicals used to clean floors and equipment.

Impermeable, seamless and tough
With hygiene paramount in food preparation areas, floors and walls need to be both impervious and seamless to eradicate areas for bacterial growth. Added to this, flooring needs to be tough to withstand continuous traffic from forklift trucks, pallet trucks and heavy equipment. It must also be able to withstand rigorous cleaning regimes.

High foot traffic coupled with the hard steel or plastic wheels common in food production environments means abrasion resistance can be an issue. As can impact damage caused by machinery installation, product or casing falling on to the floor, moving packaged product and maintenance works. Ideally, all these risks should be designed out at the planning stage by being factored into the purchase decision.

Some facilities require further specialist certifications, such as conformance with Halal requirements, which involve regular detailed audits of the manufacturing facilities, packaging and raw materials used.

‘While a less expensive floor may save a producer some money at the outset, it may result in hidden costs down the line’

False economy
Last but not least, when an hour’s downtime costs on average £5,1212 , a fast return to service is essential. Loss of revenue for unplanned maintenance can be upwards of £250,000 for one line for one eight-hour shift. So you have expensive machinery sitting idle, staff being paid but unable to do their jobs and product not going out the door.

So while a cheaper floor may save food and beverage processors money at the outset, it can be a false economy, resulting in hidden costs down the line. Flooring, just like production machinery, should be viewed as an equal component of the lifecycle cost of operating the plant so the total cost of ownership (TCO) should be evaluated rather than the purchase price alone.

Sika, which added the market-leading Ucrete to its flooring portfolio when it acquired MBCC last year, ticks all the boxes. Sika Ucrete uses a unique polyurethane resin technology that gives floors exceptional resistance to aggressive chemicals, extreme mechanical and thermal shock, providing a long-term, durable flooring solution.

Sika Ucrete is the world’s toughest performance floor – trusted since 1969; it’s fast curing and fully serviceable after five hours at 10deg C; hygienic – cleanable to the same standard as stainless-steel; and non-tainting, even during application in food handling areas; anti-static: independently tested to EN63140 and EN1081; HACCP certified: independently approved, ‘food safe’ flooring product; high chemical resistance: from strong acids and alkalis, fats, oils and solvents; temperature resistance: fully resistant specifications available up to 150deg C; slip resistant: R11 to R13 (DIN 51130) textured finishes available with 40-60 PTV in the wet (EN13036); and Eurofins Certified: gold standard certified indoor air comfort.

Away from the factory floor, most food production facilities will need flooring for other areas of the building such as changing rooms, rest areas, wet-rooms, service corridors and offices. Sika ComfortFloor is the perfect fit for these busy areas, where staff may have to stand for long periods of time or where noise reduction is needed.

As its name suggests, Sika ComfortFloor has been designed to be comfortable to stand or walk on, even for long periods. The degree of softness depends on the system you choose but it can help reduce staff fatigue and trip injuries. Unlike cold tiles, it also feels pleasantly warm when walked on barefoot. (Good to know if you operate a very relaxed work environment).

There are even versions (the Sika ComfortFloor PS-23, PS-24 and PS-27 systems) that are compatible with underfloor heating installations. It’s fully monolithic with the specific screed and provides the correct level of thermal conductivity.

Most importantly for a food processing environment where hygiene is of critical importance, as Sika ComfortFloor is applied as a liquid, there are no laps, seams or welds where dirt and bacteria can hide – even when there are colour changes in the design or between floor and wall transitions.

Available in an almost endless choice of colours and design, unmatched by any other type of flooring system, Sika ComfortFloor allows complete design flexibility. It can be produced in corporate colours and even colour-matched to the walls or furniture.

Sika Ucrete and Sika ComfortFloor are just two of our products popular with food and beverage manufacturers so whether you need flooring for the production line, changing room or offices, you’ll find Sika flooring the recipe for success.
0800 1123865
Nic Collins is head of flooring, Sika

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