A little over a year ago, we learned how LED in Action was helping food processors adopt brighter, longer-lasting lighting. At that time, LED lighting was just starting to take off in food production plants. To find out how things have progressed since then, we caught up with Kevin Shepherd, LED in Action’s current general manager.
Switching on a new standard
Last time we talked with LED in Action, LED lights were still a relatively new idea in the industry. Now, in light of recent FSMA updates, they’re getting a lot of attention. Shepherd notes that a driving force behind the transition is the very real threat of unannounced inspections.
With a focus on regulatory compliance and cutting costs, here are the key features that make LED lighting a good fit for food processing applications.
“It's important to make sure there are no hazardous chemicals or materials used in the product construction,” Shepherd says. Anything that could potentially contaminate or fall into food is off limits. This includes glass, which breaks easily. That’s why shatter-proof plastic is the way to go. There also shouldn’t be any pieces that could harbor food particles, such as exposed screws.
“One of the things that people have said they love about our light is its smooth, good-looking design,” Shepherd notes. But that design is less about appearance than it is about functionality. It allows the water and chemicals to run off during washdowns.
The lights also have an IP69K rating, which is the highest rating under the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), making it dust-proof and resistant to high-pressure steam washdowns. “The 9 means it’s completely submersible in water and won’t leak anywhere,” Shepherd explains. “And the K has to do with pressure. They can be sprayed down with pressure washers at 1500 PSI, without any chipping or peeling.”
Energy-saving and low-maintenance
Due to the higher light output of LED lights, a 150-watt LED light can replace 400-watt bulb, saving between 60% and 80% in energy costs.
LED lighting reduces maintenance, too. With a tested lifespan of 304,000 hours, it may be a few decades before LED bulbs will need replacing. “With these calculations, you're getting an ROI of less than two years,” Shepherd says.
High CRI rating
As Berwin Lewis mentioned in our last interview, a CRI (or “color rendering index”) rating of at least 85 is required for food inspection areas. LED in Action supplies lights of CRI 90 or higher to maximize visibility.
Plugging into existing hardware
It’s not just the lights that must be compliant, but also the mounting components. Shepherd says his company’s food processing lights come with a standard loop hanging installation that meets the industry requirements.
Some food plants already have a fully compliant conduit, and LED in Action’s products can be customized to work with their current setup as well. “This is something we’ve also designed over the last couple of years,” Shepherd says. Due to its smooth design without exposed screws, custom brackets aren’t possible with the food processing light. “So we've created a conduit mount option that meets the standards and fits in with the existing equipment.”
Try before you buy
It’s not always easy to make a significant investment without trying the product first. That’s why LED in Action offers a Pilot Project Program that allows processors to get four food-grade lights for a 60-day free trial.” “If you don't want them after that, you send them back at no charge,” Shepherd says.
So far, no one who has tried them has returned them.
Typically, Shepherd says, after the trial, processors start converting their lights one area at a time. Unless, of course, there’s a surprise inspection, in which case they redo the lighting for the whole plant at once. “The food industry is realizing that because of the inspections, this is something they need to take care of right away.”
For companies that are still unsure, LED in Action offers a comprehensive lighting guide detailing how LED lights comply with five important industry regulations. Once you’re ready to make the switch, LED in Action will work alongside electrical distributors on a national level to create a lighting layout, make suggestions on lighting specifications, and provide a quote. They also provide a 5-year, and in some instances, a 10-year warranty to protect the investment, as well as servicing should anything go wrong.
Last time we talked to LED in Action, they had just exhibited at PROCESS EXPO for the first time. Shepherd says they had so much success and made so many great connections that they’re on their way back again this year. “It was definitely worth it for us. We're excited to go back with all of the new things we’ve learned and share our success stories.”
You can hear some of those stories and learn more about the advantages of food processing LED in Action lights at Booth #4173 at PROCESS EXPO.