Smoker maintenance tips

by Joel Crews
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Daily's employee holds handfuls of wood chips used to smoke the company's bacon.
Daily's Premium Meats operates uses wood chips exclusively to smoke its products.
 
Mining the expertise of the operations and maintenance team at the St. Joseph, Missouri-based Daily’s Premium Meats bacon plant, it quickly becomes evident that achieving the company’s signature taste, texture and appearance of its smoked meats doesn’t happen by accident. The following tips from Daily’s maintenance and engineering experts address the benefits of properly maintaining smokehouses at its plants:

BACON BUSINESS: What are some obvious indicators that a smokehouse needs maintenance attention?

Daily’s Premium Meats: The biggest indicators appear on the smokehouse charts. It is important to monitor for unexpected changes in dry bulb and wet bulb temperatures and humidity. Other indicators may be probe variances, unusual noises or vibration, or inconsistent product output results.

Bacon Business: Are there dangers related to improperly maintained smokehouses and if so, what are they?

Daily’s: The most catastrophic danger would be a smokehouse explosion. There are safety mechanisms in place to prevent this from happening, but it is always in the back of your mind. Because these houses use so much air and cause differential pressures between inside and outside of the houses, implosions are a concern as well.

Bacon Business: What is the most common maintenance issue that arises in typical smokehouse operations?

Daily’s: We have had several issues with punctured door seals; it is just the nature of using very sharp bacon combs that can come in contact with the door seals when loading and unloading the smokehouses.

Tools of the trade
Daily's experts chime in on the importance of vigilant monitoring and the vital role of operators.
 

Bacon Business: Discuss the roll of airflow in smokehouses and how attention to maintenance can ensure proper airflow for ideal finished products. What are some indicators of improper airflow?

Daily’s: It is important to monitor the internal temps of the product while smoking to identify any hot and cold spots within the house. It is also important for even color distribution. Indicators would be inconsistent bellies at the slicing step. If you find dry bellies and wet bellies from the same house, you have a problem. Air flows are balanced between supply and exhaust and they follow a predetermined pattern. Pattern interruptions can be influenced by damper settings and adjustments, which need to be resolved immediately. A partially loaded house, or partial and asymmetrical loading can also affect production inconsistencies.

Bacon Business: What advice would you give when it comes to developing and implementing a maintenance schedule for smokehouses and is it a one size fits all proposition?

Daily’s: The most useful advice would be to ensure a good sanitation schedule. A clean house is one that operates properly and requires less maintenance. Always monitor the charts for hints of deviations that could signal a problem with a component of the smokehouse. Also, having a good smoke master who can get maintenance involved in real time as issues arise is key. We operate with monthly PM’s that are essentially inspection based to help identify any minor discrepancies that could develop into a major repair down the road. Once predictable and reliable outcomes are achieved, procedures and policies should be standardized, institutionalized, continuously improved upon (if possible), and accountability established for those systems.

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