PhotoS: Courtesy of sherwin-williams
How to Plan Rapid Returns to Service — from Top to Bottom
Whether it’s for new construction or a weekend facility repair project, coatings work needs to move fast in the food and beverage industry. That’s because most other work needs to halt during coatings applications, putting pressure on applicators to get in and out quickly.
To accelerate coatings project schedules, facility managers, applicators and coatings suppliers need to plan carefully and address numerous critical project variables (see the sidebar). These discussions may lead to choosing coatings that minimize surface preparation needs. Or specifying fast-setting flooring materials that enable foot traffic within hours.
For new facilities, all coatings work will ideally take place before any equipment is moved in, enabling efficiencies for applicators. Repair projects often require setting up a containment system to capture debris and protect surrounding areas from coatings overspray. In either case, the goal is to minimize coating installation or repair time so food processors can begin operations or return facilities to service. The process should move smoothly from top to bottom.
From the Top: coating ceilings, structural steel
Brand new ceilings may have the benefit of being precoated, allowing workers to install panels and then touch up connection points and any damage. For uncoated ceilings, the entire surface may need to be coated. With all the work taking place overhead, containment tarps may be necessary to protect everything below.
On existing ceilings and structural steel, any flaking and peeling paint may be cause for audit-related shutdowns and fines. In food production areas, the ideal surface preparation method of abrasive blasting steel is rarely an option due to the amount of dust and debris generated. Therefore, crews must set up containment tarps and use hand and power tools, along with vacuums, to minimize the escape of debris. Then, they must use coatings that adhere strongly to marginally prepared surfaces. For example, polysiloxanes adhere direct to metal and offer the toughness of an epoxy to withstand impacts and abrasions, as well as the flexibility and cleanability of a polyurethane to handle the thermal shock of cleaning operations.
The Vertical Drop: Addressing Walls
Walls in food processing areas need protection from cart and machinery impacts, as well as damage from cleaning operations. Otherwise, resulting cracks, rough spots or defects in what should be a smooth wall coating system may collect water and enable bacteria to proliferate. Using a block filler to fill in divots on concrete block walls will leave a smoother surface, which can be topcoated with a material designed for washdowns that encourages draining and drying.
In cold storage and processing areas, IMPs may show signs of their factory-applied finish flaking off. In such cases, full panel replacements may be in order. Alternatively, a chemical-resistant coating can be used to fill cracks and joints in surfaces and to limit coating flaking.
Surface prep for walls may involve hand and power tools where food and equipment contamination potential is high, or abrasive blasting where permitted. Coating application methods may include a combination of spraying, brushing and rolling.
The Race to the Bottom: Installing Floors
Since everything from above can fall down, floors are nearly always the final step for coating installations or repair projects.
Surface preparation may include hand and power tool cleaning for spot repairs over existing flooring or full mechanical abrading of the exposed concrete substrate to promote coating adherence. Next, installers will pour and spread the materials, creating a seamless resinous floor.
If any new concrete is involved, installers must ensure its moisture content is low enough to apply coatings on top. That’s at least a 28-day wait. However, applicators can minimize downtime by using self-leveling slurry or mortar urethane concrete systems, which can be applied as soon as three to five days after pouring concrete and returned to service just 12 hours after topcoating.
A properly prepared concrete substrate will ensure strong bonding of the applied resinous flooring system.
With floors coming last, unexpected delays on ceiling and wall work may compress flooring installation timelines, forcing project managers to change to faster-setting floor coatings. For example, if only 10 hours remain before starting production, applicators could switch from a product that cures in 12 hours to one that cures in just 6 hours.
Completing a New Project or Turnaround
Surprisingly, many coatings activities can be compressed into very tight timelines — literally 48 to 60 hours to repair and restore coatings from ceilings to floors during a weekend stoppage. Completing such projects requires assessing all parameters ahead of time, selecting appropriate products, contracting the right labor and planning for contingencies. Then, you can expect a streamlined project with a fast return to service.
The first step to any successful fast-turnaround coatings project is to plan for everything — including potential surprises. Working in consultation with a coatings manufacturer representative, here are some critical factors to consider:
The type of facility or areas being coated will dictate protocols to follow from surface preparation to product selections to application methods.
Assessing the area’s condition will help the team plan for all anticipated repairs — plus, set a timeline and budget.
Understanding the substrates involved and their conditions will help determine the most suitable coatings to use for long-term performance.
Ideal surface preparations may not be an option, as many food processing facilities do not permit abrasive blasting. Alternatives such as vapor, dry ice or sponge blasting may be permitted, as well as manual hand and power tool cleaning.
Factors such as time, temperature, humidity and moisture content can play important roles in coating selections.
Specifying a compatible coating will ensure long-term performance against the cleaning methods used. But if any practice changes, such as using a new chemical, the coating should be requalified.
The chosen contractor should have experience with projects of similar size and scope, as well as the necessary equipment and technical expertise to do the job.
Claims or positions expressed by sponsoring authors do not necessarily reflect the views of TPC, PaintSquare or its editors.