Factory Elements - Flooring and the Finish
The floor is a key component to the functional, hygienic and aesthetic requirements of a food manufacturing facility and there are two main elements that need to be considered, namely, the falls and the finish.
Slab falls are integral to a hygienic facility as having water or product pooling, creates an ideal environment for microbial growth, which can have a disastrous consequence for a business. Falls can be built-up using a floor finish, but the most cost-effective way is to build them into the slab when it is first poured. If your falls are too severe, less than 1:50, you can have issues with operation - think of your operators trying to work standing on a ramp or fighting gravity as you push trolleys around. If falls are not severe enough, typically over 1:100, then they won't do their job and you'll have water stagnating and not flowing to the drain. RMR target 1:70-1:80 for all floor slopes and design drainage locations and network accordingly. We always test the slopes before the finish is applied to ensure any minor flat spots can be built-up and of course to ensure no new flat spots just appear. All of this ensures any water reaching the floor will naturally flow to a drain point - no squeegees required!
When it comes to the floor finish, RMR typically look at two main options, epoxy and polyurethane(PU) each with pros and cons. Typically epoxy is recommended in a heavy-duty application, such as warehousing and areas with high forklift traffic, due to its higher impact and compressive strength. PU on the other hand is softer and more elastic, allowing it to bridge minor gaps and maintain a waterproof barrier in applications where epoxy may crack. PU has a better tolerance of temperature extremes, making it the preferred option for freezer floors and in areas where it may be exposed to high temperatures, such as hot CIP dumping. When it comes to the chemical nature of products, epoxy holds up better to sulfuric acids, while organic acids (such as lactic acids) are better handled by PU.
From an application perspective, epoxy is easier to work with, but it takes longer to dry, which has to be factored into building or plant shutdown timelines. PU can be modified with additives to change properties such as curing time, making it more flexible with application. The environment of application also should be considered, with PU susceptible to damage from high humidity or residual moisture content in the slab. When it's all said and done, there is no clear advantage to epoxy or PU and the use of one or the other (or a combination) should be evaluated against the requirements of the facility.
The flooring is an important part of any facility, and, in the case of the slab, something that you only get one shot at. A properly designed floor and finish that meets the requirements of a building Code and retail Standards will ensure function, hygienic and aesthetic manufacturing facility at start-up and into the future.