How American Ultraviolet Earned the Trust of Major Food Producers
American Ultraviolet maintains product quality through lean manufacturing practices such as just-in-time inventory control and manufacturing cells.
As the Food & Drug Administration becomes increasingly stringent on how much bacteria can be present on food products and packaging, American Ultraviolet is seeing growing demand for its custom conveyors equipped with UVC lamps to increase the shelf life of certain products. “The food industry is not new to us; it’s a market that’s picking up,” President and CEO Meredith Stines says. “Our specialty conveyors are getting more interest and we are doing a lot of custom projects for the big food producers to get them an extra week to 10 days of shelf life.”
For nearly 60 years, American Ultraviolet has been a leading manufacturer of ultraviolet technology for curing solutions, germicidal solutions and coating solutions. Stines’ father, Harrison O. Stines, founded the Lebanon, Ind.-based company in 1960 with the goal of providing the highest-quality UV equipment at a fair price.
In 1995, American Ultraviolet moved its manufacturing plant from Murray Hill, N.J., to its current headquarters where it operates a 70,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility. The company prides itself on the quality of its products and extensive tests are performed during production before shipment. In-person testing on customer systems is conduct with customers present.
American Ultraviolet maintains the quality of its products through lean manufacturing practices, such as just-in-time inventory control and manufacturing cells. “Customers come to us at trade shows and tell us they bought a product of ours in 1990 and they can’t believe it still works,” Stines says. “That’s a nice thing for us to be able to do.”
Today, the company’s focus continues to be on UV technology. “We’re probably the only ultraviolet company that sells in all facets of the UV industry: germicidal, curing and coating,” Stines says. “Being in all three of these parts of the UV industry gives us the ability to take our experience with one of these areas and apply it to the other two, giving us more of a wealth of knowledge than many of our competitors have.”
American Ultraviolet’s customers often bring unique situations that require truly unique UVC solutions. The company’s team of experienced engineers specializes in the design, mechanical and electrical aspects of all its projects, enabling American Ultraviolet to consistently provide its customers with solutions based around their unique needs and situations.
The company starts with a semi-standard product and customizes to meet those needs. “In the food industry, for example, UV is all about time and intensity,” Stines explains. “Do you need a lot of lights on a product for a short time or less lights and more time? In food manufacturing they run pretty fast, but want to get the best possible kill factor, which means you have to put in a lot of very powerful lamps and fit into their manufacturing criteria.”
American Ultraviolet recently worked with a fresh foods producer in Rhode Island that wanted a minimum of 100,000 microwatts per centimeter squared. “We built the system thinking we were giving them 300,000, but after we finished building and ran the measurement device down the conveyor, we ended up at 600,000 and they were really happy,” Stines remembers. “The lamps do age over time, so they will get really good lamp life over the length of the unit compared to what they wanted.”
From start to finish, American Ultraviolet can complete a custom conveyor within three to four months. Because of its in-house engineering, fabrication, assembly and testing, projects that require custom solutions do not result in unnecessarily long lead times or astronomically high prices.
UVC lamp arrays are positioned to treat foods and/or packaging material as they pass by the lamps either on a customer’s conveyor line or on a conveyor supplied by American Ultraviolet. For bottle disinfection, custom UVC tunnels are designed to treat bottles used as beverage containers to increase product shelf life and reduce contamination. The standalone tunnels mount over an existing customer bottling line and provide the required dose of UVC energy to reduce microbial contamination per each customer’s specific operation and specifications.
American Ultraviolet’s biggest challenge is educating the food and beverage industry on the importance of UV technology in improving shelf life. “If someone has an issue with contamination, they will react much quicker to incorporate UV technology than someone who is just thinking about it,” Stines explains. “We are trying to prevent the problem from happening. Part of our process is educating customers on what to implement to get a 90 percent kill rate for their specific operation.”