On the move
Dairy Field, Jan 2003 by Parlin, Sandy
The latest trends in conveyor belting keep dairy plants in motion.
What do dairy manufacturers look for in a conveyor system? Safety, reliability and performance to start, conveyor suppliers say. Processors also seek a high sanitation standard, and they want versatile systems that can do more in less space.
Suppliers are meeting that demand. "What customers are looking for are suppliers who can provide the knowledge and expertise to integrate conveyors with the other machinery (stackers, destackers, case packers and palletizers) to optimize the operation," says Ian Stock, vice president of Ontario, Canada-based Deam Co. Ltd.
The function of conveyors in a dairy plant is basic:
to move product from one machine or process to another and act as an accumulation buffer between these stops.
A manufacturer of stainless-steel product and package handling equipment for the dairy, food and confectionary industries, Deam works with its customers to reconfigure plant layouts to get more use out of existing space. "This inevitably leads to conveyor layout optimization," says Stock. "Empty case conveyors are being moved overhead to free up precious floor space. Accumulation table conveyors are replacing serpentine tabletop conveyors to concentrate the accumulation in a small footprint."
Deam makes no-load conveyors, which pneumatically lift loads from conveyor tracks when forward motion stops, reducing wear on conveyors and containers; drive-safety units with sensors that detect excess slack, then automatically shuts down and sounds an alarm; and Eurodrive IP 65 gearmotors with two-part treatments to environmentally seal the motors to extend their life.
Rosemount, Minn.-based Cannon Equipment Inc. also supplies components that have a higher tolerance to wear and fatigue, according to Tom Burbank, the company's representative for machinery and dairy sales. Cannon's Ultraclean conveyor has open sides, which provides easier and more thorough cleaning.
Ease of cleaning is a feature mentioned by many suppliers as critical in the food industry. The issue for conveyor belting in the dairy industry is, and has always been, sanitation as measured by 3-A dairy standards, according to Mark Wierzbinski, director of marketing as the Germantown, Wis., plant of Skokie, Ill.-based Ammeraal Beltech Inc. "There is ongoing development of belt materials designed to aid in maintenance of hygiene standards," he says. "We market two distinct constructions of conveyor belts that meet the 3-A standards and have been approved by USDA-Dairy."
These products have extruded solid-- plastic belts and two-ply polyester reinforced belts with top and bottom covers and sealed edges. "We expect to see even greater focus on sanitary regulation and product purity/contamination prevention," Wierzbinski says. Part of that future design will eliminate or reduce the need for chain lubrication, he says.
A Morningstar Foods plant in Delhi, MY, uses a Dynac Accumulator for small-bottle applications and a washable stainless-steel conveyor with Rex chain in washdown areas.
Conveyors are "absolutely necessary to move product from filling to packaging to palletizing," says Willis Brown, Morningstar's regional engineer. Brown says his company is moving toward accumulation conveyors for its value-added bottle lines.
At Swiss Valley Farms' plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, standard tabletop conveyors made by Minneapolis-based Edmeyer Inc. move tubs of cottage cheese and sour cream from the fillers to packaging machines. "No belting is involved in the custom-made conveyors," says Mike Klein, plant manager.
Other dairy companies might use equipment manufactured by Mepaco of Beaver Dam, Wis., which provides belt conveyors and dual-auger feed-- pumping systems to the industry. "Raw cheese is conveyed in various forms to a grinder, where it is ground into appropriate sizes," explains Bill Lynn, Mepaco's vice president of sales. "It is conveyed to the blender and discharged into a dual-auger pumping system (two augers that force-feed a heavy-duty rotary pump). It is then pumped into a cooker/pasteurizer and into many types of fillers, bulk or sliced, and finally moves to packaging."
Doug Schieber, sales manager of Carrier Vibrating Equipment in Louisville, Ky., sees improvements in conveyor control technology because of more powerful and economical electronic components. The company recently developed new drive systems and controls that allow for online speed adjustment without reducing vibration amplitude. "This is good for spray-agglomerated products or others that are crystallized on conveyors," says Schieber.
Variable retention time permits the processing of many grades of product on a single unit. "Processing functions such as crystallizing, cooling, drying, classifying or simply conveying are possible on vibrating conveyors," says Schieber.
Carrier also has introduced patented electronic delta-phase and ampliflex technologies for process control. The company specializes in applying vibrating equipment to difficult process problems, such as those found in the dairy industry, where most products are sticky or temperature sensitive.