Plucks Engineering’s search for a model gearbox supplier began a few years ago to assist with a gearbox for a brand-new application: an effluent pond stirrer. With Bonfiglioli, it found what it was looking for.
Established in 1966, Plucks Engineering Ltd (Plucks) is a second-generation family business that differentiates itself as a flexible, customer-centric agricultural manufacturing and repair engineering company.
Ideally located in Rakaia between Christchurch and Ashburton in New Zealand, Plucks is perfectly poised to deliver overnight – if not same day – and their workshop designs and develops fast, flexible farm and heavy machinery.
As Neil Pluck, Managing Director for Plucks explained: “We are firmly rooted in agriculture and specialise in the manufacture and repair of a vast range of agricultural machinery – ranging from cultivation, drilling, heavy water ballast land rollers, square bale feeders and general repairs of most agricultural machinery.
“We produce a large range of dairy effluent products, ranging from concrete enviro saucers, pumps and rafts, effluent main lines, travelling effluent irrigators, pond stirrers and dairy effluent screening equipment. Around 60 – 70 per cent of what we do is focused on effluent.”
Plucks’ solutions are sold throughout New Zealand and are exported to Australia, Brazil, Chile, UK, and the UAE.
In search of the right supplier for the job
Pluck said the company looks for expertise, knowledge and skill when searching for the ideal supplier. “We rely heavily on our suppliers to complete our product offering.”
Pluck underscored the importance of suppliers’ finances and stock availability. “In the past we had suppliers who had to close or couldn’t supply what we needed on time. This had a knock-on effect and was problematic for all parties involved.”
Plucks’ journey for a model gearbox supplier began a few years ago. The company was in search of a new supplier to assist with a gearbox for a brand-new application: an effluent pond stirrer. “We initially started working with dairy farms in the 1980s to provide a range of irrigators, pumps and mainlines, but as the farms got bigger so did the effluent ponds.”
He said that their team found that the effluent ponds started to crust up as seeds began to settle and grow. “These were hard to deal with, but we found that by stirring the pond slowly, the stagnant water would come back to life.”
Plucks developed a solution to the problem. “We connected with a company that made stirrers – although not particularly for effluent. We adapted their blades and systems to suit the dairy industry and over time, we decided that it was time to develop our own products.
“We weren’t happy with a gearbox and electric motor combination that we had at the time and were spending a lot of time following up with the supplier. In the end, they couldn’t give us the answers that we needed.”
Based on their track record and international footprint, Plucks turned to Bonfiglioli. “Based on my previous experience with planetary gearboxes I wanted to stick to these,” said Pluck. “I knew that Bonfiglioli produced them, and it was almost by chance that my path crossed with Paul Savage – Bonfiglioli’s New Zealand Sales Manager.”
According to Pluck, Savage and his team persisted and continued to challenge Plucks’ theories – insisting that they could help to solve the problem. “In the end, we decided to give them a go!”
We want a gearbox – we don’t want to hear about…
Speaking to the gearbox in question, Savage explained that the 300M series is ideal for heavy-duty applications where compactness is not an option. “It’s modular and can be customised to match an array of applications. Best of all, it operates in demanding environments with no downtime.”
A big plus for Plucks was that the 300M series could be mounted vertically on a torque arm set up close to the motor. “The output shaft type was to our exact specifications and required no modifications.”
Today, this electrically driven effluent-stirrer is mounted on a flotation raft – complete with three pontoons and a support frame. “Available from 1.1kW to 3.0kW, this low maintenance solution offers a high flow rate at a low power consumption.”
Highlighting the challenges involved, Pluck said that the gearbox had to stand on its end and run 24/7 for years with no breaks. “We have multiple stirrers in big ponds that work throughout the year with no downtime,” he noted. “In fact, some of these have been running for as long as 10 years with minimal maintenance.”
“The long service life synthetic oil found in the 300M means that there is no need for a frequent oil change,” Savage added.
He said the longevity of the application can be attributed to the mechanical outlook shared by both parties. “We ‘over spec’ the product to make sure it isn’t working too close to its limit. This is especially important in these harsh environments and where the gearbox is hard to reach. The 300M series were intentionally over specified to compensate for the harsh environment and unforgiving application, because 24/7 really means 24/7 in this case!”
Despite a mechanical rating requirement of 0.75kW to 5KW, the unit selected has a 11kW capacity to circumvent any possible future issues,” Savage said. “This ensures the gearbox doesn’t fail. It costs a little more at the outset but in the long run, the maintenance free uptime far outweighs the costs.”
According to Neil the drive system and connection of the stirrers are designed to suit the Bonfiglioli setup. “The very big range of output shaft and flange options made it easy for us to produce a robust shaft to gearbox connection,” Pluck said. “This ensures there it is no trouble for these units to work in the terrible effluent liquid environment it is required for, 24/7/365 for years on end. Of the hundreds and hundreds, we have sold into this environment we have only had two minor problems and they have been very minor at that.”
True to its customers and confident in its product, Plucks offers a two-year warranty on its effluent products which Pluck said is “unheard of in the industry.”
As the relationship continues and strengthens, Pluck said that Plucks feels well supported by Bonfiglioli. “The team offers in-depth engineering and technical expertise and we have a great working relationship.”
Visit Bonfiglioli at the Australian Bulk Handling Expo – BULK 2022 – from 24 to 26 August at the Melbourne Convention Centre.