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Food processor saves thousands through conveyor carry back

conveyor

When a lamb processing facility in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, was experiencing severe carry back on a conveyor in their lamb processing room, stakeholder contacted Flexco for a solution to the problem.

The conveyor was seeing over 20kg of carry back per day, which meant a huge amount of product waste and a hit to the bottom line of the company.

There were eight conveyors in the lamb cut room, two modular and six white nitrile plied belts. The two modular belts experienced the most carry back and presented challenges for the site. These two belts were in the cold-boning lamb processing facility, which operated two, eight-hour shifts per day.

The meat processing company originally had a cleaner which consisted of segmented blades mounted onto a head pole. This cleaner was then mounted onto the head pulley with the blades tensioned via a counterweight system.

“Back when we first introduced the product in 2016, they visited our Foodtech Packtech tradeshow stand in Auckland, New Zealand, where he mentioned he was having these problems at his facility and we were able to offer a solution straight away and what’s interesting is this food grade cleaner, and consequently, our secondary food cleaner is the first of its kind to launch in the market,” said Ellaina Mackay, product and marketing manager at Flexco.

“Prior to Flexco researching and developing this product there was nothing in the market to clean a light duty belt so people were using homemade solutions because that was all that was on offer.”

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Peter Mueller, the senior supervisor in the lamb cutting room of the processor, said until working with Flexco the company had limited options when it came to machinery choices.

“The meat processing company originally had a cleaner which consisted of segmented blades mounted onto a head pole. This cleaner was then mounted onto the head pulley with the blades tensioned via a counterweight system. “

The cleaner was of poor design, but that was all the market had to offer at the time.

“Meat would accumulate between the cleaner tips and the belt’s surface, and the build-up would cause such tension between the cleaner and the belt that the force of tension would eventually cause the cleaner to flip over. Often, this problem occurred during a shift where the counterweight system was tied firmly in place.”

The counterweight system did not work well in the application, with the blades needing to be cleaned every 15-20 minutes, causing production to stop three or four times per hour.

The main reason for excess stoppage in production was the counterweight system, which was extremely difficult to tension, explains Mueller.

The excessive amount of carry back also meant that whole cuts of meat would bypass the cleaner, travelling onto the return side of the belt and drop to the floor, making it unfit for human consumption. The company was losing hundreds of dollars per week in lamb that was being dropped onto the floor because it couldn’t be sold and contribute to the profit of the company.

“The first problem they were having was losing a lot of stock and a lot of money and wasting a lot of food and it creates issues with cleanliness,” said Mackay.

“A second issue is the conveyor issues; it causes belt rips because you’ve got this hard piece of plastic up against the belt.

“Our system has a built-in tensioner, which means the blade can move and allow larger things to pass through easily if there are any big bits of material, other than that it stays flat on the belt and moves food onto the next conveyor belt where it needs to be.”

Flexco approaches every job with flexibility in mind, to best meet its customer’s needs.

A key part of the company’s sales process is the auditing of a customer’s facility where a team of experts with decades of experience assess the systems in place.

“We go out free of charge and look around their factory and then come up with some offers of improvement and they may or may not be our products. Our salespeople are experts and have been in the industry for decades, so we are happy offer a helping hand,” said Mackay.

From there, Flexco will put forward a comprehensive brief on which solution it feels it’s the best one for the customer.

In many cases Flexco also allows customers, and potential customers, trial the solutions in site to get a first-hand idea of what the solution will provide, so confident is Flexco in its innovations and solutions.

“We have found in the past customers are generally happy after they trial one of our products, as happened with this lamb processing facility in New Zealand,” said Mackay.

It’s more so the quality of our products and the innovation we provide. We are known in light and heavy-duty sectors for the quality and longevity of our products and the amount of support we give, like free training, being on site for installation, we offer a lot of support.”

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This was the process the lamb processing facility went through before finally settling on the Flexco stainless steel FGP cleaner, which features an FDA approved, and USDA certified metal detectable blade.

After installing the cleaner, the company saw an almost complete and immediate reduction in carry back, with 20kg worth of product being saved per day, just on the one conveyor.

The cleaner was installed in 2016 and two years later, the results still stand. By reducing carry back, the company salvaged “up to 20kg per day, depending on cuts and room speed,” said Mueller.

The company was able to add to their stock levels, instead of constantly throwing spoilt meat in the bin. This meant added profitability for the company. By installing the new cleaner, Flexco also eliminated the need for the cleaning system to be constantly cleaned and maintained.

“As long as the tension is set correctly, they do not need clearing all day,” said Mueller.

Another major advantage to Flexco’s offering is all its food grade cleaners are FDA approved and USDA certified due to the ability to mitigate the risk of cross contamination on the conveyor.

This allows production to be constant throughout eight hour shifts without interruption.

By eliminating the need for constant maintenance, the company saved labour charges of over $2,500 NZD per year for the lamb processor.

Apart from monetary savings in wages for the excess labour required, the company also gained time and increased productivity as staff were now free to perform other productivity-boosting tasks instead of constantly reacting to the same problem.

Flexco’s FGP Cleaner was able to increase productivity by reducing the number of labour-intensive hours spent cleaning and maintaining tension on the previous, ineffective cleaner.

Flexco was also able to save the company a considerable amount of money, which could be put to more effective uses, adding to the profitability of the company and toward the purchase of additional resources to better the company’s output.

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