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A user's perspective on choosing conveying systems

Source:Food Bev Asia

Date Published:8/14/2019 12:08:36 PM

Food companies share their opinion and knowledge of conveying systems in this interview with ZAINAB MANSOOR.

Food conveying systems constitute a major component of the food manufacturing landscape. In any food processing operation, conveyors help scale productivity and operational efficiency. The ideal conveying system should be able to streamline operations, cut costs, reduce labor input and boost product output.

Being in the rice business, KRBL Ltd utilises several types of conveyors. It is considered "India’s first integrated rice company with a comprehensive product chain". According to Priyanka Mittal, Director at KRBL, deciding on the right food conveying systems requires quite a knowledge of the equipment and the company's needs. 

Joachim Yebouet, Chief Executive Officer at Foodco Holding PJSC, UAE, agrees on the subject, emphasising the major considerations for machine selection. Mr Yebouet holds close to 30 years of experience with private and public sector organizations including the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.

In this interview they share what they know of these systems from various sources.  

What is an effective food conveying system in your understanding?

Priyanka Mittal: An effective food conveying system ensures smooth flow of operations, safety and hygiene, reduced damage to goods and increased efficiency. They are designed to withstand large workloads, difficult conditions, reduce human error and enhance output. Conveyors provide a safe and reliable means to have material transported from one place to another, which would otherwise be labor-intensive and time consuming. Their speed can be controlled as required, thereby considerably reducing the chances of loss or damage to goods. Moreover, they are capable of moving a variety of shapes, sizes and weights at one time – in short, conveyors are the workforce of the industry. From unloading of raw materials, manufacturing to packing, palletizing to final loading conveyors get the job done. The next generation of conveyor systems and controls is addressing the needs and concern of today’s increasingly complex and automated manufacturing and distribution environments.

How should a company select the right conveyor for their needs?

Mittal: There is a process which involves three factors to consider while finalising a conveyor system: Material or nature of product: This factor should form the basis of your conveyor selection. Study and understand in entirety the nature of your materials in terms of flow, abrasiveness, temperature, moisture content and choose an appropriate system accordingly. If not fit, these factors have a dynamic influence on the chosen system and may also harm the conveyor system in the longer run. Use of the conveyor: There are different types of conveyors offering various advantages. As a good conveyor system is a long term relatively heavier investment, therefore it is important to ensure to pick one based upon its usage, performance and maintenance, taking into consideration the product type, weight and dimensions.  Therefore, rather than opting for pre-made systems built to the specifications of the vendors, choose a conveyor that is made to order. Cost: There is no doubt that cost plays an important role in every business, though the outlook may vary for business to business. Some companies prioritise the long-term cost of ownership while others focus on the initial cost required. It is therefore best to discuss costs and feasibility before purchasing a conveying solution.

Joachim Yebouet: To select the right conveyor, the company must understand its needs, resources (such as space), and required outcome. Some of the important considerations are speed to ensure balance, and to reduce idle time in the production line. The right type of conveyor will ensure that it will not post any risk or hazard to the product. The design will ensure that maintenance is not too complex, while ergonomics ensures that the conveyor is suitable to correct positioning of the staff in case of human intervention in the process.

Which conveying system has the company installed?

Mittal: We are using Screw conveyors, Belt Conveyors, Chain Conveyors, Z-elevators, Bucket elevators and Pneumatic Conveyors as a conveying system. Every conveying system has its own benefits: Screw conveyors have multiple feeding points; Chain conveyors also have multiple feeding points, but it requires less space as compared to belt conveyors; Belt Conveyors are used to transfer rice from one point to other and cleaning is easy in these conveyors; Bucket Elevators/Z Elevators are used to lift the product to a required height; Pneumatic Conveying System are used in the case of Ash and Husk. Pneumatic Conveying system saves cost, increases productivity and improves environmental conditions as pneumatic system is totally enclosed and pipework greatly reduces the impact on the environment.

Which are the most common forms of conveying systems deployed nowadays? 

Mittal: Modern conveyors can position components with high speed and complexity. Smart conveyors are very useful in food industries, occupy less space and solve the problem of foot-printing in the industrial environment. Smart conveyors allow industries to dynamically change the batch size and number of variations within the batch. Motion control devices are used to place the product at accurate positions and also used to change the orientation of products on the conveyors. These conveying systems drastically scale the production and efficiency. In addition to above order fulfillment best practices like the increasing use of cross docking, automated storage and retrieval systems and the growing demand for mixed SKU pallet are also shaping the next generation of conveyor technology.

Smart conveyors automatically analyse current load and reduce power consumption when full machinery is not in use— or even automatically shut off rather than idling and drawing power when idle.  Smart conveyors also adjust their power consumption automatically. Their sensors detect when a worker is too close to an active belt or something is caught in the machinery. These then connect back to controls that slow down the equipment until the problem is resolved. Reacting faster than human workers can, these conveyors can prevent worker injury.  

Belt conveyors are probably the most commonly used conveyor type. They are used in both process and packaging of food products. The smooth surface of the belt is ideal for food handling. Vibratory conveyors are multi-functional and extensively used in food applications where sanitation, wash down and low maintenance is important.

How do food conveying systems aid food safety?

Mittal: In addition to improved production time and increased efficiency, conveyor belts play a major role in maintaining hygiene and sanitisation, which is of prime importance in the food industry. It is easier to monitor the hygiene and sanitisation of machines as compared to that of human labor. Moreover, modern day conveyor belts for food production are designed, fabricated, constructed and installed according to sound sanitary design principles. In food industry traceability is another key advantage achieved through conveying systems. Modern day conveyors trace each product throughout the process with bar code reader and eliminate the human error in loading of mixed SKUs. Modern day conveyors even use camera and sensor-based technology to monitor food conveyor system throughout the process.

Yebouet: Among others, they can help lower the risk of cross-contamination since there is less product handling. They reduce the potential growth of any microorganism in case of any temperature fluctuations.

What are your standards for sanitation and maintenance?

Mittal: Like all equipment used for food production, conveyors also must meet the prescribed hygiene standards. Initially cleaning and maintaining conveyors may have been a time consuming and strenuous process but modern-day conveyors are designed to reduce the cleaning time by providing easy access to all parts of the conveyor, providing a good drainage system, giving unified cleaning instructions and cleaning devices such as chain washer etc. along with the system.

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