Moving dairy products through a plant, from Point A to Point B and then to Point C is fraught with danger to employees and to the products themselves. Besides the cost of a workman’s comp claim, being short an employee due to injury can cause a slowdown on the production line. Refrigerated and frozen foods are delicate and they must be conveyed to a cooler or frozen warehouse without delay.
Dairy Foods talked with several equipment suppliers about the use of conveyors and palletizers in dairy processing plants. Plant managers can see some of this equipment at September’s Pack Expo show in Las Vegas or at November’s International Dairy Show, which is co-located with Process Expo in Chicago (see pages 72 and 74 for more information about those events).
The key goals to a palletizing application are to provide cost savings, improve quality and reduce injuries due to repetitive motion, back injury and similar factors, said Terry L. Zarnowski, director of sales and marketing for Schneider Packaging Equipment Co., Brewerton, N.Y.
How best to do that depends on many variables. Plant managers need to answer questions such as: Is the system going to handle more than one product size, case size, and/or type of product over the life of its use?
“By planning for each product’s size, production rate (both near- and long-term), opting for energy-efficient equipment and using floor space effectively, you can minimize the true cost of ownership and maximize OEE[overall equipment effectiveness],” Zarnowski said.
Quest Industrial, Monroe, Wis., used its knowledge of equipment and dairy processing to help a butter manufacturing plant in Wisconsin solve several inefficiencies, including:
- Strain on the body caused by 50-pound boxes of butter;
- Overage of accumulation. Operators were unable to keep up with production, causing down-time in overall operations;
- The untimely manner of operators placing boxed product onto the pallets, which ultimately led to a drop in the production rate; and
- Inefficiencies in the production line pertaining to the operator wrapping the pallet for shipment.
Quest installed an automated palletizer to gain efficiency. Quest’s engineers designed a longer and wider conveyance for accumulation to ensure timely and longer production. A Fanuc robot was programmed to stack the 50-pound boxes of butter in the proper layout to maximize exact and repetitive patterns to ensure every pallet was sturdily and efficiently stacked. The robot can build several pallets in the same amount of time as one completed manually.
The time spent wrapping pallets was drastically cut by automating this process within the palletizing cell. Quest’s engineers created a pivot point in the line where the conveyor rotates the pallet for wrapping and then continues down the line for accumulation or automatic transfer. The butter processor chose to have an operator grab the loaded pallet to move it to storage. However, there is an option to have the pallet dispensed onto a robot for trained transportation to a particular spot in storage.
Quest said the dairy processor was able to create an ROI from the palletizer within a little over a year.
See the Dairy FoodsBuyers’ Guide (July 2013 or buyersguide.dairyfoods.com/buyersguide) for suppliers of conveyors, palletizers and related equipment.
(Edited by Editor-in-chief Jim Carper from material submitted by Schneider Packaging Equipment Co. and Quest Industrial.)
Smaller machine has no pusher
GEA Procomac calls its Artis Evo “the latest development in palletizing technology.” The layer pick-up head, mono–column type palletizer uses a new system of layer handling to save space, reduce maintenance cost and maintain high-speed production. The innovation is the absence of the pusher. The footprint is 10% to 15% smaller than a traditional machine and maintenance costs are reduced because of the lack of a pusher. The Artis Evo can handle cartons, cans, cases and single-serve bottle packs. For more information: 715-386-9371 or www.niroinc.com.
Horizontal motion conveyor shuffles products gently
The E-Z Slide horizontal motion conveyor from Eriez carries fragile products down the conveyor safely and smoothly. Food products are shuffled along without breakage and coated parts are transported without damage to coatings. Drop gates can be provided along the length to carefully drop materials onto other conveyors or cross feeders. The self-cleaning, gentle and low-maintenance conveyor is offered in a wide range of widths and lengths. It can be floor-mounted on pedestals or suspended overhead. For more information: 888-300-3743 or www.eriez.com.
Equipment packages cartons horizontally or vertically
The Swing Machine from Blueprint Automation is used with cartons, stand-up pouches and pillow bags. It has a smaller footprint, offers faster changeover and requires fewer and smaller parts. Some manufacturers run bags and cartons or tubs on the same machine. With horizontal packing, product is collated into a group then picked by a specially designed end-effector. With vertical packing, cases are tipped towards the cassette and the entire stack is side-loaded into the secondary container for a vertical (stand up) presentation. For more information: 804-520-5400 or www.bpa-flexolutions.nl.
Conveyors, palletizers move product fast
New FastBack FDX force displacement drives from Heat and Control are 40% smaller than comparable inertia drive horizontal motion conveyors and convey up to 2,500 pounds. The FastBack FDX is suitable for transfer runs up to 100 feet long, and product accumulation of up to 300 cubic feet. For more information: 510-259-0500 or www.heatandcontrol.com.
Dynamic Conveyorwill display its DynaClean food-grade conveyor line to the food processing industry at Process Expo in Chicago in November. Manufactured with plastic materials and minimal stainless-steel, the conveyor systems are competitively priced. Conveyor sidewalls are made of blue high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is approved by the FDA, USDA and NSF. The company says the conveyor design allows for quick and easy cleaning and sanitation. For more information: 800-640-6850 or www.DynamicConveyor.com.