Monday, 22 October 2018


Worker safety, product quality, maximizing yield, equipment reliability, sanitation and ease of maintenance are all top concerns, when it comes to conveyors targeting the potato processing industry. This is the first part of a two-part article, that analyzes the current situation for the segment of conveyor systems.

By Dan Orehov

Worker safety is a high priority that leads potato processors to look for conveyor systems that eliminate product spillage and contain water. With fewer people on the plant floor operating automated systems, processors prefer not to task workers with cleaning up spills. According to Jim Ruff, general manager of the Integrated Solutions Group at Key Technology, potato processors want robust conveyors that run day after day without fail because when a conveyor goes down, the entire production line goes down. Without reliability, nothing else matters. Reducing the total cost of ownership over the life of the equipment is also a common objective that is affected by reliability. Product quality and maximizing yield are two important and frequent demands. Quality must be maintained throughout the process and at every equipment transfer. If there is product breakage during transfers, yield can be significantly affected. That is one of the main reason Key offers integrated solutions and engineering services. Sanitation is important to potato processors, and continues to rise in importance given the increased focus on food safety and more demanding production schedules. Improved sanitation is one of several reasons that vibratory conveyors are so popular. These conveyors ease sanitation so processors can run their lines for longer periods of time in between cleaning and maximize uptime while maintaining food safety.

Furthermore, potato processors that manufacture many SKUs want to ease their sanitation routines to speed product changeovers and reduce the risk that product from the prior run contaminates the next, looking for conveyor systems that operate as planned. They want a short commissioning cycle on schedule, streamlined equipment start-up, easy operation and low maintenance with few wear parts. Product flow, including the separation of particulates, gentle handling and even feeding, are critical to the success of conveyor systems. Potato processors are increasingly looking for equipment suppliers that use 3-D modeling during the design phase and offer integration services so the pieces of equipment on the production line fit well together and create smooth transitions. Environmental sustainability is a concern that drives potato processors to work to minimize their energy consumption while achieving all of their other processing objectives. 

“Every conveyor has pros and cons, which factor into determining its best purposes. Working with a supplier that offers the widest variety of conveyor types helps a potato processor select the ideal conveyor for each application. From a ‘brute force’ vibratory conveyor at receiving and Iso-Flo vibratory conveyors handling a wide variety of tasks throughout the production line to Impulse shakers that feed packaging machines, matching the conveyor to the process helps maximize overall equipment effectiveness (OEE),” says Ruff. 

“Vibratory conveyors are widely recognized as being inherently more sanitary than belt conveyors because they have very few moving parts and present a bed surface that is easy to clean. Vibratory shakers also do not allow product to be carried back around the system as is often seen with belt conveyors. Key’s vibratory conveyors are designed to maximize sanitation as well as equipment reliability, ensure maximum yield by minimizing spillage and optimizing downstream equipment efficiencies and provide installation flexibility. Hygienic features of Key’s vibratory conveyors 

include a smooth rotary polished surface finish on the bed that, compared to an industry-standard 2B mill finish, resists bacterial attachment and the accumulation of bacterial cells to improve sanitation and maximize food safety. All product contact zones feature 100 percent continuous welds, rather than skip welds, to eliminate laminations that can harbor bacteria. Options to further improve sanitation include ground and polished welds within the product contact zone or in drip, draw and drain zones, and frames made of open-section plate or formed sheet metal instead of tubes to eliminate enclosed hollow bodies that can harbor bacteria and leak. Key’s innovative new grounding arm, label stand-offs and sanitary drives, introduced in September 2017, further improve sanitation,” he adds.

Also, Key’s contoured StrongArm™ spring arms, made with propriety composite material, offer an operational life that is up to twice the life of traditional straight spring arms. Key’s new Vector-Lock™ Gen 2, used to secure removable screens and covers on their vibratory conveyors, eases use and achieves better clamping. Also, belt conveyors are popular primarily because of their low capital cost. However, once maintenance and sanitation costs are factored into the analysis, vibratory conveyors offer a lower total cost of ownership. Belt conveyors are typically used when product must be significantly elevated.

Important conveyor innovations from Key over the past several years include the following:

•Horizon™, introduced in January 2011, offers gentle, quiet and sanitary horizontal motion conveying. Its unique mechanical drive is powerful and efficient. Machine lengths can go up to 23 meters.

•Iso-Glide™, introduced in August 20

11, is a modified Iso-Flo vibratory conveyor, which achieves a gentle handling motion and quiet operation.

•From 2013 to 2017, Key introduced many new features to further improve sanitation and reduce maintenance. These features include oil-free electric vibrating motors, e

lastomer isolators, scalloped flat bars, a plate-frame design and a new rotary polish on conveyor beds.

•Key’s new Sanitary Belt Conveyor was introduced in October 2014. Featuring a positive drive high quality food grade belt, stainless steel frame and components, open construction and other sanitary features, this belt conveyor eases the sanitation routine compared to other belt conveyors.

•Iso-Flo with monobeam construction was introduced in May 2016. With an innovative frame made of a single structural member, the frame and spring arms can be tucked completely under the conveyor bed to reduce the frame’s surface area and enhance equipment hygiene.

•In September 2017, Key introduced their innovative new grounding arm, label stand-offs, sanitary drives and Vector-Lock Gen 2 to ease use, reduce maintenance and maximize sanitation.

“Since different processors and different locations on any one production line can warrant a unique cost-benefit analysis, Key offers modular systems and many options so the ideal solution can easily be created for each situation. For example, our conveyor systems are available in four sanitary finish standards to meet different manufacturing needs – Basic, Standard, Standard + and Enhanced. While all our vibratory conveyors feature a rotary polish on 304 or 316 stainless steel product carrying surfaces, our Enhanced conveyors can also feature ground and polished welds within the product contact zones and the “drip, drain or draw zones” where, if contaminated with a pathogen, there is a risk the product area could become contaminated. Less expensive Basic finished conveyors may be suitable prior to a kill-step, such as blanching or frying on the processing line, while Enhanced finished conveyors are often preferred immediately prior to packaging,” concludes Ruff.

Pros and Cons

Depending on the model, the various conveyors available have their own advantages and disadvantages. According to manufacturer Heat and Control, the vibratory conveyors are capable of spreading and leveling product evenly, with their shaking motion conducive to screening, scalping, and product grading. The cons of these models are the fact that they segregate blends, shake off coatings, are prone to buildup of debris on pan, which makes it quickly become unsanitary and extremely hard to clean. The also operate very loudly and can quickly become very large and heavy for high-throughput operations, having a high rate of product breakage and inconsistent travel rates based on bed depth.

According to Heat and Control, belt conveyors are capable of highest speed conveying, one belt can span long distances and some can incline rapidly over short distances. 

However, they are extremely challenging to clean, numerous cracks and crevices facilitates buildup, which makes it quickly become unsanitary and since the belts prone to wear and tear, there can appear numerous pinch points, which is why preventive maintenance required.

Last category analyzed by Heat and Control is that of horizontal motion conveyors, whose advantages include the fact that blends remain intact, product coatings are undisturbed, product doesn’t break, they have relatively low-profile drives for high-throughput operations, are much quieter drive than vibratory conveyors and causes no noisy vibrations. Lastly, they provide consistent travel rates regardless of bed depth. The reverse is that horizontal motion conveyors cannot convey product as quickly as belt conveyors, the gentle motion does not spread product as much as vibratory conveyors and they cannot incline product as steeply as belt conveyors.

Some of the company’s innovations include the FastBack Revolution Proportional Gate 3.0 (Rev Gate), which introduces various improvements in design while maintaining the advantages which have made it the industry’s premier gate. With an 84% reduction in components from its predecessors, the FastBack Revolution Proportional Gate 3.0 is a revolutionary gate that’s now even easier to maintain and service.

  • The FastBack Model 260E-G3 Horizontal Motion Conveyor, which builds upon the proven performance of our flagship FastBack 260E conveyor line with a sleek chassis and smooth stainless-steel body designed for ease of sanitation, convenient maintenance accessibility, and user-friendly installation.
  • The FastLane, which is a FastBack slicer infeed conveyor that combines the gentle horizontal motion of the FastBack Model 260E-G3 with a multilane pan that singulates potatoes for delivery into multiple Urschel rotary slicers, ensuring that only available slicers receive successive product while unavailable slicers remain unfed.
  • The FastBack All-in-One Revolution OMS System, which brings together the most advanced FastBack conveyor, the superior seasoning performance of Revolution On-Machine Seasoning (OMS) with the patented AccuFlavor™ Tumble Drum, and the efficiency of the Modular Dust Collection System into one compact, low-cost, standalone unit designed to overcome every challenge of seasoning at the weigher with the superior performance that only FastBack can provide.
  • Left Right Center (LRC), which is a compact Double Multihead Weigher feed solution designed to provide a precise, consistent product stream to the Ishida CCW-R-218WB-OV, ensuring long, continuous, high-speed bagmaker runs for increased throughput on twin packaging lines.

Food safety and Hygiene

Hygiene standards in today’s food industry are already quite high, in particular when it comes to conveyors as these are in direct contact with the product. According to Roger Treacher, group product manager – conveying, tna, in the future, there will be further developments in equipment design, in particular when it comes to the surface finishes of conveyors. He also expects to see a move towards more automated cleaning processes. One of the many benefits of automation is that it provides manufacturers with much more control over the sanitation process when it comes to water temperature, chemical balance, duration and frequency. The data that can be collected from these types of systems also helps in documenting the cleaning process, which will ultimately lead to an even more transparent manufacturing process in the future. 

At tna, we supply both horizontal motion and vibratory conveyors, as well as belt conveyors. Contrary to other suppliers that specialize in only one type of solution, we’re able to mix and match different technologies to suit customers’ individual requirements. Conveying systems can be found at multiple points of the snack production line and play a key role in controlling the feed to the seasoning, weighing and bagging stations. Each conveying technology will have specific benefits depending on the flow characteristics of the product. In many cases a mix of technologies is often the best solution,” explains Treacher.

The company also offers vibratory weigh conveyors for their seasoning and blending systems. These conveyors accurately measure the amount of throughput for the highest level of application accuracy. In addition, they provide the ultimate in flexibility through their patented “switcheroo” bi-directional functionality, which is able to lift, separate and tilt the conveyor pans to invert the way they connect. That way, they can be fed from several locations, whilst handling multiple products on one line. When it comes to minimizing product damage, the tna roflo HM is the ideal solution as there is no vertical lifting (bouncing) of the product. In addition, the patented ‘true’ gateless design greatly helps towards protecting the product from damage. Unlike traditional conveyors that use mechanical gates, tna’s servo controlled ‘virtual gates’ simply open up a gap between the pans where product is discharged, significantly reducing the risk of any potential damage to the product and practically eliminating the loss of flavor.

“The ability to reverse the product flow of our conveyors provides immense benefits to food manufacturers as they only need one line where others need two. That way there is less equipment to clean and maintain, resulting in lower operating costs and less platforms taking up valuable floor space. In addition, the fact that tna offers different types of conveying technologies is a huge benefit to our customers as we’re able to mix and match the best systems depending on their plant layout and production requirements,” ends Treacher.

The second part of this article will be available in our print magazine Potato Processing International (Nov/Dec 2017)!

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