Mechanical conveyors have been around for some time. Even before the Industrial Revolution, engineers in developed nations came up with what can be considered the first existing conveyor system or material handling equipment. Granted, it was made out of a wooden bed and leather belt and was powered with pulleys and hand cranks; the principle has mainly remained the same throughout the years. It was with the appearance and proliferation of the steam engine that machine-powered conveyors would appear across different industries.

With the start of the 20th century, in 1901, Swedish engineering company Sandvik began producing the first steel conveyor systems. The belts also went through a transition, from leather, canvas, and rubber to synthetic materials. Their purpose and design have also expanded, going from horizontal motion conveyors to also vertical and inclined. As for the conveying method, these systems are now in the form of the traditional conveyor belts, conveyor spirals, flexible screw conveyors, roller track conveyors, chain conveyors, trays, bucket elevators, and conveyor tubes, among many others.

Designed to move bulk materials over long distances, conveying systems have helped tremendously in streamlining processes, improving safety, as well as cutting down on costs. Today, you’ll be able to find these conveyor systems in almost everything from mining, agriculture, automotive, food processing, and, of course, the pet food manufacturing industry.

Pet Food Production Trends and Statistics

As of 2018, the pet care industry has surpassed $125 billion at compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6%. Yet, recent forecasts suggest a fall of 17% in pet products and services, in line with the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, pet food sales are still expected to grow by 4% in 2020, even though at a slower pace than initially expected.

To better put things into perspective, North America accounts for a significant share of the pet food market (35%), followed by Europe. In 2019, North America accounted for $33 billion of the market share, Europe for $23 billion, Asia for $7.6 billion, South America for $6.23 billion, and Australia for $2.4 billion. Nationally, the United States represents $29 billion at an annual growth of 3.8%, the United Kingdom at $4.82 billion (3.9% market growth), and Brazil at $4.33 billion with a growth rate of 5.5%.

It’s also important to mention that the pet food industry is growing about three times faster than packaged food industries. One major factor influencing this rapid growth mainly revolves around the customers’ increasing awareness and concern about their pets’ health. Other factors include the rising trends in nuclear families, the adoption of more pets, pet humanization, and premiumization.

The pet food market share can be further classified by pet type, product type, and ingredients, among several others. Based on pet type (cats, dogs, birds, fish, and others), dogs are the fastest growing market share. Dry food is also expected to grow in dominance when it comes to dogs, whereas for cats, it’s wet/canned food. Other product types, aside from dry and wet food, include snack food, veterinary pet food, organic, and others.

Sanitary Compliance For Tube Conveyors vs. Traditional Bucket Elevators

Pet food manufacturers have plenty of options and solutions when it comes to using conveyor systems in their facilities. Most often, bucket elevators are used to transport food during processing. Yet, when it comes to this type of system, there are several limitations and potential risks that need to be taken into consideration. Sanitary compliance is one of them.

According to the food-grade regulations set by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), pet food manufacturers are required to clean their conveyor systems on a regular basis. There are many types of ingredients and materials handled and moved through these systems at different stages of the production process. All of these materials must adhere to the same sanitary requirements as human food.

By their very design, bucket elevators are prone to causing spills, have limited layout options, require more space, and more maintenance. Bucket elevators are also harder to clean and sanitize properly when compared to a tube conveyor system. It’s, therefore, more efficient and economical to use a system that offers more flexibility and ease of cleaning. Compared to the traditional buckets that are more difficult to clean, leading to more downtime, an enclosed tube makes for easier cleaning and removes many sanitary compliance concerns.

Enclosed tubing is typically made of stainless steel that is naturally corrosion-resistant. This steel may also incorporate a special finish that will make it easier to clean. Different alloys will have different properties from this point of view. Cablevey conveyors use both alloy 304 and 316, which have excellent anti-corrosive properties.

Better Material Handling

When dealing with pet food, it’s important to remember that some pellets are fragile products. Fish food, in particular, is especially prone to product breakage, which will affect salability and packaging. Tube conveyor systems will ensure that any product breakage will be kept at a minimum throughout the manufacturing process.

Maintaining Proportions

Building the right nutritional mix is a huge factor for pet food manufacturers to gain a considerably larger slice of the market share. As mentioned earlier, premiumization is a determining factor for the growing pet food industry, meaning that providing consistent product quality can make or break your profit margins. There have been reported cases when an incorrect mix of ingredients resulted in pet deaths.

However, maintaining the right proportions can prove to be a challenge since ingredients can have variable densities and granularities. This can lead to separation issues and affect proportional accuracy. Cablevey’s cable, disc and tubular drag conveyor system wins over buckets, pneumatics, vacuums, and other systems in this regard. Our system moves material blends without actually changing the ratios designed by the nutritionist and employed by the manufacturer.

Eliminating Spillage and Product Loss

Cable conveyors are enclosed systems that have no wearing parts. This means that fugitive dust is kept at a minimum, while also eliminating any spillage and product loss. The system also reduces the possibility of cross-contamination, which is relatively common with other transportation systems. And by using the included wiper disc and (optional) air knife, the conveyors in a system, they are also self-cleaning.

A Flexible Design

Cablevey Cable Conveyors also offer a great deal in terms of customization. Not only do our tubular drag conveying systems come in different diameters such as 2″ (50.8mm), 4″ (101.6mm), 6″ (152.4mm), and 8” (203.2mm) for different needs, but they also feature a series of highly flexible and modular components that can cater to all sorts of factory floor requirements. These will help facilitate easy access and maneuverability throughout the factory. These components include the following:

  • Drive Units – Cables are pulled through a drive unit by an electric gear motor. Depending on the exact layout, the cable can enter and exit through either tube port so as to be in line with the specific system layout.
  • Funnel Outlets – Used to discharge materials from cleanouts and/or rotary discharges, Cablevey’s funnel outlets come in a variety of sizes and connection types so as to fit each plant’s own needs.
  • Inspection Sections – Made out of food-grade plastic tubes, inspection sections allow you to inspect the conveyed product as well as observe the cleaning process. These inspection sections can also be installed vertically or horizontally, depending on your needs.
  • Sweeps – Cablevey’s sweeps can change their travel to any desired direction and area available in different radius dimensions and many different angles in order to fit restricted spaces.
  • Compression Couplers – These couplers hold the tubes together in perfect alignment in order for the discs to have a smooth path. Their food-grade rubber gaskets also ensure that no water, air, or dust will enter the system.
  • Inlet – The inlets come in a variety of different lengths and slopes to accommodate different needs and material flows. If desired and/or needed, multiple inlets can be used on the same system.
  • Turnarounds – Turnarounds contain a sprocket to move the discs and cable around the system smoothly with applied tension.
  • Discharges – The discharge mounted on the system can either be open or closed, allowing materials to pass through or exit the conveyor at that point.
  • Brush Boxes – Cables and discs pass through the Brush Box, removing any remaining particles.

Low Maintenance and Even Lower Costs

Tube cable and disc conveyors often use smaller drives than bucket elevators or tubular chain and disc conveyors. This translates to less noise pollution and less power usage, keeping operating costs low. In terms of maintenance, tube systems require only periodical inspections of the discs and cable couplings and other components. In the event that a disc becomes damaged, pet food manufacturers only need to replace that disc without having to replace the entire cable system. And being a self-tensioning device, constant manual cable tension adjustments are not required as with other systems.

Conclusion

While there are plenty of conveyor manufacturers that create systems for pet food processing, not all of them offer the same efficiency, gentle use, and sanitary conditions as Cablevey. Our pet food conveyor systems are perfectly-suited to move all sorts of pet food materials and mixes, regardless of their composition and fragility. What’s more, you can customize it to fit your unique needs and facility requirements while also enjoying the convenience of less downtime and maintenance at a minimum cost.