The top nine types of tree nuts produced worldwide are, in order of production volume from highest to lowest:
- Pine nuts
- Brazil nuts
Nut production and processing facilities either handle a single type of nut or a variety of nuts for various purposes. Nuts can be processed for their oils, for nut butter, or for packaging and sale as whole nuts or as ingredients in a wide range of food products.
No matter the size or scope of the food industry operation, an efficient and reliable nut conveyor system is critical to the success of any nut processing facility. But with so many different types of conveyor systems on the market, how can you choose the right one for your needs?
This blog post will outline the most important factors to consider when choosing a nut conveyor system for your food processing facility.
Even though it may seem like all nuts are essentially the same, there are actually a few key characteristics that you need to take into account when choosing a conveyor system.
The first, and possibly the most obvious, characteristic is that all nuts are processed to be consumed in some way. This means that the material handling system you choose needs to meet all food safety standards established by the FDA and USDA. Additional, non-regulatory, but just as important measures, such as the 3-A sanitary standards, also need to be met to ensure the safety of the final product.
Some features that are mandatory in a food-grade conveyor system are smooth and washable surfaces, enclosed bearings and fasteners, and sealed edges. These features all work together to create a system that is easy to clean and sanitize.
Shape and size
Tree nuts are available in various shapes and sizes, from large and oblong almonds to small and round macadamia. If you are moving only one type of nut, looking for a conveyor system that can handle a variety of shapes and sizes is not as important.
However, if you need to move multiple types of nuts through your facility, it is important to consider how the different sizes and shapes will affect the conveyor you choose.
Furthermore, are you transporting only whole nuts? Sliced nuts? Ground nuts? All three? The form of the nut also needs to be taken into account when choosing a conveyor, seeing as different shapes will have different effects on the production line.
A vital thing to keep in mind here is that whole nuts are fragile materials. Because they are so hard and dry, they are susceptible to breakage and crumbling. This means that the conveyor system you choose needs to be designed to minimize the risk of damage to the nuts (unlike a screw conveyor, pneumatic conveyor, and similar options that are not easy on the transported materials). A conveyor that transports nuts at relatively low speeds and with appropriate (gentle) handling is ideal.
For bulk solids like nuts, the term “bulk density” is used to describe how much space the material takes up. The bulk density of bulk material is often expressed in pounds per cubic foot (lb/ft3) or kilograms per cubic meter (kg/m3).
The bulk density of different types of tree nuts varies anywhere between 30-40 lb/ft3. It also depends on whether you’re transporting the nuts raw or roasted.
The bulk density of a material affects how much of it can be transported on a given conveyor system. To calculate the maximum amount of material that can be conveyed per hour on a particular system, you need to know the size of the conveying space and the speed of the conveyor, as well as the bulk density of the material. Your conveyor provider should be able to help you with this calculation.
Even though it is not a material or product characteristic, throughput is an important factor to consider when choosing a conveyor system. Throughput is the amount of material that can be moved through a system in a given period of time. The throughput you need is determined by the capacity of your facility and the speed at which you need to process the nuts.
For example, if you have a small processing facility that produces 250 pounds of roasted nuts per hour, you will need a conveyor system with a throughput of 250 pounds per hour. On the other hand, if you have a large facility that produces 10,000 pounds of roasted nuts per hour, you will need a conveyor system with a throughput of 10,000 pounds per hour.
Choosing a conveyor system with the right throughput is critical to ensuring the efficient operation of your facility.
Aside from the nut type and form, throughput, and bulk density, there are other factors that need to be considered when choosing a conveyor system. These include the following:
Floor space and layout
The fact is, you cannot have a conveyor system without taking up some floor space. And depending on the size and layout of your facility, the amount of space you have to work with will be different.
When planning the layout of your facility, it is important to take into account all the specifics. Do you need multi-directional conveying? Multi-floor conveying? Do you have a lot of horizontal space or vertical space? Or both? What about any sharp turns or corners, or potential existing equipment or barriers?
Your answers to these questions will help you determine the best conveyor type for your needs. It could be an overhead conveyor, a vertical conveyor, one that transports material at an angle, or similar. For example, if you need to move roasted or raw material between floors at a steep angle, a belt conveyor would not be the best option.
A modular conveyor, such as a Cablevey tubular drag conveyor, is perfect for facilities both with ample and limited space. These conveyors can be configured to fit almost any layout, and they can be modified in time as your facility grows or changes.
Level of automation
Automating your conveyor system offers a wide range of benefits, including but not limited to:
- Increased efficiency
- Reduced labor costs
- Improved safety
- Consistent product quality
When deciding on the level of automation for your conveyor system, you need to consider your facility’s needs. For example, you may not need a fully automated system if you have a small facility with only a few employees. A semi-automated system may be a better option. This would allow you to take advantage of some of the benefits of automation without the increased costs.
On the other hand, if you have a large facility with many employees, you may want to consider a fully automated system. This would allow you to maximize efficiency and minimize labor costs.
Other equipment on site
Don’t forget about the equipment you already have on-site! When choosing a conveyor system, you need to make sure it is compatible with the other equipment in your facility.
Think about all the moving parts in your facility and how they interact with each other. For example, if you have a packaging line, the conveyor system you choose needs to be able to interface with the packaging equipment.
The bottom line is that you need to make sure all the equipment in your facility is seamlessly working together. Otherwise, you risk bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and even safety hazards.
Last but not least, you need to consider the cost of the conveyor system. When making your decision, you need to strike a balance between price and quality. There is no doubt that a conveyor represents a large initial investment. But if you choose wisely, it can be a sound investment that pays off in the long run.
Think about the costs that you’ll face once your conveyor is installed. These include operational costs such as energy expenditure (which depends on the motor of a motor-powered conveyor), cleaning and maintenance, and repairs. You’ll also need to factor in the cost of any automation components.
In the same vein, when calculating the return on investment (ROI) of your conveyor system, don’t forget to include the indirect costs that will be saved thanks to the increased efficiency of your facility. These can consist of labor costs, waste reduction, and similar.
Once you’ve considered all the factors, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about which conveyor system is right for your needs.
Choosing your next (or first) conveyor system is a big decision. Nut conveying might not be the most exciting part of your facility, but it is a crucial one. The right conveyor system can make a world of difference in terms of efficiency, safety, and cost savings.
When making your decision, there are a few key factors to keep in mind:
- Nut type
- Nut shape and size
- Nut bulk density
- Product throughput
- The layout of your facility
- The level of automation you require
- Other equipment on site
- The initial cost of the conveyor system
- The ROI of the conveyor system, and more
Remember: when in doubt, always consult with a conveyor expert. They can help you navigate the world of conveyor systems and find the perfect one for your facility.
On that note, don’t hesitate to reach out to our experts at Cablevey Conveyors. We have over 50 years of experience in the design and installation of nut tubular drag cable and disc conveyor systems, and we would be happy to help you find the perfect system for your needs.
Get in touch today to learn more!