By definition, fragile materials or products are those that easily break or fracture when handled roughly. What does this mean for the food processing industry?

Fragile materials are present in almost any segment of the food processing industry. They include breakfast cereal, nuts, dry granules of any kind, powders, and more.

These fragile materials are often handled by a variety of people and machines. What this means is that there is a higher risk of breakage during transportation processes. Thus, extra precautions must be taken when transporting these products if you don’t want to suffer from high material loss due to breakage.

Learn more about fragile products, why it is important to handle them gently, and how you can effectively manage that for your food processing business.

The Material Breakage Problem

The most common causes of material breakage are rough handling, lack of attention, inadequate conveyor systems, insufficient storage space, and less qualified employees.

All of this leads to the following issues that plague food processors:

  • Material loss
  • Material spoilage
  • Downtime and replacement costs
  • A poor reputation for product quality

It is a well-known fact that damaged products have less value. What’s more, a damaged product can quickly spoil and develop dangerous microorganisms. All of this leads to potential hidden costs in the food processing industry due to poor handling practices of fragile materials.

To avoid these costs, it is essential to equip your facilities with the right conveyor system and proper handling procedures. Fragile materials need to be managed with care, and you need to find the best material handling solution – one that is just right for your needs.

Fragile Materials in Food Processing

Breakfast cereal is one of the most vulnerable commodities that require careful handling during production, shipping, and storage processes. What makes it so susceptible to breakage? Cereal is made from brittle walnuts, grains, or other hard kernels that can easily get damaged at a high rate. Cereal is more vulnerable to breakage when it is packaged in bags or containers that lack proper protection.

Nuts are another type of delicate commodity that is prone to breakage. There are several reasons why nuts are so fragile; for one, they are a dry product with very little moisture content. They are also brittle, which means they can easily get crushed when free falling on a conveyor system or other material handling equipment. The last reason why nuts are fragile is that their outer covering is made from a dry shell. This shell can easily crack under pressure or high-speed vibrations.

Powders such as coffee fall into this category too. Coffee requires careful handling because it has very low moisture content and is fine in texture. Fragile coffee powder (or any other type of powder) can easily become airborne and be blown around by air currents in the plant. This poses not only a material loss problem but also a plant contamination problem.

The Solution

The best solution for preserving material integrity in a food processing facility is to use the right conveyor to transport the product. By resolving transport issues, you will significantly reduce the risk of material breakage between the points of origin and destination.

Conveyors can protect products from the effects of gravity, compressive forces, impact forces, high or low temperatures, water, and breakage caused by the processing equipment. Depending on your product’s requirement for protection (for example, moisture content), you can choose a conveyor that best suits your facility’s needs.

Flexibility in conveying is crucial for efficient and effective product transport.

In the case of fragile food materials mentioned above, our recommendation is definitely a tubular cable conveyor system.

Tubular Drag Cable Conveyors

Tubular drag cable conveyors are mechanical systems with a sealed tube. The product is gently moved through this tube with the help of circular discs evenly spaced along a coated drag cable. Because these discs move slowly and push the material slowly, product degradation (material breakage) is almost nonexistent.

The type of cable most commonly used in tubular conveyors is a stainless steel cable with a wire strand core. These are incredibly high-tensile cables often used in the aerospace industry. A tension turnaround unit maintains the cable tension to prevent the breaking of cable strands.

In terms of sanitation, tubular drag cable conveyors meet all the required safety standards for food processors. The cable is sealed in nylon, meaning that no segment of it comes in direct contact with food material. The food products remain uncontaminated and contained within the sealed tube, keeping them out of contact with the cable.

When it comes to fragile materials, a tubular cable conveyor provides the following benefits:

  • No material loss – What protects more fragile foods is containment within an enclosed tube. Food material like corn flakes does not get thrown around, and there is no material loss from breakage.
  • Gentle transport – Tubular cable conveyors are the gentlest systems on fragile materials. In most other systems, the products are handled in a variety of ways that could damage them. They can be knocked around and even crushed – there is no possibility of this happening in a tubular cable conveyor system.
  • No contamination – The enclosed tube of the conveyor system keeps fragile foods protected so that they are not exposed to dirt, dust, insects, and other contaminants.
  • Low maintenance – What is great about a tubular drag cable conveyor is that there is little to no maintenance required, making it an ideal choice for food processors. What cannot go into the system can be filtered out of the system, and what goes in stays sealed within that tube.
  • Easy cleaning – Keeping a transport system clean and sanitary is the number one priority in the food processing industry. Conveyors that are too hard to clean are far from an efficient option. A tubular drag cable conveyor system has several simple wet and dry cleaning mechanisms you can choose from.

Where To Use These Conveyors

If your materials call for it, tubular cable conveyor systems can be used in basically any stage of the food production process:

  • Receiving raw materials
  • Weighing and filling
  • Grinding and packaging

These conveyors are particularly useful in environments where you expect significant material damage, contamination, or dust accumulation, such as during filling and packaging.

Your fragile materials will be protected, and your overall process will run more smoothly.

Material Test

To ensure that you’re making the right conveyor choice for your type of fragile materials, you should run a material test on the system you have set up in your factory. This will present a clear picture of what the conveyor will do for you and what kind of improvements could be made.

During the material test, you need to monitor all the variables that will be affected by the new conveyor system. If you spot a potential issue or error, you might get the option to change the system before it has a negative impact on your business. Any issues that occur in this phase are easier to overcome compared to after the conveyor system is installed.

A material test helps you determine how well your conveyor is working for you so that you can maintain or optimize its performance. You will have an accurate idea of how well the conveyor system that you have installed will operate.

Cablevey readily accepts materials for breakage tests from our prospective customers. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us and arrange a material test on our conveyors so that you can be sure your materials will experience the best possible ride.

Upon completing the food testing phase, it is crucial to evaluate all aspects of its performance, including material flow rate, maintenance requirements, and monitoring ability.

Conclusion

If you are working with fragile materials, you are doubtlessly aware of the risks associated with that. Fragile materials are susceptible to a wide range of damages which can be costly in the long run. Nuts, coffee, and breakfast cereals require special care when handling. With the right conveyor system, such as a tubular cable conveyor, you can minimize or eliminate these problems.

The perfect conveyor system for this industry is one that utilizes tubular cable and provides you with the protection you need against material breakage, powder contamination, moisture, and foreign objects.

An ideal conveyor system will keep fragile materials protected from temperature extremes and maintain a controlled storage-transport environment. Proper inspection will also be necessary.

The more diverse your operation, the more important it is to have a conveyor system that can handle all products. Your conveyor system must also be easy to use with its simple modular structure and full automation.

Contact Cablevey Conveyors for more information on tubular cable conveyor systems and how you can incorporate them into your business!