Choosing the right conveyor system can be a difficult task. Making the wrong decision could cost you in terms of money, time, and efficiency.
Finding the right conveyor for your food processing plant will require an understanding of the different conveyor types and which material handling system designs are most compatible with your operations.
There are dozens of conveyor types to choose from. The most commonly used conveyors in the food industry are the belt conveyor, roller conveyor, bucket elevator, tubular conveyors, vacuum conveyor, pneumatic conveyor, screw conveyor, and aero-mechanical conveyor. Each of these come with their own set of pros and cons.
This blog post will answer some common questions about choosing a conveyor system and provide tips on making an informed decision for your company.
Key Factors to Consider When Selecting a Conveyor Type
The most important step here is to recognize the unique demands of your product and operations and how they will ultimately impact your choice of a conveyor system.
The following are the key considerations when it comes to the proper selection of a conveyor for your facility:
Before deciding on a conveyor, consider your product’s type, length, height, and width. Product weight also plays a significant role because it determines the size of the conveyor motor required.
How bulky is the conveyed material? Does it have characteristics that require it to be handled differently, such as high moisture content or explosiveness? Is it flammable? Does the material need to be conveyed gently because it is extremely fragile? Does the material have traits like corrosiveness and abrasiveness, or does it need to maintain a specific temperature?
Some conveyor systems aren’t built to handle certain materials gently. If you need to convey fragile materials, such as nuts, breakfast cereals, or coffee, you need to avoid conveyors that may lead to material breakage and product loss.
For example, equipment like aeromechanical, belt, pneumatic, vacuum, and bucket elevator conveyors may force the fragile materials through stressful phases during transport that could impact their integrity.
Bucket elevators are also not ideal for high moisture materials that may end up sticking and drying on the bottom and sides of the bucket. Cleaning dried material from bucket elevators becomes a nightmare and costs you time and money; it also makes maintaining a sanitary environment that complies with food safety regulations more challenging.
Screw conveyors, also known as auger conveyors, tend to be rough on materials like nuts and end up grounding up fragile nuts into pieces, resulting in costly wastage.
Compared to these options, tubular cable and disc conveyors are gentler on your product and make long-term use a more attractive option.
Layout and Available Space
Sometimes conveyor selection comes down to how much room you have available to install material handling systems. You may not have enough floor space or ceiling height to accommodate certain conveyor types.
However, some conveyors, like tubular drag conveyors, are highly customizable and can be designed to maximize available space. The conveyor system design can be laid out depending on production flows, incline or decline, and product transfer requirements. It can also include corner sections and make use of overhead space.
Remember that the layout of the production line should take into account easy access for cleaning and maintenance, worker safety, and operational performance. The best system designs optimize production flows to improve efficiency and productivity.
Have you considered how much energy your new system will use? Is there a high or a low cut-off point at which the system becomes inefficient? If you have an opportunity to choose between a motor of 5 HP and one of 50 HP, which option is better suited for you?
Aside from energy consumption, it’s also important to consider how long your product takes to reach its destination and what speed profile you need from the conveyor. Energy efficiency becomes less important if you need to keep the conveyor running at full speed because of the high initial cost.
Your goal should be to move materials in a manner that does not negatively impact the plant operating environment. Is your material flammable, and does it pose a risk of fire or explosion? Will the material cause dust particles to land on the processing equipment and facility floor?
When selecting the right conveyor system, consider if your product is the type that is sensitive to high temperature or vibrations. Does the material have to be kept safe, clean, and contamination-free?
The open nature of slider bed conveyor belts and bucket elevators may allow contaminants to enter the food stream. Therefore, when the conveyed material needs to be kept as clean as possible, it is best to use an enclosed conveyor that doesn’t expose the materials to impurities that may affect its quality.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Remember that your food manufacturing facility and the conveyor you install should be designed to minimize contamination so that it achieves food and safety compliance.
When comparing different conveyors, think about how much time will be spent disassembling and cleaning the system. Generally, conveyors with fewer joints are easier to clean.
You should consider your options carefully to maximize hygiene levels while minimizing maintenance costs for both plant equipment and transportation systems.
Some inexpensive conveyor systems might sound like a good deal at the moment. But how much will it cost you in the long run when you have to invest in extensive repairs and cleaning, pay for product loss due to breakage, or struggle with regulatory compliance?
The cost will always play one of the biggest roles when it comes to choosing conveyor systems. However, short-term savings on an inexpensive conveyor, like an auger or vacuum, are quickly offset by wastage or breakage of valuable materials. It becomes a choice of ‘pay now or pay later.’ A conveyor that is cheap today will cost you a lot more further down the line.
Ultimately, it’s best to invest in the right piece of equipment now rather than suffer the consequences later. A low-priced conveyor may even cost you your business, particularly if it becomes the reason why you can’t comply with health and safety rules and regulations.
When choosing the right conveyor for your facilities, don’t lose sight of why you’re doing it in the first place – to improve productivity and meet your business goals.
Think about the purpose of the conveying system, how it will be used, and what you want from it as a company. Will it help increase productivity? Does the material have to adhere to certain quality standards? Are there specific regulations that need to be met with handling this product? Is space an issue?
When you know what the conveyor system is meant to do, your choice will become much simpler. You can get rid of options that don’t meet your objectives and choose something that suits them perfectly. This way, you’ll not only have an efficient conveyor but also one that doesn’t cost too much in terms of time and money.
To ensure you get a high return on investment, conveyor selection must be made with key considerations in mind, like product type, the weight of your products, available facility space, environmental conditions, and cleaning and maintenance resources.
And while cost should also be considered, it’s still better to invest in the right material handling equipment now rather than suffer the consequences later. The wrong conveyor system can lead to injury and accidents, product loss, and failure to observe protocols enforced by regulating agencies that allow you to stay in business.
For more information on choosing the right conveyor, contact us at Cablevey, a company that specializes in food processing conveyor systems.