Conveyor systems are mechanical material handling equipment that moves a wide range of products. While conveyors were first invented to transport goods onto ships at ports, they are now used in various industries, including mining, agriculture, automotive, and the food and beverages industry. 

Conveyor systems have revolutionized the food industry by speeding up the transportation of materials between long distances, cutting down on human labor, and minimizing manual handling. This technology allows for a more sanitary environment with less dirt getting into production areas that can lead to illness or contamination, which has also helped increase product safety!

To fully appreciate the benefit of food processing conveyor systems, we need to understand why they were invented and their role in food production. 

This guide will talk briefly about the history of conveyor systems and how they have modernized food processing, making it safer and more efficient. We will also discuss the advantages of using a conveyor system in food handling and processing.

History of Conveyor Systems

The first records of conveyor belts date back to 1795. The first conveyor system was made of a wooden bed and leather belt, and it was powered with pulleys and hand cranks. The Industrial Revolution and steam power improved the primitive design of the first conveyor systems. By 1804, the British Navy started using steam-powered conveyor systems to load ships.

Machine-powered conveyors would begin appearing in a variety of industries over the next 100 years. In 1901, Swedish engineering company Sandvik started producing the first steel conveyor belts. Once constructed using leather, rubber, or canvas belts, conveyor belt systems began using different fabrics or a combination of synthetic materials for the belts.

Conveyor systems have evolved over the decades and are no longer just powered manually or by gravity. Today, mechanical conveyor systems are widely used in the food industry to improve food quality, operational efficiencies, productivity, and safety. Mechanical conveyors are composed of a power mechanism to control the conveying speed, a motor controller, the structure that supports the conveyor, and a means to handle the material, such as a belt, tube, tray, or screw.

Conveyor Systems Today

The Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association (CEMA), the association that provides the conveyor industry with design, engineering, application, and safety standards, has defined over 80 types of conveyors. There are flatbed conveyors, chain conveyors, pallet conveyors, overhead conveyors, stainless steel conveyors, table-to-chain conveyors, custom conveyor systems, and more. Conveyor systems can be specified by load capacity, rated speed, throughput, frame configuration, and drive location.

In the food industry, the most common conveyors used today include belt conveyors, vibrating conveyors, screw conveyors, flexible screw conveyors, aero-mechanical conveyors, and tubular cable drag conveyor systems. 

Today’s technologies allow for customized designs based on the client’s needs, including how far they need materials moved or at what speed these items will be traveling through the plant.

Modern conveyor systems can also be custom-designed by consulting experts who know precisely where power points lie within the facility so that everything can run smoothly without any hiccups along its journey from the beginning until the end destination.

Benefits of Conveyor Systems in Food Processing

When conveyors are designed, constructed, and installed to meet food production regulations, the result is a conveyance system that is safe, sanitary, and efficient. 

Here are the top benefits of using conveyor systems in the food industry:

Eliminating or Minimizing Manual Labor

Before conveyor systems, they were transporting materials from one level to another with human labor. It was strenuous and slow, forcing companies to spend a lot of money on labor costs. With the right conveyor system, food manufacturers can reduce employment costs, such as recruitment, wages, training, benefits, and retention.

Conveyor systems allow the automated transportation of materials between long distances that may be on varying elevations. Conveyors can be used to transport raw materials out of storage and into the production line, move products into other storage devices, move the finished product into the packaging line, or transport packaged products to shipping.

Reducing the Risk of Accidents

Food plants become safer and more productive with the right conveyor system. Installing a conveyor system means needing fewer workers, which in turn reduces the number of workplace accidents. 

Thanks to automation, employees can do their jobs without being exposed to risks that could lead them to get injured or damage materials. There is less demand (if any) for carrying heavy loads, repeating specific movements, and a significantly reduced chance of injury or disease.

Increasing Efficiency and Productivity

Conveyors help save time by allowing materials to be moved between multiple levels quickly. Materials can move in different directions, which is useful when moving them between opposite ends of a processing plant. Because modern conveyor systems eliminate manual unloading of materials, there’s also no need to waste time monitoring unloads and workers.

Famously, Henry Ford was one of the first business owners to install a moving assembly line to mass-produce a vehicle way back in 1913. With this innovation, he reduced the time it took to build a car from over 12 hours to a mere one and a half hours! Imagine just what kind of productivity levels you can achieve with conveyor systems of the modern age!

Because conveyors have speed controls, materials are moved at optimal speed, reducing wastage or material loss.  

Ensuring Food Safety and Maintaining Quality Standards

There are certain conveyors that are better for the food industry than others. For example, tubular drag conveyor systems are explicitly designed to be dust-free, contamination-free, and to move food materials safely and efficiently. Product and material handling equipment must be easy to clean and kept free of contaminants when it comes to foods and beverages.  

From small and powdered materials to sanitary or delicate materials, cable tube conveyor systems can move just about any food material that fits into a tube. What makes tubular drag cable and disc conveyor systems different is the technology that holds materials between discs within an enclosed tube. This design keeps breakage to a minimum and maintains a sanitary environment. Ensuring the plant environment is safe and hygienic helps the company comply with regulatory agencies like the FDA and USDA.

Conclusion

Conveyor systems were first invented to speed up the time it took to move materials from point A to point B and relieve workers from strenuous manual labor. Over the centuries, conveyor systems have evolved and now provide more benefits. Conveyors are excellent investments that help food production companies save on labor costs, improve processes and productivity, and maintain food quality standards.

If you have any questions about using a conveyor system in your food production facility, please reach out to Cablevey. We specialize in outfitting various food processing plants with top-of-the-line conveyors that help grow their business.