By Barry Whitman, Global Sales Manager, PFI  

Food manufacturing companies routinely use conveyors throughout their facilities to move food products along the line to get them processed, packaged, and out to customers.  

Value-added conveyors can save time and money AND produce more significant ROI. Let’s look at how they can help throughout the processing line.

How value-added conveyors can help food processors

In a food processing plant, conveyors are used to move product around as it proceeds through the various steps of preparation. But, what’s not always considered is that conveying equipment can be enhanced to help complete steps while the product is in motion. This allows plants to perform more efficiently. 

To understand how this might be incorporated, think about how a product might be manipulated while moving along on a conveyor. A manufacturer might need to add nuts, for example, or cover something in chocolate. 

What types of actions can a value-added conveyor do?

There’s a conveyor adaptation to fit almost any action that might need to be done to prepare the product for the next stage of the process.

Conveyors can be designed to manipulate the product so it can be ready for the next step in production. This may include completing actions such as:

  • Flipping or turning
  • Merging
  • Sorting
  • Sizing
  • Aligning
  • Compressing
  • Sprinkling an ingredient on top 
  • Stuffing ingredients inside
  • Enrobing/waterfall 
  • Cutting or chunking

Some industries that might benefit from incorporating value-added conveying equipment include:

  • Meat processing
  • Candy and confectionery
  • Dough processing and handling
  • Frozen food    
  • Pet food
  • Snack food
  • Bakery

Advantages of value-added conveyance solutions

What can value-added conveyance solutions mean for a food manufacturing company? There are numerous advantages: 

  • Money saved: When time and labor are saved, cost savings also result. The cost of an optimized conveyor is usually less than a separate machine, meaning it’s more likely to stay within a manufacturer’s budget.
  • Addressing a worker shortage: Positions in these areas can be hard to fill because the jobs can be repetitive and may be tedious. Turnover is often high. Using value-added conveying solutions helps address this challenge by automating such tasks on the line.
  • Increased project efficiency: By relying on the conveyor OEMs to figure out the manipulation, it can save time on the part of the manufacturer’s engineering team. In addition, working with fewer suppliers saves project management time. Using less equipment is easier and more streamlined for operations, sanitation, and maintenance.
  • Improved food safety: Using a machine versus a human worker to complete some steps of the process reduces the potential for products to be contaminated.
  • Better precision: Conveying equipment aligns the ingredients and portions more precisely than a human can.
  • Reduced waste: It also results in less waste – an example might be a factory using a procedure that sprinkles nuts on a product. The conveyor can be designed to catch the nuts that fall off, which can then be cycled back into the process instead of discarded.
  • Smaller footprint: Value-added conveying equipment saves floor space as well, which impacts the logistics of a factory. 

Guidelines for choosing a value-added conveyor supplier

For food manufacturers who are considering value-added conveyance solutions, follow these guidelines:

  1. Get a conveying equipment partner involved early: Choose a supplier you can rely on, then get them involved before you make crucial decisions about how to process a food product. The earlier they can get involved, the more efficiency they can bring to your processes.
  2. Ask for an assessment of your production process and facility: Once you’ve chosen a partner to work with in the conveyor equipment space, they can perform an assessment of your production facility. They can then provide recommendations on specific pieces of equipment that can be incorporated based on a food producer’s unique needs. The sooner this is done, the more helpful it may be. It makes processes more efficient, resulting in a smaller footprint.
  3. Consider conveyance technology during process development: If you want to build even more efficiency into your processes, factor conveyance into your process development stage. For example, in-house engineering teams may not think about how a conveyor can add value during food production. By working with a partner in the conveyor space, manufacturers can gain insight that may be helpful in designing their processes.
  4. Choose a supplier who understands the industry applications: When considering a supplier to work with, be sure to choose one with industry experience. A partner that knows food processing applications inside and out saves time spent searching for engineering resources that may be difficult to find. They can easily build on existing solutions or tweak projects as needed to perfect them to fit a new application.
  5. Think about supporting equipment: Once you have the right conveyance equipment in place, consider supporting equipment to create complete conveyance and bulk handling systems. This may include dumpers, platforms, lifts, sanitary parts, carts, and elevators.
  6. Add installation and maintenance services: Some conveyance equipment manufacturers also offer installation and maintenance services you can take advantage of. Partnering with your conveyance OEM to install and service equipment streamlines the project by leveraging experts that understand how to integrate it into the line efficiently and accurately.

Value-added conveyors increase efficiency for manufacturers 

As you develop new products and perfect existing processes, value-added conveyors help you work smarter by enhancing your line while saving on the bottom line.   

Barry Whitman has 30 years of experience in the food processing conveyance industry. As Global Sales Manager at PFI, a Grote Company brand, he works with major food brands to connect their food processing lines with PFI’s conveying and handling equipment and Vanmark and Grote Company’s processing machines. He brings solutions focused on efficiency, uptime, quality, and especially food safety and sanitation to customers.

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