When you think of the various pieces of equipment in a food or beverage plant, it is very difficult to imagine one without some type of conveyor or line control system in place. Our Special EMC GF2 Food Sector Networking Event at Descon Conveyor Systems certainly raised participant awareness regarding the capabilities to move and control product and increase efficiencies within our facilities through automation today!
As a bit of background, our Host, Descon Conveyor Systems (www.DesconConveyor.com) provides full turnkey installations of integrated conveyor systems for companies in the beverage and liquid-food marketplaces (ie. breweries, pop and water processing). They can also design and develop beyond that sector as well providing a robust group of services such as:
• Complete line engineering (electrical and mechanical)
• Plant layout designs (material flow, forklifts, goods, technologies - ie. High speed labelling)
• Project management and execution
• Conveyor and integrated machinery engineering
• Manufacturing and assembly
• Controls and integration of customer and integrated solutions
• On site services, installations, maintenance, commissioning/line support, spare parts, training
Over the years, from a continuous improvement standpoint, Descon has developed a number of custom designs providing creative solutions for clients who require a more streamlined and efficient system - always trying to advance their customer’s needs. Their goal is to be “best in class” and to achieve that, they have introduced and developed many standards. Given the uniqueness of each installation, a question was asked on “how much does the customer dictate what’s needed” and the response was that they expect nothing less than 100% efficiency. During their very interesting overview, our Host also shared an excellent Teamwork slide that enveloped their key principles: learn, integrate, perform, partner and train.
Generally speaking, when it comes to conveyance – those attending acknowledged there are many different types of equipment that can be designed and fabricated depending on a company’s needs – whether simply moving product from one area to another or transforming everyday manual processes into what Sean Robinson so aptly referred to in his article “3 Steps in Selecting the Right Conveyor System” as an “automated work of art”. I shared how this particular aspect reminds me of a large-scale distribution facility that I recently toured where several lines on multiple levels of the plant floor weaved back and forth, merged when necessary and seamlessly delivered product from truck to truck depending on where it was needed. It truly was an “automated work of art” from a product conveyance standpoint!
Regardless of how simple or complex the requirements, researching by exploring the possibilities most suited for your particular product(s) and plant layout, connecting with potential suppliers to understand the variety of opportunities available, and visiting plants that have similar installations would be most helpful in your decision-making process. Completing all of the background homework necessary for a project of this nature is key. And, mapping out a solid plan that encompasses all aspects including layout, installation, training and ongoing maintenance is sure to enable your roadmap to success.
After some amazing videos showcasing various auto conveyance solutions, participants were invited to share thoughts on the systems they have in place and/or alternatively, what they might be envisioning implementing for the future. This led to some interesting dialogue on a variety of things such as:
• Strong and heavy duty systems
• Deckjet air conveyance
• Flash pasteurization, water recirculization and tunnel cooling
• Development of sanitary type designs that are easily washable and erosion resistant with no crevices/areas to collect bacteria - making cleaning more effective and efficient
• Temperature monitoring – warmers and coolers
• High speed servo lanes – taking one line and diverting into two or three lanes for downstream packaging
• Air rinsers – water versus ionized air
• Bulk de palletizers
• Shell washers, dryers and trash removal
• Energy consumption
• Decentralized versus Centralized (power panel and air conditioning) Controls
• Energy efficient motors – less gearing and more improvement on line and efficiencies
• Plug and play cabling
• Three-dimensional conveyor systems
• Reducing and simplifying changeover times
• Maintenance of systems and types – contract vs in-house
• Line design
A Member then asked “How does the implementation and design of equipment in this regard tie into the lean manufacturing philosophy?” We all agreed that it probably comes into play very well. Systems of this nature are designed particularly around the product and of course refining the current efficiencies of the line. With flexibility in mind and a forward thinking mindset, lean methodologies allow them to look at better and easier solutions such as changeover times, cleaning and maintenance, and so forth.
There are many reasons why a company might consider implementing a conveyor system (or revamping an existing one) and from a business case perspective, there are some worthy cost benefits to look at including the potential for energy savings, increased efficiencies, re-allocation/reduction in labour costs as tasks are automated, and of course, transporting product from one area to another in a manner that is quick, efficient and safe.
After an excellent overview with examples by our Host and roundtable discussion with participants, a few things to consider when looking for a new conveyor system:
- Different types, features, standalone or integrated systems
- Flexibility and/or modular opportunities
- Product and packaging requirements, key characteristics, production objectives
- Potential bottlenecks, where are problems occurring now and where might they occur
- Maintenance requirements and ongoing support – onsite vs contract
- Type of controllers and benefits
- Envisioning future needs and requirements as your company grows
- Overall benefits of implementation - energy conservation, ease of use, labour allocation, maintenance
On a complimentary note, as we consider implementing new technologies of this nature into our processes, we were fortunate to have Ross Cooper, EMC’s Value Add Program Manager, join us for this session who mentioned that implementing a specialized project of this nature may be applicable for funding. SR&ED and Government Grants can help pay for a significant portion of innovation related expenses. Ross would be happy to visit to share more information on how you can tap into these funds by sharing what he has learned from other manufacturers and from SR&ED/Grant experts. (To connect with Ross, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Information shared during this event included:
“Key Questions to Identify the Conveyor System for your Needs”, Scott Stone, February 9th, 2016.
“3 Steps in Selecting the Right Conveyor System”, Sean Robinson, December 16th, 2013
“Floor Movement”, Manufacturing Automation, Patrick Roberts, November-December 2015, p. 18
• We have a Member Company who is interested in learning how they might move their finished boxes from the line into storage in the most efficient manner through automation
• Durham College has a need for table top equipment for students to learn on – anyone that can help, please feel free to contact us so that we can connect you to them
• Taste Your Future – a campaign has started to encourage youth and new immigrants to look at careers in the Food and Beverage Industry
On behalf of our EMC Members and Guests, our sincerest thanks to the Team at Descon Conveyor Systems who so warmly welcomed us to their facility, provided an excellent overview that broadened our horizons for sure – and for the interesting plant tour too!!
Bren de Leeuw, Director - EMC Food, Beverage, Bio & Ag Program Canada
Excellence In Manufacturing Consortium - email@example.com - 519-372-6009
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