Whether you’re building an all-new food processing facility or retrofitting an existing line, successfully integrating conveyor machines with OEM food processing equipment is a key piece of your project management puzzle.
A big part of the solution is understanding food processing conveyors not as individual pieces of equipment necessary for moving your product from one application to the next, but as a unified system that forms the backbone of your entire production process.
Well-designed and fully integrated conveyor systems should:
In addition, conveyor systems designed with your specific application in mind can add value to your entire production process by:
Of course, all these benefits require seamless integration of your conveying equipment at every stage of your production process.
Keep reading to learn what goes into integrating conveyor systems with other food processing equipment.
As a project manager for a food processing build or retrofit, it pays to start with integration front of mind as you plan your production flow and equipment purchases.
Here are some key things to consider when you are evaluating conveying equipment for a particular handling or integration challenge.
Let’s start with your “whole plant” approach to integration, whether you’re building a new line or retrofitting an existing one. What are your overall production goals, daily throughput, and volume requirements for your line?
These should provide maximum and minimum parameters for selecting suitable conveying equipment.
Now let’s drill down to individual integration challenges. Note the input and output rates and volumes of the equipment a conveyor or series of conveyors will be connecting. Compare these to the capacities of the conveying equipment.
Also consider the required infeed and discharge widths, heights, and lengths, as well as utilities like power, water, and ventilation. This will give you a shortlist of compatible conveyor equipment and an idea of any customized integration equipment that might be needed.
Consider the specific requirements and constraints of the production area you are working in. These might include machine specifications, product make-up, and sanitary requirements, and the process stage, from receiving to final packaging.
For example, are there site-specific restrictions on the size or type of equipment that could be used? What is the state of the food at this point and how does that affect how it needs to be handled? Are there special sanitary requirements at this point?
Think about the plant’s needs. How can the equipment be integrated to benefit processes upstream and downstream? Do conveyors need to be supported from the floor, ceiling, mezzanine or existing structure? Can variable speed equipment be installed to prevent bottlenecks? Are additional structures like catwalks or platforms needed?
Now consider your product carefully. What are the needs of the food being handled and how will your integration solution affect its quality? Is it solid or liquid? Hot or cold? Sticky, slippery, fine, or granular? Is it large, small, or irregular in size? And, is it fragile or sensitive to bruising?
Does the state of the product change during handling? Does it need to solidify, dry, or cool? Does the product need to be graded, separated, or reorientated as it moves? If so, what additional equipment needs to be mounted on the conveyor to do this?
Are there special considerations to ensure conveying equipment and integration solutions meet safety standards and do not endanger workers? Equipment must adhere to regulatory and industry standards to protect workers from burns, cuts, entrapment, and trip and fall hazards.
Customized integration solutions might also require additional safety features, like guardrails, safety covers, and emergency stops, depending on the application and its environment.
Any conveying solution needs to meet and, ideally, exceed sanitation requirements for your products in its designated zone. That includes any modifications to the conveyor or customizations to integrate it with other process equipment.
Be sure to select only professional sanitary conveyor equipment from a reputable supplier that is designed for use with your food product and be sure any additional integration equipment, including custom hoppers or extenders, does not introduce potential sanitary hazards.
Finally, think about how your conveyor equipment not only integrates with controls for the equipment it is directly attached to but with systems automating the operation of other equipment and the line itself.
For example, being able to slow down some types of food processing conveyors, can help prevent bottlenecks further down the line. Also, consider whether you need to add any automated monitoring or performance-tracking equipment.
To deliver effective conveyor integration for your operation, be it a single-point retrofit of OEM equipment on an existing line or a conveying “backbone” for your entire operation, you will need to find the right partner.
While cheaper, off-the-shelf conveyors may appear to check many of your boxes, choosing purpose-built equipment from a specialist sanitary conveyor equipment maker will save you money over the long run by ensuring:
That said, sourcing, installing, and integrating sanitary conveyor equipment can be a time-consuming process. The following steps will help you work with an equipment supplier to ensure on-time delivery and rapid integration of your new conveying systems.
While these tips will help speed along any conveyor integration project, they’re especially critical for plant-wide or new-build installations.
Here, equipment lead times, installation, and commissioning need to be carefully coordinated with your project deadlines. By working together, we can make sure the product, brand, and bottom line all get the maximum benefit of an efficient, fully integrated conveying system.
No matter the size of your project, rapid, seamless integration of your conveyor equipment comes with clear short- and long-term benefits, including:
PFI is the world’s leading provider of sanitary conveyor systems. Every PFI sanitary conveyor is custom-built to meet and exceed the highest food safety and engineering standards and deliver performance and returns on investment long into the future.
PFI offers our customers:
Talk to us about your unique conveyor integration challenges — whether you’re aiming to boost performance on an existing line, struggling to get existing OEM machinery to play together, or looking to build an ultra-efficient handling backbone for an all-new plant.
Click below to learn more about how PFI can help you add value to your food processing operation with industry-leading sanitary conveying products.