Resource Category: Blog

Trends in pet food processing focus on higher-quality products.

Pet Food Processing Challenges

Pet food manufacturers face many challenges when maximizing efficiencies, increasing yields, and decreasing waste. Conveying through the entire plant without causing contamination issues adds further complexity.

Integrating innovative food processing conveyors tailored to pet food manufacturing can help optimize operations. Many different types of conveyor solutions can improve line efficiency, quality control, and safety.

Read on to learn more about PFI’s sanitary pet food conveying systems and how they help processors solve these issues.

PET FOOD PROCESSING TRENDS TOWARD SANITARY DESIGN 

The pet food industry has significantly shifted towards incorporating raw, fresh, and frozen options in response to consumer demand for natural, high-quality pet diets. This evolution in food preferences emphasizes unprocessed and nutrient-rich choices that mirror natural dietary habits.

This movement towards raw and fresh ingredients indicates a paradigm shift from traditional pet food processing methods. The production process for minimally processed and fresh pet foods mirrors human food production. This includes maintaining proper temperatures for frozen ingredients and ensuring the cleanliness of raw ingredients. 

It’s imperative to employ sanitary manufacturing methods to make equipment accessible and cleanable. This helps ensure pet food safety while reducing downtime and extending shelf life.

Manufacturers can adapt to these trends by diversifying their product offerings and investing in versatile conveying equipment. This adaptability is crucial in a market that increasingly values a wide range of high-quality pet food options.

CHANGES IN PET FOOD PROCESSING OVER THE PAST 5-10 YEARS 

Pet food processing has advanced with the integration of meat grinders, chillers, and specialized packaging machinery. These new tools are essential for maintaining the freshness and nutritional value of pet food. 

Additionally, there has been a major shift in sanitation standards, with facilities now designed for easy cleaning and minimal contamination risk. These improvements are vital for ensuring the safety and longevity of pet food products, particularly those that are minimally processed or contain fresh ingredients.

A sanitary belt conveyor is used for higher quality control in pet food processing.

Several factors led to these changes in pet food processing: 

IMPACT OF THE PANDEMIC ON THE PET FOOD INDUSTRY 

  • As pet owners elevated food quality expectations, manufacturers faced the challenge of scaling up production and meeting increased demand for higher-quality products.
  • Investments in more efficient, higher-capacity production lines and the introduction of premium, health-oriented pet food options followed this shift.

MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS (M&A) ACTIVITY IN THE PET FOOD INDUSTRY 

  • As pet food grew into a substantial market segment within the food industry, large food processors entered the field, bringing additional investment and expertise. They developed sophisticated, diverse product lines. 
  • These changes to pet food required advanced manufacturing techniques and higher quality control standards. 

ADAPTING TO MARKET DEMANDS: VERSATILITY AND EFFICIENCY IN CONVEYING EQUIPMENT

A bucket conveyor is used to convey pet food during processing.

Sanitary conveying equipment emerges as an effective solution to address these challenges. It enhances production efficiency and reduces labor costs. PFI offers a range of conveyors suitable for these needs:

  • Belt Conveyors: These conveyors are ideal for handling high and low temperatures. They facilitate product temperature management and direct-to-packaging conveyance.
  • Horizontal Motion Conveyors: Effectively handle kibble, biscuits, and wet food while minimizing the risk of contamination. Their gentle operation also preserves the integrity and quality of the food. They are also useful in mixing and blending.
  • Bucket Elevators & Incline Conveyors: Excellent for elevating products to mezzanines or tall equipment. This helps to optimize the plant footprint. 
  • Vibratory Conveyors & Feeders: Suitable for sanitary design needs, they offer gentle handling of pet food products.
  • Dumpers: Ideal for bulk handling, allowing for storage or accumulation during the process.

Each conveyor type addresses specific challenges in pet food manufacturing, from handling diverse product types to meeting high sanitation standards. 

VALUE-ADDED CONVEYING 

PFI conveyors do more than just transport products from one point to another. They also offer value-added features. For example, our conveyors can control the cooling or warming of products. This aids in the preservation and preparation of pet food.

We can configure our conveyors for sorting and quality control processes to enhance the production line’s overall efficiency. These capabilities highlight the multi-functional nature of our conveying solutions and contribute to process optimization and cost-effectiveness.

MAXIMIZING PLANT FOOTPRINT WITH CONVEYORS

During pet food processing, the product passes through a vibratory feeder.

PFI’s conveyors actively optimize the plant’s available space, improving the production setup’s overall efficiency. Building up strategies, such as elevating products to mezzanines or tall equipment like scales and baggers, are effectively supported by machines like bucket elevators, incline belt conveyors, and vertical lift conveyors. 

These solutions are crucial for optimizing space in manufacturing facilities. Additionally, conveyors adept at navigating facility constraints play a key role in space optimization, allowing for ambient temperature adjustment post-cooking or frying.

PFI: YOUR PARTNER IN PET FOOD PROCESSING 

PFI is a leader in sanitary conveyor solutions, backed by years of experience in the pet food industry. Our range of conveyors and expertise positions us as a valuable partner for manufacturers seeking to overcome current challenges and embrace future opportunities. 

By integrating our equipment, manufacturers can expect improved efficiency, higher product quality, and enhanced sanitation standards. 

Visit our pet food solutions page below to explore our wide range of solutions.

See Our Pet Food Solutions

A vibratory conveyor evenly distributes frozen chicken nuggets across the processing line.

How to Maximize Your Food Plant Footprint with Conveyors

Many food manufacturers struggle with limited facility space that restricts their ability to expand operations and increase production. Cramped layouts not only impact efficiency but also pose safety hazards. Managing the available footprint is critical for increasing productivity and profitability.

Food conveyors provide an effective strategy to maximize production space by better utilizing not just the floor area but the entire volume of the plant. Conveyors can transform facility layouts and open up new configuration possibilities that facilitate improved throughput and efficiency. Using one piece of equipment for multiple purposes can also reduce the overall footprint of a food plant.  

Read on to learn more about optimizing your facility with innovative conveyor solutions.

BUILDING UP WITH CONVEYORS

Manufacturers facing spatial limitations can unlock the potential of their existing footprint by leveraging vertical space. This strategic solution enhances production capacity without expanding the facility’s ground area. PFI’s vertical conveying systems are key to overcoming these challenges.

Advanced Vertical Conveying Systems

PFI offers advanced conveying systems such as bucket elevators, incline belt conveyors, and vertical lift conveyors. They facilitate upward expansion and enable manufacturers to elevate products to different processing levels, including mezzanines. This increase in the usable volume of the plant maximizes the production area and streamlines processes. 

The Bucket Elevator easily lifts various bulk materials in a small footprint. It provides a continuous flow and minimizes transfer points. The Eleveyor incline belt conveyor is ideal for delicate products, ensuring gentle handling to maintain quality during elevation. The PURlift vertical lift conveyor offers a sturdy design for more demanding applications, ensuring secure elevation. This is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the products.

These elevation systems integrate seamlessly into existing processes. Adopting a vertical conveying solution allows food manufacturers to effectively address space constraints, scale production, and bolster profitability.

Ceiling-Mounted Conveyors

Ceiling-mounted conveyors are instrumental in maximizing space within manufacturing facilities. This design involves suspending a transport system from the ceiling. These innovative systems utilize often-underused overhead space to elevate materials and products above the production floor. 

This approach frees up valuable floor space for more operational activities and contributes to a less cluttered and safer work environment. PFI can adapt these systems to various load types and tailor them to meet the specific requirements of any manufacturing operation.

Construction Considerations for Elevation

Elevating products may require extra structures like mezzanines, platforms, access stairs, and catwalks. PFI manufactures these support structures and components like small elevators ideal for transporting totes and components. This helps maximize the use of vertical space while integrating smoothly into your facility’s elevation system.

GOING AROUND: OTHER WAYS TO INCREASE SPACE 

Conveyors play a vital role in food processing, not only for transportation but also for product quality enhancement post-cooking. The Curveyor, a unique curved belt conveyor from PFI, exemplifies this multi-functional approach. It expertly navigates obstacles like pillars, walls, and doorways. This enables manufacturers to use previously inaccessible areas, maximizing the facility footprint. 

The Curveyor maximizes a food plant's footprint by facilitating product flow in the most challenging layouts.

The Curveyor facilitates fluid product flow even in challenging layouts, enhancing production without expanding the facility’s footprint.  It minimizes the need for extensive modifications or additional square footage, efficiently using every available space in a facility.

VALUE-ADDED CONVEYING

Conveyors in food processing serve a variety of functions beyond product transportation. They streamline operations, consolidate equipment needs, and minimize the required floor space, leading to cost savings. PFI can equip them to perform many actions directly on the conveyor line, such as flipping, sorting, aligning, spacing, sizing, and even product treatment tasks, which traditionally require separate machinery. 

This approach, known as value-added conveyance, turns our equipment into multi-purpose tools. This multi-functional capability ensures you get more from your equipment, enhancing efficiency and reducing the need for additional machinery. Consolidating multiple processes into a single piece of equipment reduces the necessary floor space, optimizing the available area. 

Sizing, Grading, and Screening

Vibratory conveyors are the most versatile conveyors to add value throughout your processing line. One of the most prominent applications is separating products of various sizes. Whether separating different-sized products into multiple streams or screening out small pieces or fines, our VFII electro-mag vibratory conveyor ensures efficiency and optimal product flow without manual intervention or additional footprint. 

Aligning and Positioning

Ensuring products are in the right position for the next step in the process is vital for consistent flow and high production. Aligning and positioning solutions include conveyors that orient, spread, index, or deposit products while in motion.

The Retractor is a versatile conveyor that transfers, positions, arranges, deposits, loads, or rejects products 90 degrees to the next process without breakage or loss. This allows flexible line configurations and optimal space usage.

The Spreader preserves orientation while transferring products between narrower and wider sections of your processing line.

Merging and Sorting

Enabling multiple product flows that combine or separate between upstream and downstream processes optimizes production volume and efficiency, not to mention footprint. Our PURmotion horizontal motion conveyor features immediate reversing operation to feed two lines simultaneously and accumulate short-term, in addition to its superior gentle product handling and sanitary design.

Product Processing and Finishing

You might not first consider a conveyor to process or finish your food products, but these solutions can often handle these applications and eliminate the need for additional processing equipment. For example, using straight and curved belt conveyors to bring products to ambient temperature while transferring them to packaging. Or using vibratory conveyors to apply seasoning or sprinkles or enrobe a chocolate coating. 

This multifunctional use of conveyors adds significant value. It saves time, reduces labor costs, addresses workforce shortages, and improves food safety and processing precision. Incorporating these versatile conveyors into your food processing line can lead to a more streamlined, efficient, and cost-effective operation.

OPTIMIZING PRODUCTION WITH OEM INTEGRATION 

Efficient production flow is key to maximizing food plant footprint with conveyors. Expert OEM integration allows for the highest production efficiency. Investing in flexible, high-capacity equipment prepares your facility for future growth and diverse product mixes.

Our approach encourages processors to think creatively about their existing space. Rather than designing away from obstacles or expanding the facility’s footprint, our conveyors can navigate around them, using every available inch. This philosophy helps avoid unnecessary redesigns and construction, saving time and resources while enhancing production efficiency.

ENSURING SAFETY AND DURABILITY

PFI conveyor lines prioritize worker safety and the highest food hygiene standards.

While maximizing your facility’s footprint, it’s vital to recognize the importance of worker and food safety. We design our equipment to prioritize safety, featuring safeguards to protect employees and maintain the highest food hygiene standards. 

PFI’s equipment configurations prioritize safety by addressing crucial aspects such as head clearance under elevated structures and around other machines. Robust structural support prevents any risk of items falling from ceiling-mounted equipment, while a design with minimal moving parts ensures a secure operational environment. Additionally, features like non-slip surfaces on platforms and well-designed guarding for mezzanines contribute to an overall commitment to creating processor systems that prioritize the well-being of operators and minimize potential hazards.

From start to finish, we ensure that increasing your production capacity never comes at the cost of safety.

At PFI Conveyors, we prioritize sanitation and ease of maintenance in our equipment design. Our conveyors feature accessible components to simplify cleaning and upkeep. This reduces downtime while upholding rigorous food safety standards. We construct robust, durable systems that guarantee both peak performance and accessibility. 

TRANSFORM YOUR FACILITY WITH INNOVATIVE CONVEYOR SOLUTIONS 

The PFI team are experts in food plant optimization. For over 60 years, we have been helping customers maximize their production capacity through custom conveyor solutions that efficiently utilize all available space. 

Click below to learn more about our innovative conveyor solutions that will save space, improve efficiency, and increase your bottom line.

Contact an Expert

Bucket elevator moving pet food through a processing line

Incline Belt Conveyors vs. Bucket Elevators

Both incline belt conveyors and bucket elevators help food producers maximize their production, efficiency, and footprint by elevating their products within a processing line. These machines share benefits such as optimal product handling, flexible configurations, easy integration, and sanitary design. Though incline belt conveyors and bucket elevators serve a similar purpose, these machines have numerous differences. This article will discuss what makes each machine unique and provide insight into which machine would be more effective for various applications. This article will cover:

 

 

HOW DOES AN INCLINE BELT CONVEYOR WORK?

Incline belt conveyors are driven by a pulley, belt, and drive lugs. In effect, an inclined belt moves continuously, transporting materials along the conveying path.

COMPONENTS OF AN INCLINE BELT CONVEYOR

The four primary components of an incline belt conveyor are a conveyor belt, rollers, drive system, and head and tail pulleys.

  • Conveyor Belt: A continuous loop of material that rotates around two or more pulleys.
  • Rollers: Support the conveyor belt and allow it to move smoothly.
  • Drive System: A motor, gearbox, and pulleys drive the conveyor belt.
  • Head and Tail Pulleys: Redirect the conveyor belt and maintain tension.

 

OPERATION STEPS OF AN INCLINE BELT CONVEYOR

The three fundamental steps in an incline belt conveyor’s operation are as follows:

  1. Loading: Material is placed on the conveyor belt at the loading point.
  2. Inclined Transport: The conveyor belt moves the material on an incline.
  3. Discharge: Material is unloaded from the conveyor belt at the desired location.

BENEFITS OF AN INCLINE BELT CONVEYOR

The top three benefits of incline belt conveyors are as follows:

  • Reliable operation with simple washdowns and maintenance
  • More sanitary design with fewer moving parts and open-frame construction
  • More flexible designs with multiple shapes and belt options

HOW DOES A BUCKET ELEVATOR WORK?

Unlike an incline belt conveyor, a bucket elevator is driven by a chain and sprocket. Its buckets are attached to the chain and move vertically to elevate bulk materials.

COMPONENTS OF A BUCKET ELEVATOR

The four primary components of a bucket elevator are buckets, a chain, a drive system, and head and tail pulleys.

  • Buckets: Attached to a chain, the buckets transport the materials.
  • Chain: Driven by a motor, the chain facilitates the vertical movement of the buckets.
  • Drive System: A motor and gearbox provide the necessary power for vertical lifting.
  • Head and Tail Pulleys: Guide the chain, changing the direction of material flow.

OPERATION STEPS OF A BUCKET ELEVATOR

The three fundamental steps in a bucket elevator’s operation are as follows:

  1. Loading: Material is fed into the buckets at the bottom of the elevator.
  2. Vertical Transport: The buckets move vertically, lifting the material to the desired height.
  3. Discharge: At the top, the buckets tip over, and the material is discharged into one or multiple discharge points.

BENEFITS OF A BUCKET ELEVATOR

The top three benefits of bucket elevators are as follows:

  • 90-degree elevation in a small footprint
  • Large processing volume
  • Gentle handling of dry and wrapped bulk products eliminates degradation, yield loss, and breakage

INCLINE BELT CONVEYORS VS. BUCKET ELEVATORS

As discussed above, though these two machines serve a similar purpose, they differ in how they operate and how they handle materials. The table below summarizes the similarities and differences between the two machines.

Incline Belt Conveyors Bucket Elevators
Design an Incline Belt Conveyor, the Eleveyor, by PFI A Bucket Elevator from PFI
Drive System Pulleys, belt, and drive lugs Chain and sprocket
Material Handling Mechanism Belt Buckets
Incline Angle Varies 90 degrees
Maximum Width 72” 48”
Infeed Options 1 1
Discharge Options 1 Can have multiple discharge points
Sanitary/Food-Grade Design
Stainless Steel
CIP Available
Fragile Foods
Raw/Sticky/Wet Foods
Bakery Items
Fruits & Vegetables
Bulk Dry or Wrapped Food
Nuts
Pet Food
Candy
Pasta & Rice
Cereal

WHEN TO USE AN INCLINE BELT CONVEYOR

A primary advantage of incline belt conveyors is that they are easier to clean. A smoother surface and more open frame provide easier access for cleaning and fewer places for bacteria to build up and hide. This makes them the ideal conveyance solution for raw or sticky products, bakery products like cookies or bars, and fruits and vegetables. If the product you need to convey requires a full washdown sanitation, we recommend an incline belt conveyor.

As compared to bucket elevators, incline belt conveyors require less maintenance. This allows you to spend less time training employees on maintaining the machine and less money on labor and other maintenance costs. If you have a smaller or less experienced staff, an incline belt conveyor may allow you to more effectively use your resources by saving time and money on machine maintenance.

Another benefit of choosing an incline belt conveyor is the additional customization opportunities. Although both machines can be custom-configured for your application and facility requirements, incline belt conveyors are a bit easier to customize. If your process and/or application constantly evolves, an incline belt conveyor may allow you to be more nimble and update the necessary machine features as your application changes.

WHEN TO USE A BUCKET ELEVATOR

A significant advantage of bucket elevators is that they allow for more space savings in your facility. By elevating your products vertically at no angle, a bucket elevator is the easy choice if you have horizontal space restrictions in your building’s layout. Also worth noting is that the maximum width of a bucket elevator is 48” while an Incline Belt Conveyor can be as wide as 72”, allowing for a smaller footprint.

Bucket elevators are the ideal solution for producers of bulk-wrapped or dry foods such as nuts, candy, pet food, pasta, rice, and cereal. These products need gentle handling to avoid breakage and degradation, move in large volumes, and often have fewer sanitary requirements.

A bucket elevator is also the preferred option for food producers with significantly high throughput requirements. For example, an 18” wide Incline Belt Conveyor at a 90° angle has a throughput capacity of 0.2 Cu/FT, while an 18” wide bucket elevator has a throughput capacity of up to 0.525 Cu/FT; in this example, a bucket elevator has over double the throughput capacity as compared to an incline belt conveyor of equal proportions.

Another notable advantage of bucket elevators is that they can be customized to have several discharge points on the same unit. This allows food producers to keep their products flowing into several different processes from a single machine, providing a more streamlined operation.

ADDITIONAL PURCHASE CONSIDERATIONS

Two additional considerations regarding these machines are their total cost of ownership and machine lifespan. For the same application, the initial prices of these machines are very similar, with Incline Belt Conveyors, on average, being slightly more expensive. As for machine lifespan, bucket elevators tend to last much longer if properly maintained. Though they require a bit more maintenance, they can operate successfully longer.

TRUST PFI WITH YOUR FOOD CONVEYANCE NEEDS

Whether you’re still unsure which machine would work best for your application or you’re certain which machine is the right choice, PFI is here to help. Contact us to speak with one of our food conveyance experts to ensure you’re food processing line runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible or click the link below to explore our incline belt conveyors and bucket elevators.

See our Incline Belt Conveyors & Bucket Elevators

The PFI bucket elevator is a great choice for conveying pasta to another level of the processing line.

Bucket Elevator Capacity for Various Sizes & Applications

There are many ways to lift food products, but bucket elevators remain a processing industry stalwart for one reason: an unmatched ability to meet producers where they are with simple, robust lifting capacity rightsized to their product, process, and pocketbook.

JUST THE LIFT YOU NEED: BUCKET ELEVATORS IN FOOD HANDLING 

Whether you’re an artisan kitchen on the up or a global household name, bucket elevators provide safe, efficient lifting that respects your product, reduces waste, and delivers the throughput you need at a price you can afford.

Here, we take a look at the technology behind bucket elevators and specifically why they are so good at matching efficient lifting capacities to different levels of demand. Along the way, we’ll also look at the best applications for bucket elevators and calculate the bucket elevator design capacity you will need. 

A WORKHORSE WITH PEDIGREE

Bucket elevators enable you to raise bulk products to elevated platforms and mezzanines using an “endless” series of overlapping containers or buckets on a vertically mounted chain loop system. It’s a simple design that comes with some big benefits.

Big Reach, Small Feet

Unlike almost any other lifting technology, bucket elevators can raise product to almost any practical height, and do this within a very small shop floor footprint. As height increases, there is also little or no increase in an elevator’s required footprint.

That makes bucket elevators an efficient and cost-effective way to add space and functionality to your facility, especially for drop-down applications like mix/blend systems, scales, and packaging that require additional height.

Straight Up Versatility

Bucket elevators also work pretty much the same, no matter how big or small they are. Their tried-and-true technology is also relatively easy to customize for your system’s specific needs.

That makes integration with other line equipment simpler. Experienced equipment providers like PFI can design horizontal, C, S, or Z-shaped elevators capable of accepting and distributing products in almost any configuration and with multiple discharge options for maximum flexibility.

Good bucket elevator equipment is also famously durable. With regular maintenance, some PFI conveyors are still running after upwards of 60 years on the job. 

Strong but Gentle

Bucket elevators’ overlapping containers are designed primarily to lift dry bulk loose products while minimizing loss through spillage or degradation. V-shaped buckets minimize sticking and entrapment. When sized correctly for the application, they also protect brittle or friable foods from breakage.

As a result, bucket elevators are preferred for lifting a huge range of foods, including:

PFI bucket elevator for pet food processing

RIGHT SIZE, RIGHT PRICE

There is also no doubt about bucket elevators’ appetite for work. Machines equipped with fundamentally the same technology move loads as small as 135 cubic feet per minute and as large as 3,780 cubic feet.

That strength and versatility means affordable, game-changing lifting capacity at the scale that matters to your business. It’s powerful but right-sized to your specific needs. 

Let’s take a closer look at how that works.

Calculating Bucket Elevator Capacity

Are you a bulk handler of raw staples like flour or rice, an added-value processor of cereals or mixed snacks, or a specialist in packaging delicate products like pasta or wrapped hard candy? 

Even if your overall production capacities are the same, your throughput requirements in each case will be very different. 

Here’s how to calculate bucket elevator capacity to meet your needs. There are several factors to be considered: 

  1. Bucket Capacity: The overall volume of each bucket on your system in cubic feet is calculated from bucket width and depth.
  2. Bucket Spacing: The spacing between buckets on the elevator chain overlap which helps to avoid spillage.
  3. Chain Speed: The speed at which your elevator chain moves in feet per minute, depending on the strength of your system’s motors, the weight of your product, and how delicate it is. 

From these measurements, elevator capacity can be calculated using this simple formula:

Capacity = Bucket Capacity x Bucket Spacing x Belt Speed

The result is the cubic feet per minute delivered by your elevator system. For example, for a system with buckets each holding two cubic feet of product spaced at one-foot intervals along a chain moving at 30 feet per minute, the overall capacity of the conveyor would be 60cfm.

Rightsizing Capacity

Every producer varies, of course, by the differing amounts of product that would fit into a given volume without excessive degradation or loss and by the number and weight of buckets that a system of a given power could safely handle. 

The beauty of bucket elevators’ time-tested design and flexibility is the ability to customize almost any factor affecting its capacity to meet your needs, including the size and capacity of individual buckets, the number of buckets on a chain, and the speed of the chain itself. 

And, with over 60 years of experience supplying vertical handling solutions worldwide, PFI knows how to deliver bucket elevator solutions built for maximum capacity at any scale.

Low, Medium, and High-Capacity Options

We deliver bucket elevators in low, medium, and high-capacity models. The elevator’s size determines the buckets’ width, which in turn, determines capacity. Height and speed also dictate capacity as do the food product’s weight and size. 

Buckets are available in nine different capacities based on widths of 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 24, 30, 36, and 48-inch widths to fit different frames, products, and application needs. 

PFI designs stainless steel bucket elevator frames tailored to your bucket width, lift, and integration specifications. Where sanitary needs are highest, our frames include IP69K-compliant closed-casing tubing for maximum contamination protection. 

Where needed, bucket elevator units can also be equipped with:

  • Positive motion controls for smooth, rapid bucket movement to protect your product 
  • Sanitary clean-in-place (CIP) systems to maintain hygiene during operation
  • Waste-reducing slide-out catch pans

More Bucket Options

PFI matches our equipment to your unique processing needs in other ways too. Our highly customizable buckets are designed to maximize both capacity and performance. 

For example, most applications prefer our trusted standard v-shaped bucket shape for efficient emptying with minimal sticking and entrapment. However, we also offer:

  • Optional ribbed surface texture for stickier foods
  • Stainless steel, polycarbonate, and polyethylene to meet your specific sanitary, cleaning, and durability needs
  • A wide choice of colored plastics
  • Metal-detectable plastics for improved food safety

Up-Front Affordability, Long-Term Value

Bucket elevators’ scalable, flexible technology delivers hard-to-match performance at an unbeatable entry point. You’ll get the lifting power you need today to deliver on customer expectations or take your growing business up a notch.

In addition, few industrial solutions can match bucket elevators’ track record of reliability and long-term return on investment. When you invest in high-quality bucket elevator technology, you’re adding value to your operation by ensuring: 

  • Durability: Premium quality equipment from a reputable supplier can deliver decades of trouble-free service.
  • Low maintenance: Simple technology, quality construction, and readily available parts keep long-term operating costs low.
  • Low wastage: Properly designed and calibrated equipment minimizes food wastage over your equipment’s long life.

Flexible, affordable, and durable, bucket elevators offer the performance you need to aim higher and the long-term value you’ll need down the line.

PFI Eleveyor incline belt conveyor

IS A BUCKET ELEVATOR RIGHT FOR YOU? 

The food industry is changing and there is more than one way to effectively lift dry or loose bulk foods up a level. So why stick with a “legacy” technology like bucket elevators?

Bucket elevators may not be ideal for every food product lifting application. The type of food you handle is important, as is connecting equipment and the layout of your facility. However, they make a lot of sense when you need a reliable, durable, and compact way to lift loads of almost any size.

In particular, bucket elevators’ tried-and-true design, scalability, and versatility can be a good fit for processors who: 

  • Handle very small or very large loads
  • Process dry bulk foods, packaged goods, fresh produce, or frozen products
  • Handle delicate, brittle, or friable foods
  • Have limited space to add new equipment to the facility

To get the most out of your bucket elevator solution, it’s essential to invest in high-quality equipment that is optimized for your application. That’s why it’s critical to partner with an experienced, reliable food-handling partner like PFI, who can advise you on the ideal solution.

PFI: YOUR BUCKET ELEVATOR EXPERTS 

PFI has been building, installing, and servicing bucket elevators for decades. As the leading supplier of safe, reliable, and durable conveying equipment to the global food processing market, we use our unparalleled experience and know-how to design and build better products.

Today, our fully customized bucket elevators offer unmatched lifting capacity in a minimal shop floor footprint and feature:

  • Flexible configurations: Capacities, frames, and buckets to fit your application
  • Optimal product handling: Minimal degradation, breakage, spillage, and sorting
  • Trusted performance: We’ve been building long-lasting, low-maintenance bucket elevators for more than 60 years
  • Service: Including installation, maintenance, training resources, and 24-hour support

Contact us today to find out how we can help you solve your food product handling challenges,  or click below to learn more about our class-leading bucket elevator products.

See Our Bucket Elevators

Walnuts are sorted in a PFI bucket elevator food conveyor system.

How to Choose The Right Food-Grade Conveyor System

As a food processor, you’ve built (or are building) a plant full of specialized machinery designed to prepare your product exactly how you want it. 

Protect your investment by selecting a food conveyor system that maintains the quality and safety of your product.

Choosing low-cost or generic conveyor machinery may allow you to hit your productivity targets while keeping your project investment low.

However, damaged or poorly processed products and mounting maintenance bills will cost you more in the long run.

Worse, potential hygiene and food safety issues from using poorly designed or inappropriate equipment can cost your business millions and permanently damage your brand reputation.

Here, we look at how to choose safe, efficient food-grade conveyors that meet your company’s needs. We’ll lay out some key questions to consider as you work through the equipment procurement process and longer-term factors to remember.

We’ll also explain why partnering with an experienced, reputable food conveying solutions provider can help you get more value from your investment in conveying equipment.

SELECTING THE RIGHT FOOD CONVEYOR: 8 QUESTIONS

It’s tempting to see food conveying equipment as an “add-on” investment that just moves your ingredients and product where it needs to be for processing and packaging.

Smart manufacturers know that money spent on quality conveyor systems can add real value to your operation by helping protect and even enhance the quality of your products and the efficiency of your process.

It all starts with making wise, up-front decisions about the equipment you need and where you choose to source it. If you’re in the market for food-grade conveyor systems, here are nine key questions to consider when choosing the best solution.

1. Is It Really a Sanitary Conveyor? 

Not all conveyors are designed specifically for handling foodstuffs. If you’re buying an off-the-shelf solution, be sure it is indeed a food-safe sanitary conveyor that can handle the elevated hygiene requirements that come with processing foods.

Look for conveyor designs that include:  

  • Materials that resist bacteria growth, like stainless steel and food-safe plastics 
  • Washdown-resistant materials and construction
  • Sloped surfaces to drain water and limit condensation build-up
  • Radiused corners and smooth, well-placed welds
  • Tight tolerances and smooth joins to limit bacteria harboring
  • Minimal food contact with fasteners, washers, or threads

If you’re handling foods that are particularly susceptible to bacterial contamination, like fresh meats or dairy, you’ll need to be sure that all food-contact surfaces on your conveyor are of stainless steel, and that its construction includes no hollow tubing that could harbor moisture.

A vibratory food conveyor system made of stainless steel trays keeps chicken tenders sanitary.

For these applications, it’s also best to look for conveyors that meet the IP69K standard that ensures maximum water-tightness to better resist repeated high-temperature washdown and sanitation procedures. 

2. Does It Meet (and Exceed) Food Safety Regulations?

In reality, whether a conveyor is suitable for handling food is not just up to you. If you’re considering buying a new or used conveyor, be sure to ask for proof that the equipment meets the minimum regulatory food safety and hygiene requirements for your application.

Depending on the planned application, true sanitary conveyors must meet a range of regulatory and industry standards. These include benchmarks determined by:

What’s more, regulations have evolved and become consistently tighter over time. That’s why many leading food manufacturers only buy equipment from suppliers whose equipment already exceeds the existing regulations and industry benchmarks.

3. Which Conveyor Type Is Best for My Product?

Different conveyor types move products differently. Belt, bucket and incline conveyors, tote dumpers, horizontal motion, and vibratory conveyors are all designed to solve particular food handling problems. But which one is right for you?

A lot depends on the specific handling requirements of your food products at any point in your process. Some key questions to ask include:

  1. What are the sanitary requirements of my product at this point in my process? These change as raw foods are processed into cooked, packaged products.
  2. What are the handling characteristics of your food at this point? Are foodstuffs frozen, raw, or cooked? Solid or liquid? Fine or granular? Hot or cold? Oily, waxy, or sticky? Large, small, or irregularly shaped? Are they fragile or susceptible to bruising?
  3. Does your product require handling or processing while being conveyed? Do foodstuffs need to be cooled, heated, or frozen? Do they need to be dewatered or dried, graded, screened, or positioned? Do products need to be mixed at a set ratio?
  4. What are the physical constraints of this production zone? This might include the maximum space available, distance to the next line process, and necessary changes in height or direction.
  5. How will my conveying equipment integrate with other equipment? Custom modifications might be required to allow one or more OEM units to work together.

The answers to these questions will narrow your options. For example, raw and frozen meats and dairy products may require vibratory or horizontal motion conveyors with the highest level of sanitary protection, while packaging operations may require less. In addition:

  • Conventional belt conveyors are a versatile choice for many foods from grains and dry bulk ingredients to baked products, produce, and packaged goods. Belt conveyors are also the preferred choice for precise food placement for pick-and-place applications. 
  • Horizontal motion conveyors are not suitable for fine materials but are effective at moving frozen foods and hard, granular products like pasta. Their gentle, gliding motion also makes them the go-to choice for delicate or seasoned items like snacks or pastries.
  • Vibratory conveyors are effective for moving small or powdery products like nuts and grains and delicate items like chocolates. The controlled agitation of these machines is also good for dewatering, grading, screening, or mixing of foods while in transit.

Be aware, though, that the physical constraints of your process or plant may also affect which conveyor you choose. Belt, horizontal motion, and vibratory conveyors can raise and lower product within limits, but significant height changes will require a bucket elevator conveyor system. 

Belt and vibratory conveyors move foods at a steady rate and are preferred where foods need to be heated, cooled, dried, or frozen while in transit. Horizontal motion conveyors allow many food products to be visually inspected while moving through the final stages of production.

Horizontal motion and, to some extent, vibratory conveyors are constrained in the lengths individual machines can cover. It may take a series of several units to cover the same distance that a single belt conveyor could span.

With so many factors in play, it’s important to choose a reputable sanitary equipment supplier offering the full range of conveying options. Only leading brand manufacturers have the experience and engineering expertise to:

  • Identify the ideal conveying technology for your specific product
  • Integrate conveyors with your new or existing OEM food-processing equipment
  • Deliver customized conveying solutions for your line, processing zone, or plant

4. Will My Conveyor Deliver the Throughput and Capacity I Need?

With all of the details in place, it’s time to assess whether the technology, customizations, and integrations you have put in place are going to deliver the daily throughput and overall line capacity you need.

Some conveyors are available in wider belt or pan configurations to boost capacity, while variable speed equipment (such as many horizontal motion models) allows you to fine-tune throughput according to your changing needs.

Better integration with existing equipment will normally also help boost overall line capacity. That said, if a given piece of equipment is not able to deliver the raw capacity you need on your line, you may need to reconsider your options.

5. What About Customization Options?

Different customization options can allow conveyors to be used for dramatically different applications. 

Adding non-stick pans to horizontal motion conveyors allows them to be used to handle greasy or sticky foods in the final stages of processing while using specially designed screens on vibratory conveyors allows them to be used to drain dipped or fried foods.

There’s no substitute for experience in understanding how different types of foodstuffs act when handled in bulk. That’s why it’s best to work with a food conveyor equipment specialist to identify the best mix of technology and customization for your operation.

6. Will It Fit My Plant Configuration?

The preferred handling technology for your product must be balanced against the realities of your plant and line setup. 

For example, bucket elevators or incline belt conveyors are the go-to solution when a product must be moved up or down more than just a few feet, while U-shaped curved conveyors are used to move around structures and equipment or add cooling loops into a line.

A bucket elevator conveyor system moves pet food in a vertical motion.

You might also need to plan for system support infrastructure like adjacent mezzanines and catwalks.

7. Will It Integrate With My Existing Equipment?

Additionally, your new conveying equipment must link as seamlessly as possible with your existing line equipment. Consider the speed and temperatures at which different pieces of equipment operate and the height and width of the entry and exit points to make sure they will align with your current system.

Also, consider whether your equipment will need to work with:

  • Customized infeed and discharge modifications 
  • Specialized safety requirements like vision, metal-detecting, and X-ray equipment
  • Process-specific options like clean-in-place systems, gates, or belt scrapers
  • Safety equipment such as emergency stops, cut-offs, and failsafes

Clearly, there is more to choosing a conveyor system than picking out a standalone piece of equipment. It’s essential to work with experts who can take a “whole plant” approach to help you plan how a conveyor will both meet and enhance your system integration.

8. How Much Will It Cost?

Finally, consider the upfront sticker price for a food-grade conveyor system. Is it within your project budget, and will the added capacity of your operation or the improved quality of your product justify the expense of purchasing, integrating, and commissioning the new equipment?

ADDING PROCESSING VALUE DOWN THE LINE

There is, however, more to choosing a food-grade conveyor system than upfront performance and cost. 

While the above questions will help ensure the conveyor system you choose meets your minimum requirements, it’s important to look at factors that affect the long-term value that food conveying equipment will bring to your company.

1. Durability

The lower price you might pay for generic or off-the-shelf conveying solutions might start to look expensive if you find yourself having to replace equipment within just a few years.

You’ll pay more upfront for a premium conveying solution customized to your specific needs, but you’ll also get more value for your money, including: 

  • More sanitary, longer-lasting materials 
  • Better equipment design, often with fewer moving parts
  • Conveyors designed to work with your product and process

This can mean a food-conveying system that delivers safety and efficiency for decades rather than just a few years, making your initial investment more valuable as time goes on.

2. Reliability

Higher quality equipment also runs better for longer, thereby boosting productivity and saving you money on downtime and maintenance. Leading brand equipment is designed to operate longer between services and to be easier to maintain

Consumable components and parts like belts, vibratory springs, and dumper cylinders are also easier to access and quicker to switch out on true professional-grade equipment—meaning your line is up and running sooner.

3. Safety & Sanitary

Quality food-grade conveyor systems are designed specifically for your application and process. This protects your staff from workplace accidents resulting from inappropriate handling techniques or poor integration with other equipment.

It also makes equipment easier to keep clean. Better-designed equipment is easier to strip down to wash and features fewer rough or exposed surfaces, such as bolt threads or panel joins. At the same time, this equipment has higher-quality welding, making surfaces easier to swab for food safety. 

Premium equipment also allows more regular maintenance to be performed without tools. This helps keep non-sanitary equipment off your line and reduces the likelihood of scratches or dents on food-exposed surfaces that could potentially harbor bacteria.

4. Value-Added Conveying

Food conveyors that are built with your process and application in mind also offer long-term value in other ways.

Integrated conveyor systems designed by a single supplier are easier to upgrade and expand as your business grows and develops. It’s easier to increase capacity and add functionality to equipment that comes from the same vendor.

It’s also possible to build more functionality into equipment that can be customized to your specific needs.

A food-grade conveyor sizes pieces of chewing gum.

For example, professional-grade vibratory conveyors can be designed to reorientate, spread, grade, and even separate materials on the go. They can even dewater washed products or allow cooked foods to cool while in motion, allowing you to reduce or even eliminate processing steps.

5. Vendor Experience

This value-added flexibility and functionality is only available, however, when you work with a professional food conveyor supplier capable of delivering solutions tailored to your needs. It also helps to partner with a company with extensive experience in the same food sector you work in. 

These dedicated suppliers offer extensive experience in best practices of food handling and processing you won’t find elsewhere, and the skills needed to put this knowledge to work.

In fact, across the food processing industry, while sector newcomers tend to look for the lowest price when sourcing conveying equipment, established players prefer to use equipment provided by one of just a few trusted suppliers.

6. After-Sales Service

There’s also a big difference in the levels of service provided by dedicated, established food conveyor equipment makers and more generic suppliers. For maximum return on your investment, look for a vendor that stands behind their equipment after the sale is completed. 

The best suppliers follow through on the work done to design and customize your equipment by ensuring the equipment is properly installed and your staff is fully trained.

Look also for companies that provide:

Of course, not all equipment providers have the scale and experience to provide this level of ongoing support. If you’re looking for a food conveyor partner for the long haul, make sure to find one that meets this criteria. 

PFI: YOUR PREFERRED FOOD CONVEYOR SYSTEMS PROVIDER

If you’re a project manager overseeing a plant build-out or line upgrade, conveying equipment might be one of the last items on your list. But don’t let your food conveyor system become the weak link in your business’s value chain. 

Not only can skimping on the connections between your processes cost you more down the road, but you could be missing out on opportunities to add value to your operation by simplifying, streamlining, and combining steps into a single, seamlessly integrated whole.

PFI is a global leader in providing best-in-class sanitary conveying solutions that meet and exceed leading regulatory and industry food safety standards. With extensive experience across the food-processing sector, we are a trusted partner to many of the world’s leading food brands.

We have the knowledge and experience to help you find the best sanitary conveying solutions for your food processing needs plus the skills, scale, and dedication to deliver it to your exact specifications and support it for years—or decades—to come.

Learn more about our industry-leading sanitary equipment or contact us directly today.

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A distribution system as part of a food processing line for potato chips

Integrating Conveyors with Other Food Processing Equipment

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:

  • Allow food to move through your plant at a controlled, efficient rate
  • Ensure food reaches each process stage at the right speed and in the right quantities
  • Enable food processing units from different suppliers to work together

In addition, conveyor systems designed with your specific application in mind can add value to your entire production process by:

  • Managing bottlenecks, slowdowns, or outages 
  • Maintaining food quality and sanitary standards across your production process
  • Allowing food to be cooled, dried, sorted, or re-oriented in transit

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.

BEFORE YOU BUY: YOUR INTEGRATION CHECKLIST 

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.

1. Production Specifications

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.

2. Machine Specifications and Dimensions

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.

3. Zone-Specific Needs

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?

4. Plant Specifications

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?

An incline to packaging conveyance system that also includes a vibratory conveyor to the scale.

5. Food Application

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? 

Finally, what about applications that handle ingredients for multiple end products, or recipes that require different foodstuffs to be combined as they move?   

6. Worker Safety

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.

7. Sanitation

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.

8. Controls and Automation

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. 

MAKING THE CONNECTION

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:

  • You receive conveyor equipment designed for your specific application
  • Your equipment meets or exceeds regulatory and industry health standards
  • Your conveying systems are fully integrated with your process equipment

Integration is Partnership

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.

  1. Preparedness: Approaching an equipment company with a clear idea of your needs will save time. The above checklist is a start, but for large or plant-wide integrations, allowing your supplier access to your full project plan is ideal. 
  2. Project management: Accurate information will avoid confusion and make it easier to develop a project quote. Double-check your proposed line layout and plant dimensions or allow the manufacturer on-site to do their own measurements. 
  3. Open Communication: Complex integration challenges require close partnership. Your project engineers need to work as one team with conveyor equipment specialists to see to it that you get a long-term solution that meets your needs and budget.
  4. Get Help: Consider handing off your integration challenges to engineers at a leading equipment supplier like PFI. You’ll benefit from our years of specialized experience while taking pressure off your already busy in-house engineering team. 

Projects Scale, Time Doesn’t 

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:

  • Faster commissioning and capacity ramp-up
  • More predictable project costs
  • Faster returns on equipment capital investment

TRUST PFI WITH YOUR INTEGRATION CHALLENGES

PFI is a leading provider of sanitary conveyor systems for your food processing line.

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:

  • Seamless integration: Our equipment is designed to work seamlessly with your new or existing OEM manufacturing equipment.
  • Factory testing: Ensure your process solution runs the way it’s supposed to with full-scale testing with FATS at our Algona, Iowa facility.
  • Unmatched Support: We back our long-lasting products with ongoing support and customer service. We also install all our products.
  • Full-service solutions: As part of the Grote family of companies, we can source end-to-end solutions for a wide range of food processing applications.

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.

Planning for Sanitary Conveyor Designs [A Guide]

A PFI conveyor for food processing

Conveyors: Critical to Food Safety in Processing Plants

Your plant’s conveyors touch food at every point of production from receiving to packaging, and before and after critical processing stages like slicing, thawing, pasteurizing, and cooking. 

That makes your conveyor equipment a crucial part of your plant’s food safety infrastructure.

We take a look at how today’s food-grade sanitary conveyors are built to protect both consumers and your business from bacterial contamination that can cause foodborne illness. 

We’ll examine what sanitary conveyors do and explain how they contribute to food processing plant safety. We’ll also consider some of the direct and indirect costs to your business of a food recall and the ever-tighter sanitary regulations that processors need to meet.

We’ll also look at some specific ways that well-designed and well-implemented food-grade conveyor systems can help ensure safety on your processing line. Read on to learn more.

SANITARY CONVEYORS AND FOOD-PROCESSING PLANT SAFETY

Conveyors move ingredients and product between processing stages in any production plant. They ensure the different applications in your plant are integrated into a single process and automate handling challenges like lifting, lowering, or reorienting product for further processing. 

In food manufacturing, conveyors are critical to allowing large amounts of product to be processed quickly and efficiently, but they also perform another crucial function: your conveyor equipment needs to maintain the same food hygiene standards as the rest of your plant.

SANITARY CONVEYORS AND FOOD SAFETY

Bacterial contamination is the most serious threat to food safety, especially where consumable products are being handled in bulk. Harmful bacteria can grow quickly if food becomes trapped or equipment is not properly sanitized and can spread quickly through any exposed product. 

Food-grade conveyor equipment is designed to avoid contamination of your product. 

Modern conveyor food processing systems include food-safe components and special features designed to maintain hygiene to both prevent dangerous bacteria from contaminating your product and limit its ability to spread. 

A PFI Eleveyor can move product in a vertical motion.

However, sanitary conveyor equipment also helps protect your product by:

  • Limiting the time that food is exposed to potential contamination
  • Combining and reducing processing steps to minimize handling
  • Matching handling techniques to your specific product.

Today, food-grade conveyors provide effective sanitary control while offering a full range of sanitary handling solutions that can be customized to the needs of your product or the constraints of your production space. These include:

  • Belt conveyors for flexible, seamless line integrations
  • Bucket and incline conveyors for raising product in motion
  • Tote dumpers for safe, efficient bulk handling
  • Horizontal motion conveyors for loose or granular products
  • Vibratory conveyors for efficiency, value-added sanitary conveying

THE REAL COSTS OF FOOD CONTAMINATION

Food-safe solutions designed with your product and process in mind are critical when you consider the real cost of a food safety failure or product recall.

The CDC estimates that sicknesses caused by food-borne pathogens affect 48 million Americans every year, with up to 128,000 people being hospitalized by bacterial pathogens such as campylobacter, listeria, salmonella, and E. coli. 

Beyond the seriousness of causing your product’s consumers to become ill, increasingly sophisticated industry monitoring means manufacturers are subject to ever-higher hygiene standards and more sophisticated contamination tracing techniques. 

Today, even a limited product recall can cost your company up to $10 million. The cost of downtime and lost product of a complete line shutdown to deep clean, sanitize, and test equipment can be far higher.

In addition, the indirect costs to your business can be hard to measure but just as real. Among other things, these can include:

  • Damage to your brand
  • Damage to your company’s reputation
  • Loss of public confidence in your product category
  • Loss of key staff
  • Lower workforce morale

MEETING TODAY’S FOOD SAFETY STANDARDS

To minimize the risk to consumers and the food system as a whole, regulators and industry groups require food processing equipment, including sanitary conveyors, to meet a wide range of standards. Common standards in the U.S. today include:

Compliance with these standards is enforced by regular equipment inspections and testing for processors falling into particular industries or product categories. Typically, any food-exposed surface needs to pass a rigorous surface-swab test to meet sanitary requirements.

Safety standards are also constantly improving. For example, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act is being rolled out and will raise standards significantly in several sectors. 

The best equipment already exceeds current standards to help ensure your process continues to comply with advancing food safety requirements for years to come.

HOW DO SANITARY CONVEYORS IMPROVE FOOD SAFETY?

Let’s take a look at how today’s food-grade conveying equipment works to protect food safety, including good design, practice principles, and specific technologies.

1. Minimizing Handling

Perhaps the most significant contribution conveyors make to food safety is to minimize the amount of physical handling that your product receives. By reducing the need for human contact with food in order to move product between processes, a major source of contamination is removed. 

The ability of different types of conveyors to move, raise, lower, and change the direction of travel means the need for human handling of food is often eliminated entirely. Some, like horizontal motion conveyors, can even slow down or reverse direction to allow parts to be cleaned or replaced without stopping the line. 

2. Matching Technology to Process

Choosing the right conveyor for your product or process is critical to maintaining a consistent level of hygiene. For example, vibratory conveyors are best for preventing the sticking of cooked food, while horizontal motion conveyors keep frozen product like seafood moving.

A vibratory conveyor system keeps french fries from sticking together.

While many smaller operators may be tempted to choose standard off-the-shelf conveyor equipment that seems to meet their needs, seasoned, at-scale producers usually prefer to work with an experienced equipment provider who can match conveyor equipment to their needs.

3. Sanitary Materials

The best food-grade conveyor equipment is made from high-quality sanitary materials. To minimize the risk of contamination, any surface that comes into contact with food must be:

  • Smooth and free of cracks, crevices, or dents
  • Nonporous and nonabsorbent
  • Non-reactive to food products
  • Corrosion resistant
  • Requires little or no maintenance to maintain these characteristics.

This applies particularly to painted, coated, or electroplated surfaces. Here there should never be any flaking, bubbling, or chipping of food-exposed surfaces.

Instead, to preserve hygiene, most leading brand manufacturers of sanitary conveyors choose either FDA-approved food-grade plastics for belting or bucket systems and a range of metals for contact surfaces, depending on the application.

 

Metal Characteristics / Uses
Stainless Steel Materials of choice for quality sanitary food conveyor equipment:

  • Strong and durable
  • Resistant to corrosion
  • Natural anti-microbial properties.
Titanium Superior strength and corrosion resistance but very expensive: 

  • Used only in special stainless steel alloys for handling very acidic foods.
Copper Durable but susceptible to leaching when exposed to high-acid foods.

  • Used mainly for brewing and cheese applications
Carbonized metal & cast iron Tough, heavy materials used only for direct cooking surfaces and frying equipment.
Aluminum Lightweight metal susceptible to corrosion. 

  • Scratches and warps over time.
  • Used only in cheap equipment.

While a range of metals might be appropriate for applications handling dry materials like hard candy or pasta, dairy, and meat processors must meet much tighter sanitary standards. 

Here, true food-grade stainless steel is preferred for its naturally antimicrobial properties and resistance to high-temperature wash-down, pasteurization, and sterilization procedures.

4. Designed for Safety

There’s more to building true professional-grade food conveying equipment than just choosing the best materials. Leading equipment is distinguished by smart design thinking about sanitation, often based on years of industry experience. 

Minimal Moving Parts

Keeping machinery simple makes equipment easier to keep clean, maintain, and sanitize. 

  • Reduces wear and tear to minimize downtime and maintenance calls 
  • Fewer connections and other potential contamination points
  • Key components are easier to access for cleaning and maintenance
  • Simplifies sanitation and validation processes

Making equipment simpler also enables the toolless replacement of key components, reducing the likelihood of damage or contamination of your line by non-sterile maintenance tools. 

Active Water and Condensation Management

The best equipment is designed to minimize moisture accumulation and actively manage liquids released by cooking, draining, and dewatering. Look for:

  • Angled surfaces
  • Tilted or grooved belts and conveyor surfaces
  • Self-draining piping systems

Water Ingress Control

For equipment exposed to high-temperature washdown and sterilization processes, such as conveyors handling dairy or raw meat products, look for features that seek to minimize water ingress between components. Look for:

  • Solid stainless steel tubing
  • Minimal unwelded joints, crevices, or fasteners
  • IP69K compliance: the top industry standard for limiting water ingress between parts

Minimized Bacteria Harboring Opportunities

Simple design, premium materials, and quality construction all help to minimize food-exposed places where bacteria could build up. They also make it easier to swab-test and validate equipment. Look for:

  • Properly designed and installed fasteners
  • Tight, overlapping joints and connections
  • Smooth, polished welds and well-milled contact surfaces
  • Radiused corners without welds

Also, be sure to look beyond direct contact surfaces when checking for harboring opportunities. Look carefully at the top edges and contact points with coverings or lids where moisture or waste could accumulate.

WHAT IS VALUE-ADDED SANITARY CONVEYING?

In addition to these industry-standard features, leading equipment providers offer technologies or features that add value to your food safety investment above that offered by standard sanitary conveying equipment. Here are some ways value-added sanitary conveying is achieved:

The VFII is one of PFI’s more advanced vibratory conveyors.1. Combining/Eliminating Processes

Advanced equipment like PFI’s Magnaflex and VFII vibratory conveyors offers value-added processing that allows product to be laned, spread, de-watered, or reoriented while in motion, allowing the ability to combine or eliminate processes that were previously separate steps.

Fewer steps mean less overall handling or exposure time for vulnerable materials like sliced fresh produce, raw meats, or cheeses

2. Improved Quality Control

Variable-speed horizontal motion conveyors allow finished products to be more easily inspected on moving trays prior to final packaging, thereby improving the quality of your output and allowing more opportunity to spot substandard product.

3. Clean-in-Place

Premium conveying equipment is generally customized for your specific application and may include option features, such as clean-in-place equipment. This allows food-exposed surfaces to be cleaner or to self-clean while the machine is still in operation.

Value-added equipment like belt scrapers, flip-down guarding, belt lifts, and quick-release take-ups minimize hands-on maintenance, helping to ensure sanitary conditions for longer.

PFI: INDUSTRY-LEADING SAFETY, VALUE-ADDED FEATURES

There’s no room for compromise when it comes to the safety of your product. PFI Conveyors is the recognized leader in supplying high-quality sanitary equipment that is the preferred choice of many of America’s most recognized food brands. Trust PFI to deliver: 

At PFI, we are committed to helping you find the best sanitary conveying solution for your needs and to working with you at every stage of the design and delivery process. 

Click below to learn more about how investing in quality and safety upfront pays dividends over time. Contact us today to discover how we can put our unparalleled skills and experience to work for you.

10 Factors That Affect the Price of a Sanitary Conveyor System

Sanitary material handling and conveyor system

Planning for Sanitary Conveyor Designs [A Guide]

Better sanitary conveyor design can help increase efficiency, save space, and eliminate steps in your manufacturing process. If you’re building a plant or overhauling a product line, it makes sense to put conveyor design at the heart of your project planning process.

In this guide, we look at why smart conveyor design adds value to your investment in higher-quality equipment and increased process automation. We also suggest concrete steps to plan correctly for food-grade conveyors in your project.

LINE ITEM: WHY SANITARY CONVEYORS MATTER

For many plant managers and project teams, efforts to increase productivity focus on boosting the performance of key pieces of standalone processing equipment.

Increased automation means you can often do more to your product at each stage of your process, while intelligent sensors and advanced optics allow you to run operations faster and integrate processes more closely. 

With all the hype, it’s easy to forget that the productivity of individual processes is only as good as the network that links them all together. 

Your sanitary conveyor systems connect the individual parts of your lines into a unified whole, ensuring the product arrives where it’s needed next in exactly the volumes and proportions it’s needed in, all while maintaining your plant’s safety and hygiene protocols.

More Than an Add-On

Food-grade conveyor systems are more than an add-on. They’re a critical production component that drives productivity and adds real value to your process. On many food processing projects, however, effective conveyor design has become an afterthought.

Sanitary conveyor design is typically considered late in the front-end process, and equipment and layout decisions tend to be shaped around the constraints of more expensive “core” equipment rather than being approached as an integral part of your process.

Failing to plan for sanitary conveyor design can be a big problem for a couple of reasons:

  1. Gains from investment in big-ticket processing capacity and increased automation are limited by under-investment in relatively inexpensive conveying equipment. 
  2. Poor handling, sanitation standards, and integrations can threaten product quality and food safety. 
  3. Performance gains can be wiped out from downtime required for modifications and fixes on inadequate conveyor equipment and poor system integrations. 

Smart Conveyors Move You Forward

Most importantly, failing to think ahead about conveyor equipment is a missed chance to leverage bottom-line gains in efficiency, safety, and product quality driven by advances in sanitary conveyor design itself. 

Today, sanitary food conveyors can do far more than move your product from point A to point B. As the industry has evolved, conveyors of all types have kept up, streamlining their design and functionality and increasing their capacity.

Value-Added Conveying

They’ve also become an increasingly active part of the food-handling process, adding and combining operations and in some cases even taking over processes that were handled by a dedicated stand-alone unit.

Leading conveyor manufacturers now speak about “value-added conveying” to describe the benefits smarter design and an integrated approach to planning can bring to your project. 

For example, next-generation vibratory conveyors such as PFI’s Magnaflex can now be configured to spread, lane, or orientate products while in transit, combining or even eliminating process steps that once required their own dedicated application.  

INTEGRATING SANITARY CONVEYOR DESIGN

Your sanitary conveyor system is no longer an add-on to your food handling process; it’s a critical part of your plan. Planning for conveyor equipment should be included in every stage of your front-end process, from initial scoping to final design.

It’s also critical to get advice from industry experts as early on in your planning process as possible. Consulting with a reputable equipment supplier can provide valuable insights about how the latest conveying technology can benefit your project. 

Talk to your conveying equipment provider about:

Space Maximization

Increasingly flexible and compact elevating solutions and curved belt conveyors can help you get more out of a smaller plant footprint or make it easier to expand your existing plant configuration by adding a mezzanine platform or adjacent floor space.

In-Process Storage

Modern variable-speed and reversible conveyors such as the PURmotion horizontal motion conveyor allow you to smooth out stoppages and surges to keep production on track. Find out if this technology is right for your process.

Product-Specific Concerns

Established equipment makers have decades of experience across all types of food production. Let them flag potential problems and suggest industry-tested solutions for you early on in your design process. 

Expert Integration

Prevent bottlenecks by making sure your conveying equipment seamlessly connects your process from receiving to packaging. Choose a partner with the skills to deliver customized solutions to integrate a wide range of OEM equipment.

Whole-Plant Perspective

Your sanitary conveyor system is the central nervous system of your plant. Get expert advice on how proposed design changes or last-minute machinery moves will affect your sanitary conveyor system and every other aspect of your manufacturing process.

Processing in Motion

Food conveying is not just about moving products from step to step. Modern conveyor systems can also manipulate your product in the process to increase efficiency or even eliminate an entire step. 

Flexible value-added conveying equipment such as the VFII vibratory conveyor and other units can perform a wide range of “processing-in-motion” applications including:

  • Repositioning and aligning product
  • Screen, spread, grade, and lane loose granular foods
  • Dewater or shake washed, dipped, or fried foods 
  • Adding toppings or coatings

Leveraging Industry Relationships

Working with a seasoned manufacturer with broad food industry experience offers benefits that go beyond your conveying equipment. 

Manufacturers with broad project experience and pre-existing relationships with other OEMs can help speed up your design process and reduce potential issues during installation, commissioning, and production.

PLANNING FOR SANITARY CONVEYOR DESIGN

Sanitary conveyor design offers a real return on plant investments.

Including sanitary conveyor design into your plant build-out or upgrade project has real benefits, from faster and more effective project implementation to better troubleshooting to immediate improvements in production and long-term return on plant investments.

Planning for effective sanitary conveyor design as part of your plant build-out or overhaul is all about communication. Above all, your organization’s own food safety experts and maintenance team must be engaged in the design process from Day 1. 

This helps keep stakeholders on the same page and ensures that equipment used across the project meets the required food safety standards. It also helps avoid costly delays later on in the process as equipment that has already been ordered is checked, replaced, or reconfigured.

Reputable manufacturers will be happy to share high-quality product information from basic spec sheets and demonstration videos to highly detailed CAD drawings of the actual units being built for your project.

4 STEPS TO CONVEYOR DESIGN SUCCESS

While it’s important to get expert assistance, conveyance equipment manufacturers will not be able to support you if you have not defined your own needs. The following steps will help your design team get their sanitary conveyor design process up and running. 

Step 1: Know What You Need To Do

The first step to developing an effective sanitary conveyor design for your process is understanding exactly what you need your equipment to do. 

That might sound simple, but for at-scale, multi-stage producers, it often means choosing between complex competing alternatives and aligning the interests of project stakeholders, from operations managers to food safety specialists.

Describing what you need to achieve is the first step in getting the help you need. At the very least, you need to know:

  • The process(es) and application(s) you need your conveyor equipment to enable, whether by linking existing equipment or as part of a “ground up” plan design.
  • The food characteristics, including hygiene, freshness, temperature, and integrity that you need to achieve or protect.
  • The current production volumes you need to achieve and the future production goals you need to plan for.
  • Your project budget and timeline

Step 2: Gather Your Documentation

Gather manuals, spec sheets, and CAD drawings for your existing or new process equipment. This includes plant layout and footprint plans, wiring schematics, and packaging requirements. 

You’ll need details on what utilities and hookups are needed and where in your facility the existing infrastructure is located. You’ll also need to include the required sanitary standards and best practices that your process is required to meet.

Together, this documentation details the performance limits and physical constraints within which any conveying solution needs to work.

Step 3: Define Your Core Team’s “Must-Haves”

Get your key stakeholders to put their cards on the table up-front. Understanding what features and standards are non-negotiable for your maintenance, safety, quality control, and sanitation teams will save time in the consultation process and simplify key design decisions.

Choosing between true “must-haves” and “nice to haves” is difficult, especially when your teams’ interests come into conflict, or when you need to consider your business’s future needs. Hashing this out now will help deliver a better thought-out solution later.

Step 4: Connect With a Reputable Conveyance Manufacturer

Understanding clearly how you want your conveyor solution to perform allows your equipment provider to make specific recommendations to achieve those goals. 

An experienced materials-handling partner can draw on solutions that work across a range of different applications. They can recommend the best option for your product, sanitation needs, and production volume and collaborate with you to design the best solution.

Building an effective sanitary conveyor system is about far more than simply fulfilling an order. To deliver a long-term return on investment, it needs to be an ongoing partnership with a company that understands your product and value proposition. 

Providing your equipment manufacturer with clear information upfront will save time and money, reducing pressure from overstretched project managers and engineers.

LOOKING DOWN THE LINE

sanitary conveying equipment offers industry-leading performance

Your relationship with an equipment manufacturer starts at the design stage but does not end when your equipment is delivered. Your planning team also needs to think about installation, commissioning, training, as well as ongoing maintenance and repair services.

Ordering the best equipment is not enough if it is poorly installed. Not all manufacturers install their equipment. If you are using your own installation team, make sure they are trusted by your conveyor equipment OEM and know how to install and configure your equipment correctly so that it meets safety and hygiene standards.

PFI: YOUR VALUE-ADDED SANITARY CONVEYOR PARTNER 

PFI is one of the most respected suppliers of quality sanitary conveyor solutions to the food industry worldwide. With more than 60 years of experience building safe, effective, and durable conveyors for food manufacturers of all types, we offer:

  • The best products: Our class-leading conveying equipment offers industry-leading performance and features – designed to provide years of reliable service.
  • The highest sanitary standards: Our precision-built equipment meets and exceeds existing industry benchmarks, including USDA, GMA, BEMA, and FSMA regulations. 
  • Seamless integration: Our equipment is designed to integrate seamlessly with your new or existing OEM manufacturing equipment.

At PFI, we are committed to helping you find the best sanitary conveying solution for your needs, and to working with you at every stage of the design and delivery process. 

Click below to learn more about PFI’s industry-leading sanitary conveyors or contact us today to discover how we can put our unparalleled skills and experience to work for you.

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SAVE TIME AND MONEY BY USING FOOD-GRADE CONVEYORS TO DO MORE

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 and sorting
● Sizing
Aligning
● Compressing
● Sprinkling an ingredient on top
● Stuffing ingredients inside
● Enrobing/waterfall
● Cutting or chunking

Some of the food 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.

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Food Conveyor Systems: When to Use Horizontal Motion vs Vibratory

Modern food conveyor systems keep your product clean, safe, and fresh while moving through your facility. Choosing just the right value-added handling technology to match your processing needs can help give your company the edge. 

Food-grade horizontal motion and vibratory conveyor systems offer very different solutions to the same problem: moving more products faster and smarter. 

Here’s how partnering with an experienced conveyor supplier like PFI can help you put more speed, flexibility, and in-motion processing power on your line and better quality products out on the shelf.

THE RIGHT CONVEYOR FOR YOUR PROCESS

Horizontal motion and vibratory food conveyor systems each offer smart potential solutions to the challenge of transporting food products through your facility safely, efficiently, and cost-effectively. 

Turning that potential into real value for your product and bottom-line gains for your company depends on matching the advantages of the right process to your company’s product mix, value proposition, and budget.

Below, we’ll take a close look at the factors that determine which conveying process might work best for your product and company. We’ll consider:

HOW DO HORIZONTAL MOTION CONVEYORS WORK?

Food-grade horizontal motion conveyors provide steady, gentle, forward movement that moves food in the desired direction by sliding it down one or more product pans. Horizontal conveyors are powered by advanced computer-controlled servo motors. These motors generate controlled, consistent forward movement while also allowing:

  • Infinitely variable speed control
  • Instant motion start/stop
  • Full motion reversibility

Horizontal motion conveyors combine steady movement with robust, durable construction and are capable of moving products up to 40 feet a minute. The equipment requires a flat or slightly inclined bed to move product. It can also move product at a decline and a slight incline, usually not more than a 1-degree upward slope.

Performance

Horizontal motion conveying is also well suited to extreme operating conditions, including freezer rooms and processes involving the harshest wash-down and sterilization procedures.

The higher-quality direct-drive horizontal motion conveyors built by PFI are limited in length to about 20 feet per unit.  Multiple units can convey material for distances of up to 60-80 feet, but the cost of moving material per line foot is higher. Some manufacturers can build longer units, but these require large mechanical drives, which adds to maintenance costs and downtime. 

Horizontal motion conveyors can also be run in reverse. This is very useful when slowing or reversing the line is required, allowing, for instance, the product to be held up without stopping the line so that bagging film can be replaced.

Horizontal conveyors offer quieter mechanical operation than other transfer or handling solutions, although this also depends on the material you are handling. 

Sanitation

The sealed direct drive servo motors used on leading units like PFI’s PURmotion horizontal conveyor equipment protect the most sensitive mechanical components while making more of the unit’s moving parts visible and accessible. Simple design and smooth, threadless construction reduce harborage points and allow easy cleaning and sanitization. And stainless steel pans are easy to wipe and wash down.

Maintenance

Smart design also makes maintenance easier, while drop-in or toolless replacement of more parts becomes possible. Horizontal motion conveyors can operate faultlessly for many years, although key parts like bushings need to be replaced every few years — or more often for conveyors operating in harsh applications.

Cost

Horizontal motion conveyors feature a more sophisticated design and offer greater control over production motion and speed. The up-front expense of design, customization, and installation of horizontal motion equipment tends to be higher than vibratory equipment, but maintenance costs over time are generally lower.

HOW DO VIBRATORY CONVEYORS WORK?

Food-grade vibratory conveyors are driven by mechanical or electromagnetic drives that generate side-to-side agitation along the line. Depending on the product you’re moving, these can be:

  • Long-stroke, lower-frequency mechanical drives for slower, more gentle agitation, or
  • Short-stroke high-frequency electromagnetic drives for faster, more aggressive motion.

This makes vibratory conveyors a flexible solution for a wide range of food-processing applications. Longer-cycling mechanical drives are used when a product can be moved more slowly or to protect fragile foodstuffs, while higher-frequency electromagnetic drives are used to provide aggressive agitation or to move lighter foodstuffs more quickly.

Performance

Leading equipment providers like PFI offer conveyors capable of moving at up to 55 feet a minute, although this depends on both the nature of the foodstuffs and the type of drives used by a vibratory conveyor. PFI’s vibratory equipment limits its vibratory conveyors to a maximum length of 22 feet per unit, with multiple units used to achieve longer lengths. Pan width varies based on product rates and density. 

Vibratory conveyors are a tried-and-true conveying solution that provides great flexibility in where and how they can be installed. Vibratory equipment also offers the ability to move product down relatively steep inclines and up slopes as steep as 7º.

Vibratory conveyors also adapt well to harsh environments, including hot and freezing conditions. Vibratory equipment tends to be noisier than horizontal motion equipment, but again, this is determined mainly by the material being handled.

Processing in Motion

Breaded chicken tenders on a vibratory conveyor

However, the real value of vibratory motion conveyors lies in their ability to add value by orienting and processing your product while in motion. By fine-tuning side-to-side agitation to the product being transported, vibratory conveyors can be designed to:

  • Orient product for packaging or further processing
  • Spread out loose material into a single layer
  • Grade product by size 
  • Screening product to remove material that is too small
  • “Scalp” product to take off material that is too big
  • Dewater product without drying it
  • Lane material for separation

Sanitation

PFI manufactures a range of food-grade vibratory conveyors with industry-leading features designed to maximize food safety and easy maintenance, including:

  • No lubrication design and no food-exposed moving parts
  • Sealed covers to protect sensitive equipment during wash-down
  • Open construction to allow easy maintenance and parts replacement
  • Pans that are easy to wipe and wash down

Maintenance

Vibratory conveyors are relatively easy, although equipment does need to be kept tuned and adjusted to reduce wear and ensure optimum performance. Springs exposed to extreme heat or cold must be replaced regularly. 

Cost

The flexibility, higher capacity, and wider availability of vibratory conveyors make them relatively cost-effective to install and run. Conveyors designed to sort and separate products cost more to set up but can add huge value to your operation over time.

HORIZONTAL MOTION VS. VIBRATORY CONVEYORS

The following table summarizes the main similarities and differences between horizontal motion and vibratory conveyors.

Horizontal Motion Conveyors Vibratory Conveyors

Design

PurMotion horizontal motion conveyor VFII vibratory conveyor

Motion

Gentle forward motion Side-to-side agitation

Unit length

Up to 20 feet Up to 22 feet
Maximum line length  60-80 feet (multiple units) 60-80 feet (multiple units)
Pan width Fixed Can be built wider
Initial cost Higher Lower
Maintenance Lower Somewhat higher
Process integration Good Excellent
Noise Low (but depends on food) Higher (but depends on food)
Operation
Sanitary design and features
Food-grade materials
IP69K* components
Reversible motion
Uphill operation
Fragile foods  
Leveling
Grading
Screening (removing crumbs)
Scalping (removing clumps)
Dewatering
Oil and sticky foods
Seasoned foods
Mixed foods
Frozen foods
High-temperature operation
Visual inspection
Portioning for packaging

*IP69K certified equipment meets strict standards to prevent water ingress during washdown.

WHEN TO USE A HORIZONTAL MOTION CONVEYOR

Horizontal motion conveyors offer consistent, gentle motion and fine movement control. Models from PFI or other leading manufacturers feature robust construction and quality materials to deliver long-term performance. While equipment like PFI’s PURmotion conveyors may cost more, they also deliver industry-leading reliability sanitation performance when it matters.

Horizontal motion equipment offers some key capabilities that make it particularly well suited to handling fragile food products in the final stage of processing.

  • Gentle handling ensures seasoning is not knocked off ready-to-eat foods
  • Mixed foods are maintained in the correct proportions
  • Horizontal motion lines integrate well with proportion gates used for packaging
  • Food on the line can be visually inspected for quality control

Horizontal motion conveyors do not work as well with food that is processed in the middle of your value chain. This includes

  • Wet products
  • Sticky, waxy, or oily foods or products that leave a residue
  • Any materials that require separation, screening, or scalping

Instead, horizontal motion conveyor technology works best when well-matched to your product mix. It is particularly effective for dry, denser, and fine products, or products that mix materials of different sizes and consistencies. It’s also good for handling any fragile product including fresh and frozen produce. Ideal applications for horizontal motion equipment include:

  • Soft fruit and vegetables
  • High-value frozen seafood
  • Baked goods
  • Cereals, granola, trail mix
  • Ready-to-eat snacks from chips to Chex Mix

WHEN TO USE A VIBRATORY CONVEYOR

Vibratory conveyors are a cost-effective way to move and process many foodstuffs. The versatility, scalability, and value-added pre-processing ability of vibratory conveyors make them a go-to solution for many common processing challenges. 

That said, investing in higher-quality vibratory equipment will improve reliability and reduce maintenance down the line. Manufacturers like PFI produce equipment with minimal moving parts and rigid construction, as well as industry-leading sanitation compliance and protection.

The higher capacity and lower cost-per-foot of vibratory equipment make it a good choice for handling large volumes of material in the receiving and processing phases of your operation. It’s great for dewatering delicate foods to avoid harsh drying processes. It can also be designed to allow oily or fried foods to drain effectively and to prevent sticky foods from adhering to the line. 

Vibratory conveying equipment can add huge efficiency and value to your processing operation through these and other value-added applications:

  • Orientate product for packaging or further processing
  • Spread and pre-sort treated product before drying or compression
  • Remove crumbs or clumps from granular products to ensure product consistency
  • Separate mixed-grade materials into graded lanes

Vibratory equipment is not well suited to handling delicate or very fine products, or mixed components that need to be kept in specific proportions. It is also difficult to separate specific proportions from a vibrating line for packaging.

Instead, use versatile food-grade vibratory equipment to transfer, sort, and assemble bulk products and prepare wet, oil, or sticky foods for further processing and packing. Ideal applications for vibratory conveyors include:

  • Orientating candy or baked goods for individual packaging
  • Washing, dewatering, and grading fresh produce like potatoes
  • Removing both large clumps and small crumbs from dog kibble
  • Remove and reclaim excess water from frozen seafood without drying
  • Spreading nuts or grains before roasting or drying
  • Draining and cooling fried foods like chicken or donuts

PARTNER WITH PFI FOR BEST CONVEYOR RESULTS

PFI's VFII Sanitary Vibratory Conveyor

The most important factor in deciding whether horizontal motion or vibratory conveyor systems are best for your business is understanding the specific processing needs of your product. 

From critical sanitary safeguards and optimum line efficiency to managing environmental noise, the unique characteristics of your materials affect every part of your conveying process. 

Finding the right equipment match for your business can unlock immediate performance gains and deliver returns on your investment for years to come. Choosing poorly can increase food waste and equipment downtime and even compromise the safety of your product.

Whether you are considering our PURmotion horizontal motion conveyor to help get your premium finished product out the door, our versatile VFII workhorse, or the value-add potential of our customizable MAGNEflex vibratory conveyor, we’ll help you find the right mix of performance, safety, and efficiency.

Want to be sure we’ve got it exactly right? We’ll run a full-scale test of your process at our Algona, Iowa, FAT test facility.  Plus, after purchase, we can install your new equipment so that when start-up begins, you can rest assured that your line will perform at its best. 

Click below to learn more about our world-class food-grade horizontal motion conveyor and vibratory conveyor solutions.

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