Resource Category: Blog

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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.  


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.


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.


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.


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 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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Get Expert Help


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
● 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.


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:


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. Horizontal motion equipment requires a flat or slightly inclined material to move material downhill in a controlled way. It can also move product at a decline and a slight incline, usually not more than a 1-degree upward slope.


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.

The steady forward movement of horizontal motion equipment also makes it easier to inspect material on the line. It also helps to keep mixed products together ahead of separation and packaging through a proportion gate.

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


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 harboring opportunities and allow easy cleaning and sanitization.


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.


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.


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.


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 both 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


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


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. 


In general, 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 do cost more to set up but can add a huge amount of value to your operation over time.


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

Horizontal Motion Conveyors Vibratory Conveyors


PurMotion horizontal motion conveyor VFII vibratory conveyor


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)
Sanitary design and features
Food-grade materials
IP69K* components
Reversible motion
Uphill operation
Fragile foods  
Screening (removing crumbs)
Scalping (removing clumps)
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.


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


Vibratory conveyors are a cost-effective way to move and process many kinds of 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


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.

See Our Vibratory Conveyors

See Our Horizontal Motion Conveyors

a PFI sanitary conveyor system protects your product

10 Factors That Affect the Price of a Sanitary Conveyor System

Your sanitary conveyor system is far more than add-on equipment that moves products between processes. It’s a long-term investment to maximize productivity and minimize downtime — while always delivering a safe, appealing product to your customer. 

If you’re a plant manager or engineering project lead looking to level up your conveyance game, you already know there are plenty of generic solutions, off-the-shelf products, and price-first providers waiting to fill the gap in your line.    

Here, we explore some of the factors that go into the price of a sanitary conveyor system and why it makes sense to pay more upfront for future-ready equipment that will continue to reduce costs and add value down the line.


As an established food manufacturer, you’ve already heavily invested in big-ticket OEM processing units. While it can be tempting to economize when it comes to handling equipment, cutting corners on conveyor systems can cost you more later in maintenance, downtime, retrofits, and even product recalls. 

These 10 factors help determine the up-front cost you’ll see on a premium sanitary conveyor system.

  1. Equipment Type
  2. Components & Integrations
  3. Footprint
  4. Sanitation
  5. Controls
  6. Customizations
  7. Design Quality
  8. Parts
  9. Maintenance
  10. Customer Support

Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors and consider how smart choices today can help return long-term value and performance in the future. 

1.  Equipment Type

Many operations can be performed by different types of machines, but choosing the right system for your application can have big implications for efficiency, reliability, and food safety.

PFI's PURmotion horizontal motion conveyor smoothly conveys snacks through a food processing line

From horizontal and incline belt conveyors to bucket elevators and flexible vibratory conveyors, PFI works with your engineers to determine the right equipment solution based on your:

  • Application
  • Food type
  • Throughput
  • Budget

2. Components & Integrations

System prices scale from just a few thousand dollars for an individual conveyor to hundreds of thousands for a fully integrated system. A specialist equipment provider will look at the total number of individual conveyors you will need, along with supporting equipment including platforms, stairs, elevators, and parts carts.

Various integrations add to the complexity and number of machines needed. This may include equipment that transfers products to move smoothly from a wide machine to a narrower one or merges and separates multiple lines. 

Expert equipment providers will price in fully-engineered integrations to allow products to move seamlessly through your system. It also helps to partner with a provider who not only fabricates but installs their equipment, to ensure consistent work quality and seamless integration.

3.  Footprint 

The number of conveyor units you will require, and the width and reach of individual units depends on several factors, including:

  • Your processing volume
  • The size and configuration of your facility
  • The specs of your existing processing equipment

For example, most conveyor equipment can be either floor or ceiling mounted and delivered in a variety of widths to meet your production needs with only a marginal price change relative to the overall project cost.

And depending on the equipment type, the same footprint may require two or more units working in a series for the best performance. For example, the maximum length of a vibratory conveyor is approximately 20 feet for optimal vibration, while a belt conveyor can extend to over 100. 

4. Sanitation 

Cost-effective food conveyor installations match the sanitary design to the specific needs of your product and process. While safety always comes first, the hygiene requirements of, for example, packaging wrapped candy or dry pasta are very different from those needed when handling meats or uncooked products.  

There is no substitute for experience when it comes to building conveyors that deliver value while meeting and exceeding the hygiene requirements of your industry. All food-handling equipment should feature basic sanitary design features including:

  • Stainless steel construction in the food zone at a minimum
  • Angled surfaces to shed liquids
  • A simple modular design to ensure easy, effective cleaning

More demanding applications, such as raw proteins and fresh produce handling, require more specialized equipment that meets or exceeds specific USDA, GMA, and BEMA standards, among others. 

This equipment must meet the highest design and fabrication standards, including smooth, easy-swab surfaces that minimize bacteria-harboring opportunities and minimal seals, joints, or contact points. For these applications, leading brand food-grade vibratory or horizontal motion conveyors deliver the highest standard of hygiene, including:

  • Easy wipedown pans
  • IP69K-certified parts capable of withstanding repeated high-temperature washdowns
  • Toolless maintenance and parts replacement to minimize surface or component damage
  • Direct-drive beltless movement

sanitary belt conveyor

It’s also important to bear in mind that sanitation standards are constantly improving and equipment that only meets current regulations could quickly become sub-standard. 

Choose a provider who not only meets but exceeds the latest standards, including the FSMA regulations currently being rolled out by the FDA, to ensure a future-proof investment in conveyor technology. 


5. Controls

fully integrated control systems on a conveyor system

Integrated, centralized electrical controls allow one operator to start and stop multiple machines quickly and easily. This improves worker safety and boosts efficiency by allowing less downtime during system-wide stop-starts. Fully integrated control systems cost more but offer real gains in system performance.


6. Customizations

As an industry-leading conveyor manufacturer, PFI is best positioned to make modifications to our equipment, including:

  • Floor, ceiling, or mezzanine installations
  • Custom infeed and discharge modifications
  • Specialized sanitation requirements
  • Process-specific options, including clean-in-place systems, gates, belt scrapers, topping applicators, etc.

We provide a full range of system support items for our conveyors, including platforms and catwalks, as well as safety equipment such as emergency stops, cut-offs, and failsafes. 

Our systems can also be fully integrated with other common food-processing functions including vision, metal-detecting, and X-Ray equipment.

7. Design Quality

Superior industrial design is one of the key differentiators that set high-quality sanitary conveyors apart from more generic equipment. Quality design shapes every aspect of a conveyor, including:

  • Engineering: How well a unit integrates with your line
  • Operation: How well machinery runs over the long term
  • Maintenance: How easy equipment is to clean and maintain
  • Safety: How easily surfaces can be cleaned and test-swabbed
  • Quality: How well the conveyor handles your product, including minimizing damage and waste and preserving its physical appeal 

At PFI, we use our decades of experience and industry expertise to build safe, reliable conveyors designed for long-term return on investment. While many of our competitors may measure equipment life in years, we measure ours in decades.

8. Parts

Parts maintenance and replacement are key components of the lifetime cost of conveyor machinery. Quality conveying equipment is more likely to include:

  • A minimum number of moving parts
  • Open and accessible design for easy maintenance
  • Features designed to avoid or minimize maintenance issues

Choosing a high-quality design with less moving and consumable parts is more expensive up-front, but fewer parts replacements and less machine wear over time mean a longer-term return on investment.

9. Maintenance

Maintenance does contribute to the long-term cost of equipment. Equipment built with higher-quality design and materials reduces downtime and makes maintenance quicker when it does need to be done. Some leading brand conveyors also feature toolless parts replacement to minimize the chance of damage to food-exposed surfaces.

Regular replacement of wear parts, including belts, vibratory springs, and dumper cylinders, is necessary on all conveyor systems. Choosing a quality system at the outset and making sure scheduled maintenance and inspections take place on time protects your investment and helps ensure your equipment will last for years or even decades.

10. Customer Support

Smart plant managers understand that a sanitary conveyor system is more than an equipment solution — ideally, it’s a relationship that starts at the design stage and continues as long as the equipment is installed in your facility.

These days it’s possible to get an off-the-shelf solution for almost anything you need, but quick-fix generic solutions can turn short-term gains into long-term pain as you struggle to keep inadequate equipment in service.

Choosing a reputable supplier with an established track record may add up-front cost to your project, but you gain the benefit of specialist knowledge and broad experience, as well as a long-term partner who stands by their products.That can mean: 

  • Front-end testing of your product and solutions
  • Better integrations
  • Expert installation of the conveying equipment and others
  • Long-term maintenance support and parts ordering, and 
  • The ability to grow with you as your needs change.

PFI offers professional installation of our sanitary conveyor systems

It’s hard to put a number on the value of great customer service — except when you don’t have it. If you’re serious about safe, effective bulk food processing, choose an equipment provider with the staying power to stick with you for the long haul.



At PFI, we build and deliver customized sanitary conveying systems that offer outstanding performance, durability, and long-term returns for our customers. An investment in PFI conveying equipment adds quality and safety to your product today and value to your operations for decades to come. Here’s why:

  • Sanitary systems: PFI is a world leader in sanitary systems that meet and exceed today’s strictest industry hygiene standards.
  • Trusted technology: Leading meat, bakery, and RTE food brands trust PFI conveyors on their lines. We are the trusted leader in safe, reliable food conveyor technology.
  • Expert team: PFI delivers equipment that meets the specific needs of your process and product. Nobody has more experience building conveyor systems for food processing.
  • Custom-configured solutions: At PFI, we tailor-make every system to your exact specs. We can even test your entire system with full FATs at our Algona, Iowa location.
  • After-sales support: PFI stands by our products. We offer a full range of technical support, parts replacement, and preventative maintenance services.

Click below to learn more about our industry-leading conveyor solutions.

See Our Sanitary Conveyor Systems


Meat processors address labor and safety with automation and robotics – National Provisioner

A recent National Provisioner Automation & Robotics report includes insights and anticipations of robotics and automation in the meat processing industry. Processors and suppliers are keen to improve food and worker safety, while addressing labor availability issues, by embracing automation.

According to PFI’s Shane Peterson, automation systems have clear benefits in the food processing industry. Peterson stated, “With the continued advancement of robotics and AI technologies, many opportunities exist to streamline and enhance reliability in food production environments.” He believes that this trend will yield positive returns on investment and make automation an excellent business solution both now and in the future.

Peterson further emphasized the significance of worker safety, noting that automation not only decreases the risks of human contamination but also diminishes the potential for human error. He explained, “Repetitive motion for a human can cause health-related issues over time.” By protecting workers through automation, companies can save money that may have been lost due to injuries.

Read the full National Provisioner report from several suppliers, including PFI and our parent company Grote Company.


Delivering Potato Goods The Right Way

Understanding the nature of the product and each process throughout a potato processing plant is critical to designing and building high performing vibratory conveyors. Read our take in the recent Potato Business digital magazine.

Vibratory conveyors perform a range of value-added processes throughout potato processing plants. They’re the conveyor of choice due to their sanitary design, low maintenance, and flexible operation.

“The open architecture of vibratory conveyors is the most sanitary-friendly technology available… Machines designed with tool-less parts and open access are easier and faster to clean thoroughly, require less labor and few supplies, saving additional resources and dollars,” says Mike Barber, Regional Sales Manager.

However, they’re not off the shelf. Depending on the product makeup and movement, and what process is being performed, conveyors should be custom designed to optimize performance and handling.

Vibratory conveyors connect core processing equipment – from peelers to sorters, blanchers, dryers, cutters, fryers, freezers, and packaging. Depending on the process, the speed and stroke is customized, and gates, diverters, dewatering screens, and more options are added.

Read the full Potato Business article for more on how to design and use vibratory conveyors in your potato processing line.

Sanitary Design of Equipment Matters in Terms of Safety — and the Bottom Line

In the food processing industry, maintaining sanitary conditions is at the top of the priority list. Sanitary equipment design makes a difference in keeping a processing facility clean and running smoothly.

Sanitary design is defined as “the application of design techniques which allow the timely and effective cleaning of the asset,” according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s equipment design guidelines.

But, when it comes to sanitary design, what are the risks involved in maintaining food safety? And what are the most important features to look for when choosing equipment?

Food Recalls Are Costly In Terms of Both Financial and Brand Health

Sanitization of food processing equipment has taken on a much greater role in the industry as cases of food-borne illnesses have been in the news repeatedly in recent years.

48 million Americans are stricken ill each year due to food-borne illness. Bacteria such as listeria, E. coli and other forms find their way into food that is consumed, causing illnesses that can be serious.

“30 years ago, if you had a little problem, you were not going to get discovered,” said David Acheson, former U.S. FDA commissioner. “Now, the chances of getting caught are significant, and it can be the end of your company.”

Cases can now be traced back to the exact plant in which the source of the illness originated, down to the batch.

Beyond the seriousness of causing consumers to become ill, the brand’s health can also be at stake. The average cost of a recall for a food company is $10 million. The damage done to the brand longer term can mean an even higher cost. And – sometimes, an entire industry suffers if even one producer has a recall due to food safety issues. For example, the lettuce industry was hurt as a whole, as consumers were less likely to buy ANY lettuce after repeated recalls by individual brands.

While some brands can overcome the damage done due to food-borne illness incidents, others are not as fortunate. One peanut butter company went out of business entirely. Addressing, preventing and prioritizing food safety is vital to the health of the brand – and the entire industry.

It’s much easier – and less costly – to prevent an outbreak than to try to mitigate a situation once an incident has taken place. Taking every possible precaution creates less risk of an outbreak occurring.

Sanitary Design Means Equipment Is Easier to Clean and Maintain

Food safety also impacts product quality and the shelf life of a product. Bacteria doubles as it grows – and it can grow rapidly – negatively affecting the shelf life. A longer shelf life means less product waste, as well.

In addition, the use of equipment designed with sanitation in mind results in higher productivity and less cleaning time. Machines designed with toolless parts and open access are easier and faster to clean, require less labor, can be cleaned more thoroughly, and necessitate fewer supplies and water, saving additional dollars for a producer.

When maintenance is needed, these machines are easy to access or disassemble without the need to bring tools into the sanitary production area. Tools can introduce contamination into the environment. They can also damage the equipment – say, for example, a tool causes a nick in a machine – which can create an additional place for bacteria to come into play. Designing equipment with angles so that liquid runs off and details such as rounding the edges and reducing corners can also make it easier to clean and maintain.

After machines are cleaned, they’re sanitized and then validated to begin production. Equipment designed with sanitation in mind is easier to validate.

How PFI Focuses on Sanitary Design of Food Processing Equipment

PFI offers a wide array of conveying solutions with time-tested and proven technology with belt, vibratory, horizontal motion and bucket conveyors. Platforms, product dumpers, and other supporting equipment round out the range of products, allowing integration of conveying systems. PFI engineers and designs equipment using established guidelines to support a variety of food processing industry regulations including BEMA (Bakery Equipment Manufacturers Association), USDA, and the most recent FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act).

For Food Safety Officers, Clean, Sanitary Equipment Is a Mission-Critical Consideration

Sanitary design affects every part of the food processor’s business. Embracing sanitary equipment design is essential to the company, the consumer, and the industry at large.

By doing all they can to ensure consumers’ safety, food processing facilities that prioritize the sanitary design of equipment are establishing trust.

PFI is part of Grote Company, which has a long-established history of helping customers prioritize food safety. PFI brings 75+ years of deep experience and time-tested food conveying technology to every project and takes a consultative approach to solve any challenge, big or small. Get in touch today to see how we might help you.

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