Resource Category: Blog

A PFI vibratory conveyor grading shoestring fries

How Much Does a Vibratory Conveyor Cost?

Vibratory conveyors are essential machines in the food processing industry. These powerful workhorses move, sort, grade, and handle various products effortlessly. However, as with any large equipment purchase, it’s vital to understand the cost implications.

Several important factors influence the overall price of a vibratory conveyor. Understanding them will help you budget and make a more informed decision. Read on to learn more about vibratory conveyor costs and what drives pricing variations.

FACTORS IMPACTING VIBRATORY CONVEYOR COST 

Vibratory conveyors come in many variations to suit specific applications in the food industry. The type and complexity of the solution you need will greatly influence the overall cost.

Drive Type

Electromagnetic and mechanical vibratory conveyors use different operating mechanisms, directly affecting their cost. Electromagnetic conveyors often have a higher initial price tag but may be more energy-efficient over time.

Solution Type

A simple conveyor setup has a different price point from a more complex vibratory one. These complexities drive the most price increases due to the additional components and design time. The solution choice hinges on your project scope and the tasks you need the system to accomplish.

Value-Added Applications

Vibratory conveyors can perform various functions beyond basic conveying, but each application comes with its own cost implications:

  • Feeding: While basic feeding typically doesn’t require significant design changes, custom controls or hoppers may be necessary to ensure a consistent and metered flow.
  • Screening: Specialized screens with various mesh sizes and configurations are integrated into the conveyor bed to separate particles by size or remove foreign objects. A separate takeaway conveyor is often included to remove and collect oversized or unwanted materials (“takeaway”).
  • Dewatering: Removing excess moisture or liquid requires specially designed pans or decks with drainage holes or slots. A collection pan or trough beneath the conveyor may be necessary to catch and redirect the drained liquid.
  • Laning: Dividers and guide rails are added to the pan to create multiple product lanes on a single conveyor. More complex configurations may involve multiple vertically tiered conveyors, each with its own motor and controls.
  • Grading: Specialized pans with varying slopes, multiple tiers, or a combination of both are used to sort products by size or quality. This differs from laning, which typically uses a single pan with dividers.
  • Spreading: Even product distribution across the conveyor often requires custom-designed pans or strategic placement of additional vibration motors.

A PFI laning vibratory conveyor moving processed chicken nuggets.

System Complexity & Integrations

The total cost of your vibratory conveyor system depends on its overall complexity. A system with multiple conveyors and supporting equipment like platforms or stairs will naturally be more expensive than a single, standalone conveyor.

Integrating your vibratory conveyor with existing equipment or other processing lines adds another layer of complexity and cost. For example, transitioning from a wide conveyor to a narrow one, merging multiple lines into one, or elevating a product from floor to a platform requires additional components and engineering. 

Customizations

Any modifications or integrations beyond a standard conveyor setup will alter the price. Common customizations might include changes in shape or size or the addition of specialized discharge chutes.

Size

The physical size of the conveyor—length, width, depth, and the overall number of conveyors needed—all impact costs. A longer or wider conveyor or a multi-conveyor system will naturally be more expensive.

Electrical Controls

Simple controls are less expensive than centralized systems. However, centralized controls for multi-conveyor setups can improve safety, boost efficiency, and reduce downtime. These improvements will ultimately impact your bottom line.

Sanitary Design

RTE (ready-to-eat) and USDA-compliant sanitary conveyors follow strict material and construction standards. Due to the use of stainless steel and other specialized design elements, they are more expensive to manufacture. However, sanitary conveyors are vital in preventing costly product recalls.

Quality/Durability

Investing in high-quality materials and construction pays dividends in the long run. A well-built conveyor will have fewer maintenance problems and last much longer, resulting in a better return on investment over time.

Expertise and Support

Choosing a vibratory conveyor supplier with extensive experience in the food processing industry is crucial. A knowledgeable manufacturer like PFI understands the unique challenges and regulatory requirements of food production. 

We can guide you in selecting the right solution, ensuring it meets all sanitary design standards and integrates seamlessly with your existing equipment. Moreover, PFI provides comprehensive support, from initial design and engineering to installation, training, and ongoing maintenance, safeguarding your investment and maximizing the long-term value of your vibratory conveyor system.

ADDITIONAL COST CONSIDERATIONS 

Remember the costs beyond buying the conveyor. Installation, training, and ongoing maintenance can all add up over time.

Installation

Installation of vibratory conveyors is typically a separate service from the cost of the machine itself. Factors like the project complexity, location, whether structural changes are needed, and the total installation time will all impact the final installation cost.

Training

Vibratory conveyors are designed for easy operation. PFI offers basic training resources (e.g., manuals and videos) at no extra cost. We train staff at installation and can host additional training for a fee. 

Maintenance

Vibratory conveyors are known for their low maintenance requirements. Their minimal moving parts translate into lower operational costs over their lifetime. However, routine upkeep is crucial in maximizing their lifespan and performance. This typically involves replacing vibratory springs once or twice a year and properly tuning the motors

The relatively low cost of these replacement parts contributes to the overall cost-effectiveness of vibratory conveyors. 

Operational Expenses (Energy Consumption)

Properly tuned mechanical vibratory conveyors are remarkably energy-efficient. Due to their design, electromagnetic conveyors can offer even lower energy consumption. This energy efficiency can significantly reduce operating costs over time.

PRICE ESTIMATES

The price of a vibratory conveyor depends heavily on size and customization. For a more accurate idea, getting a quote directly from a manufacturer is best.

Base Models

The price of a base model vibratory conveyor varies depending on its model, size, and built-in features. For example, smaller conveyors can run anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000+.

Customized Models

Vibratory conveyors with extensive customizations or complex system requirements are harder to price without detailed specifications. The wide range of possible options, sizes, and features make fixed estimates challenging.

LIFETIME VALUE AND COST

Regular maintenance is crucial to get the most out of your vibratory conveyor. It extends the lifespan and optimizes performance. Keeping your conveyor in good working order can minimize downtime and increase productivity.

Due to their limited moving parts and longer lifespan, vibratory conveyors have a lower lifetime cost than belt conveyors. This advantage enables them to operate with reduced maintenance requirements and increased uptime. At PFI, we build our conveyors with high-quality materials to deliver reliable performance and durability.

A well-designed conveyor tailored to your specific needs can also reduce the total cost of ownership and maximize return on investment. Additionally, it offers impressive energy efficiency, which reduces operating expenses over time. A customized conveyor solution allows you to streamline your operations and stay ahead of the competition.

GET THE RIGHT VIBRATORY CONVEYOR SOLUTION WITH PFI 

The cost of a vibratory conveyor system depends on various factors. That’s why partnering with PFI is crucial. Our team of experts will guide you in selecting the ideal vibratory conveyor for your needs. We’ll ensure you get the best value for your investment.

Click below to learn more about our vibratory conveyors and the value they’ll add to your production line.

View Our Vibratory Conveyors

Walnuts going into a PFI bucket elevator

Maximize Your Pfi Bucket Elevator Performance With the Right Bucket Options

Keeping your food production line running smoothly requires regular maintenance, and that includes your bucket elevators. Over time, buckets wear and tear, needing replacements to maintain optimal performance. But replacement buckets aren’t just about fixing wear and tear. Your needs can evolve too.

Read on to learn about the many bucket options available for your PFI Bucket Elevator.

PFI: YOUR BUCKET EXPERTS

Having built our reputation as Meyer Industries, we now offer seamless compatibility across the entire PFI product range, including legacy Meyer machines. 

UNDERSTANDING YOUR BUCKET OPTIONS 

We offer a wide range of buckets to suit diverse applications and food processing requirements:

Materials:

  • Polycarbonate (standard)
  • Polyethylene
  • Stainless steel

Features:

  • Ribbed
  • Colored
  • Metal-detectable
  • Split

PFI has a wide range of bucket sizes to match your specific needs. Bucket widths include 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 24, 30, 36, and 48 inches. Depths vary based on the model and width, ranging from 2 ⅝” to 6”.

It’s important to note that PFI buckets are specially engineered to work exclusively with PFI and Meyer bucket elevators. This guarantees seamless fit and optimal performance.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison:

Bucket Type Key Features Ideal Applications
Polycarbonate Impact-resistant, standard material Most food processing applications
Polyethylene Low heat deflection, chemical resistance, quieter operation Applications with heat sensitivity and sound reduction needs
Stainless Steel High-temperature resistance High-heat settings, product/customer requirements
Ribbed Enhanced product release Sticky materials (gummies, etc.)
Colored Color differentiation Separating products, aligning with customer branding
Metal-Detectable Ensures safety compliance Food processing with metal detection policies
Split Keeps products separate Conveying multiple products at once

HOW WE DETERMINE THE PERFECT BUCKET FOR YOU

Pasta in a PFI bucket elevator

To ensure optimal performance, PFI considers several factors when recommending the right bucket type for your needs:

  • Throughput Requirements: Your bucket elevator’s dimensions and speed determine its potential throughput.
  • Product Type: The product characteristics influence the ideal bucket material. Our polycarbonate buckets excel in most cases and offer a versatile solution. For irregularly shaped products, we may recommend oversized buckets with greater depth. This ensures secure transport and reduces potential spillage
  • Bucket Fill: A general rule of thumb is not to fill buckets past ⅔ capacity, although specific products may work better with oversized buckets to accommodate their shape.

HOW MUCH DO BUCKETS COST? 

Bucket type and size are the two biggest factors influencing the overall cost. Understanding these differences helps you make a more informed decision:

Material: Stainless steel buckets carry the highest price tag due to their custom fabrication. Polycarbonate, our standard material, is the most affordable, thanks to bulk molding. Specialty buckets, like ribbed or split versions, may also have a premium due to lower production volume.

Size: Bucket size has a relatively minimal impact on individual bucket prices. However, larger bucket elevators require more buckets, affecting the total cost. For example, the price to purchase replacement buckets for a 20-foot bucket elevator ranges approximately 10-15% depending on the width of the buckets.

For detailed quotes tailored to your existing elevator or a new need, don’t hesitate to contact our team.

PFI BUCKETS DELIVER OPTIMIZED PERFORMANCE

Unlock your bucket elevator’s full potential with the right PFI buckets. As the OEM for PFI and Meyer bucket elevators, our replacement buckets are guaranteed for a perfect fit, maximizing performance for both your legacy Meyer machines and your new PFI equipment.

Click below to explore our innovative Bucket Elevators and learn how they optimize efficiency and productivity.

See Our Bucket Elevators

A PFI sanitary conveying system in operation

7 Ways Conveyors Can Boost Food Manufacturing Productivity

In the fast-paced world of food manufacturing, efficiency is king. While conveyor applications in food manufacturing have traditionally focused on simply moving products between stations, their role can be much more impactful. 

By leveraging innovative food manufacturing conveyors, manufacturers can unlock a new level of productivity and profitability. Let’s explore ways you might already be using conveyors – and some ways their unique functionality could offer added benefits for your processes.

1. CONVEYING FROM A TO Z

Conveying is the backbone of food manufacturing, integrating production processes throughout the line. Several conveyance solutions—from belt conveyors to vibratory and horizontal motion conveyors and more—transport products from one end of production to the other. 

While general conveying can be deemed an afterthought, the right technology and durable equipment are vital to keeping production running, product integrity, and food safety. There are many considerations when selecting the right sanitary conveyor – from application needs to sanitation levels. 

When food processors use conveyors to perform value-added applications like laning, grading and sizing, and topping application, they can achieve even more with the same footprint and budget.

2. Bulk Handling for Big Production

Bulk handling solutions introduce and manage large volumes of ingredients or loose products within the food processing line. Equipment systems consisting of dumpers, augers, storeveyors, and more hold and process products to keep production running efficiently. 

Beyond moving a large quantity of product, bulk-handling conveyors can optimize how those materials are introduced to your process. Controlled release from storage systems can smooth out product flow, preventing surges that might overwhelm downstream equipment. They can also feed products into multiple processing streams to enhance capacity and throughput.

3. Elevating Efficiency 

Elevating conveyors maximize floor space, allow you to increase production on a platform or mezzanine, and seamlessly integrate equipment and processes at different heights. By conveying vertically with belt incline conveyors, positive lift conveyors, screw augers, and bucket elevators you increase capacity and efficiency in a tight footprint. 

Don’t just go up. Integrate inspection, X-ray, and other applications to add additional value.

4. Enhancing Mix Integrity

Mixing and blending solutions automatically maintain mix integrity for a wide range of foods like mixed nuts, snacks, trail mixes, and vegetables. Implementing Mix-Blend Systems that combine bulk handling hoppers and dumpers with vibratory feeders and collection conveyors provides precise recipes that improve yield, profitability, and product quality. These systems are configured to plant layouts and product mix needs.

Enhance performance, volume, and flow rate with automatic recipe-driven control systems that adjust on the fly – keeping your recipe consistent throughout production runs. 

5. Merging and Sorting Product Flow 

Merging and sorting conveyors optimize production and efficiency by seamlessly combining or separating multiple product flow lines between downstream and upstream processes. Reversing horizontal motion conveyors or a selection of belt conveyors keeps production running while maximizing throughput to multiple processes. 

These merging and sorting solutions don’t just move products. You can also rely on these conveyors to accurately maintain alignment, orientation, and positioning for the most efficient handling and processing. 

PFI PURmotion conveyor moves product with control over feed rate and reversibility.

6. Accumulating Performance

Accumulating conveyors play a key role in modern food processing lines. By temporarily storing and gathering products, they prevent disruptions, ensure a consistent product flow, and bolster production smoothness. 

Storeveyors, distribution systems, and reversing horizontal motion conveyors’ ability to buffer against surges or starvation keep your line operational and avoid downtime.

High-volume product accumulation is only valuable if it’s on your terms and appropriately handles the product. Look for configurable solutions with sanitary stainless steel design, sensors, automatic controls, and first-in-first-out discharge options. 

7. Precise Product Positioning 

Positioning conveyors like retractors and spreaders ensure products are accurately oriented and placed for subsequent processing steps. These conveyors orient, spread, index, or deposit products into rows and stacks, significantly increasing efficiency by manipulating products in-process and seamlessly connecting processing steps. 

Integrating positioning belt conveyors maximizes production space and capex budget. Their versatility makes them applicable to a wide range of food manufacturing lines.

DISCOVER HOW PFI INCREASES FOOD PROCESSING PRODUCTIVITY 

Conveyors significantly enhance application productivity and efficiency. Food manufacturers can streamline operations, reduce labor costs, and increase output by utilizing conveyors for more than simple transport. 

At PFI, we tailor our innovative conveyor solutions to meet our customers’ food processing and manufacturing needs. Click below to learn more about our range of food-conveying equipment that will improve your plant’s efficiency, productivity, and safety.

See Our Food Conveying Equipment

PFI PURmotion conveyor moves product with control over feed rate and reversibility.

6 Ways to Keep Your Sanitary Food Conveyor in Good Shape

Unexpected conveyor breakdowns can wreak havoc in food production facilities. Halted production lines, food safety risks, and increased costs are just some disruptions that can occur. 

However, these issues pale compared to the expense and downtime of replacing an improperly maintained conveyor system.

The good news is that there are several steps that food processors can take to minimize these risks and keep their production lines running smoothly. 

  1. Conducting Thorough and Regular Inspections
  2. Lubricating and Replacing Worn-Out Parts
  3. Emphasize Staff Training and Continuous Improvement
  4. Tailoring Maintenance for Different Types of Conveyors
  5. Documentation and Optimization
  6. Getting Outside Support for Major Repairs and Overhauls

Read on to discover how to maintain your food conveyor, avoid expensive disruptions, and maintain an efficient operation.

UNDERSTANDING THE LIFESPAN OF FOOD CONVEYORS

The lifespan of various types of food conveyors can differ significantly:

These estimations are based on general trends and can vary according to how well the conveyors are maintained, the frequency and type of use, and exposed environmental conditions.

Proper maintenance can significantly extend a conveyor’s lifespan. Regular inspections, timely repairs, and part replacements can add years to a conveyor’s service life, preventing the premature need for costly replacements. This proactive approach to maintenance ensures continuous operation and contributes to the conveyor system’s overall longevity.

CONVEYOR CLEANING SOLUTIONS 

Maintaining a clean conveyor system is crucial for ensuring overall efficiency and longevity. Regular cleaning helps prevent the buildup of debris and contaminants, which can lead to equipment failure, increased wear, and potential contamination of food products.

Different conveyors require specific cleaning methods to ensure optimal performance and sanitation. Common cleaning solutions include:

  • Belt Conveyor Cleaning: Often involves using scrapers, brushes, and washdown systems to remove debris and clean the belt surface.
  • Vibratory Conveyor Cleaning: Air knives, vacuums, and washdown systems may be used to clean the pan and remove debris.
  • Horizontal Motion Conveyor Cleaning: These solutions usually utilize washdown systems, brushes, and air knives to clean the conveyor and remove debris.
  • Bucket Elevator Cleaning: This may involve using brushes, air knives, and washdown systems to clean the buckets and elevator components.
  • Dumper Cleaning: Typically use washdown systems, brushes, and air knives to clean the dumper components and maintain a sanitary environment.

It is crucial to confirm that cleaning and sanitation protocols deliver the expected efficacy through microbial testing and visual inspections. Validate that all surfaces meet sanitary guidelines and adjust methods as needed based on actionable test results.

After processing frozen french fries, a vacuum or air knife might be needed to clean this vibratory conveyor.

With that in mind, the appropriate cleaning solution for your conveyor will depend on the conveyor type, the materials conveyed, and the specific application in the food processing environment.  

KEY MAINTENANCE STRATEGIES FOR FOOD CONVEYORS

Six essential maintenance actions can help food processors extend the lifespan of their food conveyors and prevent unscheduled breakdowns. 

1. Conducting Thorough and Regular Inspections

Refer to the manufacturer’s equipment manuals for maintenance checklists and recommended inspection frequencies as an ideal starting point. These specifications outline optimal operating conditions, preventative upkeep cadences, safety information, and performance logging details unique to each system.

Preventative conveyor maintenance should be systematic and thorough. Technicians can use checklists tailored to different types of conveyors, detailing specific inspection points for each model. This process includes: 

  • Checking for damage, wear and tear
  • Ensuring alignment, and 
  • Monitoring the operational functionality of belts, pulleys, motors, and other critical components
  • Confirming safety component operation.

Food manufacturers can handle these regular checks internally with proper training. However, for more rigorous quarterly assessments, bringing in a specialist to help is advised. Comprehensive evaluations keep all mechanical and electrical aspects running safely and efficiently.

2. Lubricating and Replacing Worn-Out Parts

Lubricate moving components basic every few months. More involved biannual deep lubrication procedures may require outside specialists. Timely replacement of worn parts like belts, springs, and bushings also prevents breakdowns. 

Maintain an inventory of commonly replaced wear parts like belts, springs, and bushings to avoid production delays when replacements are needed. Having these essential spares on hand allows technicians to swap components rapidly and prevents the downtime of emergency parts procurement.

While staffers may be able to change out basic parts internally with some guidance, planning for specialty part fabrication or sourcing requires conveyor technician expertise. The specialized skills of expert technicians are best suited to source and design custom or intricate replacement components.

Proper lubrication and part replacement reduce friction and wear. This extends the lifespan of conveyors, cutting replacement costs significantly. It also leads to smoother operation and less unscheduled downtime. 

3. Emphasize Staff Training and Continuous Improvement

Regular staff training is vital for maintaining conveyor systems. Training sessions should cover basic maintenance and safety protocols and focus on continuous improvement strategies. 

By collaborating with industry specialists, employees receive comprehensive training beyond the basics. These sessions share best practices for equipment: 

  • Installations
  • Calibrations
  • Testing
  • Providing in-depth knowledge and hands-on experience with new and existing equipment.

The goal is to boost performance and prevent accidents through improved maintenance and safety habits. Ongoing education and collaboration with experts cultivate a culture focused on preventative care instead of reactive repairs. 

This proactive approach maximizes equipment lifespan and productivity and empowers employees to uphold rigorous safety standards to achieve operational excellence.

4. Tailoring Maintenance for Different Types of Conveyors

Each type of food conveyor system has unique maintenance needs. A one-size-fits-all approach to conveyor maintenance will not work. The required tasks vary widely depending on a system’s design, age, and usage.

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

Belt Conveyors: Regular checks for belt alignment and wear are crucial. Monitor belt speed and vibration and ensure pulleys and bearings are in good condition.

Vibratory Conveyors: Focus on the regular tensioning of springs and tuning of motors. Also, inspect the construction of the pan for wear or damage.

Horizontal Motion Conveyors: Regularly inspect for bushing wear and assess the condition of the pan construction.

Bucket Elevators: Check the buckets for wear or damage, ensure the integrity of chains and sprockets, and confirm that drives and motors function correctly.

Dumpers: Maintain the stainless steel hydraulic cylinders and panel walls regularly.

Understanding and applying these specific food conveyor maintenance tasks are key to the effective upkeep of each type of conveyor system.

5. Documentation and Optimization

While food manufacturers can handle basic performance tracking and maintenance logs in-house, consider partnering with specialists for more complex needs. Comprehensive documentation ensures all conveyor data is readily available for failure and cost analysis.

Documentation

Regular visual inspections, lubrication, wear parts replacement, and sanitation should be logged and stored. These maintenance logs can diagnose decreased uptime reasons or determine when it’s time for a repair, modification, or replacement.

Optimization

While routine maintenance is manageable alone, consultants help manufacturers optimize production system-wide, utilizing documented data. Documentation gives internal teams and specialists the visibility of data to maximize performance. Their expertise can spot underlying issues and identify improvement opportunities.

Veteran technician guidance helps uncover optimization opportunities and innovations to minimize persistent issues. This breadth of experience provides an invaluable external perspective that spots potential blindspots to efficiency.

6. Getting Outside Support for Major Repairs and Overhauls

Food manufacturers can often do basic tasks like inspections and part replacements themselves. But it’s better to hire conveyor specialists for more extensive repairs or complete equipment checks.

Regular food conveyor maintenance keeps a PurMotion conveyor in excellent condition.

Major overhauls demand specialized expertise—thoroughly inspecting subsystems, rebuilding components, and validating overall integrity require skills that are challenging to match internally. Attempting substantial overhauls without appropriate capabilities risks improper assembly, calibration issues, or safety violations.

It’s wise to rely on expert outside assistance for:

  • Full motor/drive-train rebuilds
  • Complete belt/chain replacements
  • Electrical or sensor diagnostic checks
  • Life cycle cost modeling
  • Comprehensive health assessments

SELECTING THE RIGHT CONVEYOR MAINTENANCE PARTNER

Selecting the right conveyor maintenance partner is key for long-term success in food processing. As a leading manufacturer, PFI understands the needs of both conveyor equipment and facilities. Our guidance covers best maintenance practices, upgrades, and operator training.

We build reliable, efficient systems designed for compliance and easy upkeep. This sustains smooth operations over time. Additionally, we offer maintenance packages to optimize any equipment, even other brands. With deep industry expertise, PFI goes beyond just selling conveyors—our goal is to ensure maximum production uptime and throughput for food processors.

Our conveyors stand out in the industry for their durability and efficiency. On average, PFI conveyors have a lifespan of 10-15 years longer than most competitors. This is due to our commitment to using high-quality parts and materials and incorporating maintenance and sanitation-friendly design features.  

CHOOSE PFI FOR RELIABLE AND EFFICIENT CONVEYOR SOLUTIONS

Regular maintenance ensures improved efficiency, sanitation, and uptime. PFI sanitary conveyors help food processors maximize performance, reliability, and long-term savings. We invite you to explore our page below to learn more about our innovative food conveyor solutions.

See Our Food Conveying Equipment

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:

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.

See Our Food-Grade Conveyors

Get Expert Help

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]

  • 1
  • 2

Sanitary conveying, delivered.™

Contact us

300 Kofab Drive
Algona, IA 50511


515.295.7265


sales@pficonveyors.com

© 2024 PFI. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. | Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions