Resource Category: Value-Added

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.  


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.


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.


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 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.  


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.


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.


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: 


  • 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.


  • 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. 


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. 


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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. 


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:




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.


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.



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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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
Pet Food
Pasta & Rice


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.


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.


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.


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.


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. 


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


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


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 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

Sanitary conveying, delivered.™

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300 Kofab Drive
Algona, IA 50511


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