From the farm to the grocery store checkout, the food supply chain moves along one conveyor belt after another. Conveyor belts in the food industry have many different applications, each with their own technical requirements and involving regulatory compliance and engineering best practices. Quite a lot for something as “simple” as sending your carton of eggs down to the cashier.
Here are a few things to consider when buying components for conveyor belts in the food industry.
What Kind of Product Are You Moving?
The conveyor belt not only needs to be able to bear the load you’ll be placing on it, but it needs to do so without damaging the product or losing any of it. If the conveyor belt is moving powder or grain, for example, it cannot have gaps or tolerances that would cause the material to fall through. Not only would that be a loss of product and money, but it could wreak havoc on the machinery, causing localized damage or a system-wide breakdown.
What’s the Environment They Will Be Operating in?
You could be moving very similar products – or even the same product – but if you’re doing it outdoors, in an enclosed but not climate-controlled area, in a clean factory setting or in a supermarket, you will need different belts and associated drive components for each setting. Beyond the belt itself, the environment will affect things like your choice of component materials and lubricants.
The food industry has extremely stringent cleaning and sanitation standards, for very good, very obvious reasons. But the procedures that come with those standards can be brutal on your machinery.
The chemicals used in cleaning food processing settings can be highly corrosive, wearing down your belts, bearings and lubricants much faster than would happen under similar loads and environmental conditions in a different industry. Your power transmission system and your maintenance / repair / replacement regimen must account for the food industry’s ancillary activities just as much as it does for the demands of actual food processing.
What Are the Baseline and “Surge” Loads, Speeds and Outputs?
Every industry will lay claim to taking the hardest hit in 2020, but the food industry can make one of the strongest cases. Shortages and surpluses cycled on practically a weekly basis as food makers had to find ways to maintain a constant output with completely uncertain inputs.
Companies with a robust and versatile transmission system were better positioned to handle 2020, as were those companies who were already on top of the maintenance and repair.
When buying conveyor belts and other components, ask yourself: What else can these do? Am I limiting my company to the present, or are we keeping doors open for the future? Hopefully we’ll never have another year of uncertainty like this one, but preparing for it will ensure your machinery lasts and your company wins in the steadier years to come.
Ready for a longer conversation about conveyor belts and the chains, sprockets, sheaves and bearings that keep them moving? The experts at MDS are ready to have it, as soon as you give them a call.