New conveyor chain improves production in bakeries
Bread production is very competitive in terms of production costs, which need to be kept to a minimum. Highly automated processes are used to reduce overall operating costs and maintenance costs are kept to tight budgets. The failure of a conveyor chain in the last part of the production process can have very significant knock-on effects for overall productivity and efficiency. One group of bakeries has engaged Tsubaki to provide a more reliable conveyor chain to help reduce costs associated with lost production and maintenance.
The conveyor sections in question are a modular design with multiple sections approximately 3m in length which can be arranged as required to transport the loaves of bread to the packaging process. In fact the total distance travelled is considerable as the bread has to have time to cool before being packaged. The original equipment comprises 5 strands of all-plastic, sectional chain which is used to convey the freshly baked bread loaves from the ovens to the packing stations.
The design of the OEM chain means that there is no wear component which means that there is no warning of an imminent chain failure. When the chain does fail, it does so dramatically and in many cases failure of one of the five strands can cause the bread to twist on the conveyor and then fall off. Once a chain has failed the quantity of bread leaving the conveyor soon mounts up until the production line is stopped.
With no alternative route to the packaging station, the production line has to be stopped altogether, which has a serious effect on the production processes upstream of the failed chain. The bread in the ovens now has nowhere to go and this means that the dough that has been proving cannot be placed in the ovens. In all, a single chain failure can result in significant losses to production output and therefore profitability.
Derek Mack, Sales Director for Tsubaki UK, comments: "As a complete drive transmission company, Tsubaki offers high quality products which are supported by experienced designers and engineers who are able to offer our clients the best solution for their requirements. With the ability to work with customers to conduct site surveys and, if necessary, develop bespoke solutions to meet the application requirements while also reducing costs associated with maintenance and downtime caused by premature failure."
The maintenance manager was aware of the production issues that such failures caused so invited Tsubaki to suggest an alternative to the OEM product. Having reviewed the requirements and expectations of the conveyor system, Tsubaki offered to install a quantity of ½" pitch BS Plastic Combination (PC) chain, constructed from engineering plastic.
The new chain was a direct replacement for the OEM product, with no retro-fit work required to drive sprockets or guide rails. It has solid extruded plastic inner links with stainless steel bearing pins and outer link plates and is therefore stronger than an all-plastic chain. Being a bush chain, it is easy to clean off any debris as a result of the conveyed product, it is quiet in operation and it requires no lubrication.
The trial period passed without any issues, resulting in further orders from Tsubaki which were installed in a planned program of improvement on the conveyor systems. Since the original installation of the PC chain, there have been no failures experienced in the conveyor systems operating with the Tsubaki product.
One major advantage of the Tsubaki PC chain is the design allows wear to occur which can be measured and monitored by the maintenance team. This allows any requirement for chain replacement to be carried out in a planned maintenance period without any disruption to production output or efficiency. In contrast, the OEM product could fail unexpectedly, which not only had major loss of production implications but also required the maintenance engineers to attend to the breakdown immediately and install new chain from stock in order to return the production line to normal operation.
Derek Mack continues, "The success of this installation has led to further trials at other bakeries with very similar levels of success. A recent demonstration to a large group of maintenance and production managers from the bakery industry produced a remarkable response, with many expressing an interest in the Tsubaki product."