Conveyor belt system handles products with care

Keeping the tea leaves in the tea bags is key. That’s a requirement Modu System knows all too well as it deals with large tea manufacturers worldwide. The company provides conveyor systems to companies such as Lipton Tea. Modu System Australia director CS Tan said that with conveyors in a number of Lipton Tea factories, working with fragile products has proven to be a strong area for his company.

“The majority of the Lipton Tea conveyor installations worldwide are done by us,” he said.
Being able to handle products such as tea bags is important as they are more delicate and not all conveyers will pull through with the same results, said Tan. Modu provides flexible production flows and high throughput with an electrical and pneumatic control system, which is vital when controlling empty and filled tea bag boxes to ensure their flawless movement between processes, he said.

Modu is also able to help with other fragile products with its gripper conveyor system. This includes assisting companies with shifting and packing bottles and aluminium cans.

“Aluminium tin cans are very soft and easy to damage,” said Tan. “If it’s coming out of the depalletiser system and the tin can has to be moved from a low end to a high end, it needs to move without being damaged. The gripper system grabs it without causing damage.”
The machine grips it firmly but not too tightly to ensure no dents or punctures are created, he said.

“We have 20 years of experience in conveyor lines and automation, including gripping systems that are suitable for any kind of product.” The Modu Group was formed in Singapore in 1995 and Modu System Australia was established in Sydney in 2017 as the company’s sixth office.

Tan said that despite being an international manufacturer, Modu is able to supply the Australian market with affordable yet quality products. “We make everything ourselves, therefore we are able to provide a good product that’s cost effective. We are not that high in price compared to bigger players, yet we offer the same experience.

“We are here to make sure the customers enjoy the advantage of the prices while they still get great quality. We help them grow,” said Tan. For many conveyor suppliers, the modular chains or belts and accessories are purchased from other suppliers while the structures are made in-house, meaning several parties are involved. However, Modu manufactures its own range of modular chains, belts, beams and accessories, said Tan. “This simply provides us the control over the quality of our conveyors and cost advantage over other conveyor suppliers.”

Modu’s product offering in Australia includes modular conveyor systems, spiral conveyors, automatic guided vehicles and customised automated machines. The company has distributors located throughout Australia and local technicians are always on standby to service customers’ needs.

“We are also able to support our customers globally through our global offices located in USA, UK, China, Singapore, Malaysia and India,” said Tan.

Integrity and partnerships key to conveyor solutions

After graduating from university with a degree in engineering, CS Tan was determined to put his extensive knowledge of modular belted conveyor systems to the test in a market where there was plenty of demand – Australia. In 2017 Modu System Australia was established as the sixth global office of MODU Group.

Modu System conveyors can now be found in factories that produce premium brands such as Nestle, Dole, Bosch, Dyson, Lipton, Specsavers and Campbells to name a few.

You can hear the passion in Tan’s voice as he talks about a conveyor system that he says can be fitted into any factory, no matter the size. The word “impossible” is not part of his vocabulary when it comes to system customisation. He believes a key ingredient in the company’s success is working with the customer from the get-go.

“By being involved early, the customer and ourselves can come up with a solution that both parties agree to,” he said. “We then give them a quotation and drawings to review. We give them a solution with a price, and in most cases, they are very happy with what we can offer.

“All our conveyors are custom made. We have a team of designers, while my sales engineer and myself – we are both engineers by profession – talk to the customer. We listen to them, see what they desire and come up with a concept. The customer has knowledge, too. They are usually the first person to tell you if there is a problem with an idea because they know how a belt system should work.”

Tan says that the main differentiator between Modu System and some of its competitors is the fact the company builds its own conveyors. There is no third party involved.

“The thing about Modu, for the modular belt systems, most competitors would buy the belts and chains from overseas suppliers,” he said. “And they would then make the conveyor up. We manufacture everything ourselves. We make the chain, the belts and the structures on our own. It is basically our own design.”

Tan believes that there is no point in a short-term gain, when it is long-term partnerships that Modu is after. Integrity is a big part of the way that the company does business and he points out that the end result is only as good as how happy the customer is at the end of the transaction.

“If I give a solution and they have doubts about it, I explain to them why I have configured the conveyor a certain way,” he said. “I will explain to them the wisdom of the reason why I have done it a particular way. They might want the system set up a certain way, but I can see it might be only a short-term plan. However, if their end goal is to expand long term they might want to adopt this certain strategy and we will help them reach their goal. We are very open. If a design or build is not correct we will not sell it. We treat customers as long-term business partners. We have repeat business because of the way we do things.”

Tan is aware that one of the biggest outlays, and concerns for customers, is the capital expenditure, especially for SMEs, a sector of the market Modu targets deliberately – for two main reasons. The first is that he wants SMEs to realise that the capital outlay is probably not as expensive as they think it going to be. The second reason, which makes a lot of business sense according to Tan, is that a lot of SMEs grow and he believes if his company helps lead the way at the beginning, Modu will be the first port of call when the company decides to expand.

“Every time we talk to people, capital expenditure is one of the first things that they talk about,” he said. “They think that they do not have the financial ability to build a conveyor system but that is where we come in. We want to help them grow. We have seen them grow. It excites them, but it excites me even more. I want people to know that with Modu System, automation is possible. SMEs love to automate, but they are concerned about investment. However, when we approach them and give them a solution that is cost-effective, in almost all cases, they never realised it was possible, and come on board.”

One of the reasons Tan set up MODU System in Australia, is that he knows it is a good base of operations. This is because of Australia’s reputation in the wider world – and includes the products that populate the conveyor belts the company installs.

“Australian products are highly regarded overseas as well. Australian beer and fruits are highly favoured, too. Australian meat is considered top quality,” he said. This is another reason why he knows that a lot of these companies will grow. Their products are in demand in Asia.

Quality is something that Tan takes seriously with his own gear, too, especially with the third-party suppliers to Modu System conveyors.

“Any of the parts that we don’t manufacture – the parts we get from other suppliers and distributors – are very good quality,” he said. “We use top brands, such as Schneider, SMC, Omron and SEW Eurodrive. Anything we incorporate into our complete automation system – barcode readers and any other equipment for food automation – we use only quality items.”

And Tan is bullish about the long-term prospects of the food and beverage itself in Australia.

“The food industry is doing well,” he said. “We are getting a lot of orders from companies that are processing raw fruits, and vegetables like mushrooms.  We are seeing a lot of interest from people making desserts, noodles, dumplings and things like that.

“We do provide food-grade belts, that is what we would call a PU (polyurethane) belt. However, the most common belts of ours that are used in the food sector are those that are designed for use after the food has been packaged and placed in the punnet or box – the distribution side. We can supply belts for the initial part of food production, but that is not our specialty.”

Finally, there is the back-up service that is an integral part of any supplier. Tan reemphasises that this is where the words integrity and partnership kick in.

“If a customer has any problem with our product, if they give us a call, they can be assured we will respond almost immediately,” he said. “We will tell them when we are going to be there. We will go and have a look and try and sort out the solution for them. We never try and leave any problem unsolved. We have local electricians and technicians and they are on standby to go and help clients fix problems as soon as possible.”

Narrow-gap Segmented Transfer Plates for conveyor belts

Flexco has introduced a Segmented Transfer Plate with options from 3.8cm to 7.6cm gaps between conveyor belts. Segmented Transfer Plates prevent product and foreign object debris from jamming in the transfer, minimising product and belt damage, increasing efficiency, and eliminating downtime. This new extension to the Segmented Transfer Plate line has several unique features, allowing it to be installed into narrower gaps.

Segmented Transfer Plates are designed to cover the gap between conveyors that are positioned belt-to-belt, belt-to-chute, belt-to-roller and for power turns. Available for belt widths up to 1500 mm, the transfer plates protect packages and other products from damage, while preventing belt tears and other damage from lodged foreign objects.

“The individual segments of the Segmented Transfer Plate are designed to release under extreme pressure in the rare instance when a product momentarily lodges between the belt and the segment,” said Beth Miller, director of light-duty marketing of Flexco.  “A single segment section releases, but the remaining segment pieces remain intact and continue to protect the operational efficiencies of your customers.”

The original design featured paired segments to accommodate gap widths 100 mm-250 mm. The new, narrow-gap option accommodates 38 mm-75 mm gaps. Molded-in ribs on the segment surface reduce friction up to 10 per cent and allow packages to transition over the plates.

Segmented Transfer Plates are ideal for use in parcel sortation operations, distribution centers, fulfillment centers, warehousing and airports.

Installation of Segmented Transfer Plates is easy, with flexible mounting options that can be bolted or welded in place. Segments that snap right on to the support bar also make routine maintenance quicker and easier.

Flexco will display the products in May at MEGATRANS2018.


Automation company in prime position to take its cut of the beef boom

The keen interest from the Chinese marketplace in Australian beef has disrupted the Australian meat processing industry in more ways than one. Aside from the controversial purchasing of meat processing plants by Chinese investors, there is also the demand for huge quantities of Australian beef to feed China’s growing middle classes.

Industrial Conveying Australia (ICA) General Manager Bruce Granger said that the growing demand for Australian beef underscores the reason many in the meat processing sector were turning to automation.

“Recently we manufactured a system for a family owned and run abattoir who are seeking out opportunities in the global export market. There were two main drivers for the upgrade: meeting the biosecurity requirements for a Tier 2 export licence and increasing throughput to meet demand from the international marketplace.

“Its previous operating system relied solely on manual handling and as a result they were unable to meet the benchmarks required to export large volumes of beef overseas. It simply wasn’t possible to achieve the volume of output required.”

The challenge put to Bendigo based ICA was to manufacture a system that would significantly reduce manual handling, increase efficiency and ensure world’s best practice food safety standards were met. To meet the requirements for a Tier 2 export licence a number of stringent tests and inspections are carried out onsite by the industry governing body, and the new system had to be built with this is mind. It is particularly important to avoid contamination of raw meat, something that can easily happen when manual handling is involved.

“Biosecurity issues around food are huge and that makes Australia a desirable food source. Not only do these markets – particularly China – want clean, safe food, but they want a lot of it and they want it now,” Granger said.

He noted the growing demand for paddock to plate identification was also a consideration when designing for the meat processing sector.

“The food safety technology industry has advocated for greater traceability throughout the supply chain and automation aids this process,” he said.

In this case, the ICA designed equipment is split between the boning room and packing room. The boning room system delivers empty cartons to where the meat is processed into various cuts. The meat comes in on hanging rails as full beasts, with workers stationed on the outside of the rails manually breaking the beasts into different cuts. The cuts are placed onto the table (designed by ICA) and the boning staff then slice these pieces down into smaller bulk cuts.

The meat on the cutting tables is divided into three sections: bulk cuts of meat, good meat trim and waste trim. For example, on a full porterhouse there will be the porterhouse cut itself, a portion of trim that is good meat and a portion that is purely fat and waste. The bulk cuts of meat (such as the porterhouse) are packed into cartons which travel down the conveyor system to be packed and sent to butchers.

The tables have holes with chutes and conveyors positioned underneath to catch the trim. The boner will drop the good meat trim down one chute and the waste trim down the other. The conveyors at the bottom of the chute manoeuvre the trim to where it needs to go – good meat trim is packed for mince or similar and waste trim is disposed of.

Before this system was integrated, the staff would start work an hour earlier to stack boxes and pallets etc. This is no longer required because there are staff upstairs stacking the boxes to go in the chutes and it goes down into the conveyor system efficiently.

The possibility of a small abattoir competing with large scale meat and smallgoods manufacturers by integrating elements of automation into its operations is a testament to the technology and engineering designed by ICA.

“Previously this client relied solely on manual handling. It can be daunting for small manufacturers to invest in automation for the first time, so we designed a system within the budget and specifications provided to us that can be enhanced in the future, Granger said.

“Even without a full turnkey system this abattoir will reduce biosecurity hazards and increase throughput. This will enable them to achieve a Tier 2 export licence and meet export demand while saving money on raw materials and labour.”

Granger added that the demand for Australian beef will only grow as a result of the free trade agreement.

“We deal with many clients in the food processing sector – particularly meat and dairy. We believe these sectors will benefit significantly from the FTA. Conditions have never been better for these markets than they are now. We encourage producers who haven’t already done so to invest in automation to build their production capacity and position themselves as a supplier of choice over the next decade.”

Ammeraal Beltech acquires Australian partner Rydell

Ammeraal Beltech, a Netherlands-based developer and manufacturers of process and conveyor belting has acquired its long-standing Australian distribution partner Rydell Industrial (Belting) Co.

Based in Melbourne, Rydell has seven additional loacl branches located in Moorabbin, Victoria; Hastings, Victoria; Kings Park, New South Wales; Darra, Queensland; Darra, Queensland; Dry Creek, South Australia; and Malaga, Western Australia.

The company will operate for the time being as Rydell Beltech Pty Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ammeraal Beltech.

Current Managing Director Wayne Durdin will continue to lead the company and its existing 88 staff. He will report to Ammeraal Beltech’s Asia Pacific operations.

Jordi Crusafon, Head of Sales & Service for the EMEA and APAC regions at Ammeraal, welcomed the move.

“Rydell are solutions providers with a strong customer-focused approach, which matches perfectly the strategy of Ammeraal Beltech. We have worked together for 25 years now, so it is therefore a great pleasure to formally welcome this excellent team to our family,” he said

Conveyor Belt Systems for Sustainable Food Industry Operations

Moving food products from point to point during processing is both essential and unavoidable. 

. Conveyor belt systems make up the most important part of all installations in the food industry. Needless to say, the efficiency and sustainability of such conveyor systems is a big concern to all stakeholders in this industry as well as the State Agencies concerned.

While the manufacturers look into efficiency and sustainability as a means to cut down on production costs and increase bottom-lines, Federal and State agencies are more concerned with general energy efficiency and waste reduction with regards to impacts on the environment. It is a win-win situation that has encouraged the development of conveyor belt systems and conveyor belt scales  that promote the sustainability of various industrial operations.

1. Good Hygienic Design

A good design of the conveyors that positively promotes hygiene is going to ensure that only the highest levels of food safety are maintained. This will no doubt provide economic benefits by the mere fact that it is going to guarantee the production of high quality products. The production of high quality food products is basically self-sustainable when it comes to acceptance by the consumers.

2. Ability to be Cleaned Easily

Conveyor systems in the food industry need to be constantly cleaned for obvious reasons. If they are designed in such a way as to facilitate cleaning, and easy cleaning at that, then this will be another feature that is going to help maintain sustainable operations in this industry.

The cleaning of conveyor belt systems can be done using either the automated Cleaning-in-place features or manually. Those systems that are easy to disassemble and reassemble without the need for tools make it even easier for the components to be thoroughly cleaned.

3. Non-Fray Fabric Conveyor Belts

When it comes to the fabric conveyor belts, the ideal surface is generally smooth and homogeneous, and thus easy to clean. The no-fray or fray less fabric conveyors are ideal for the food industry since they minimize fiber contamination on the food products being conveyed. Quality can be adversely affected due to such contaminations; the end result being losses.

4. The Belt Scale

Having a belt scale along the conveyor system provides an excellent way of maintaining and monitoring accurate flow rates of materials and products. The best conveyor scales need to be accurate, dependable and also capable of repeatable operations day in and day out. With such features, wastage is kept at bay and overall production costs down.

5. Easy to Access Conveyor Belt Scales

With quick and efficient means to access the conveyor belt scales, scheduled and unscheduled maintenance and calibrations exercises for these readers will be carried out without major snarl-ups on general production. Any time that is saved during all manufacturing processes usually translates to savings in terms of resources.

6. Constructed using Quality Materials

Generally, the stainless steels provide exceptional corrosion resistance. This is one of the reasons why it is used widely in the food industry. The selection of the right grade of stainless steel for a food production conveyor system will largely depend on the intended use among other considerations. Bottom line here is that a conveyor system constructed with good quality materials will be both efficient and durable.

7. Energy Efficient

Being energy efficient is not only good for manufacturers, but also for the environment. There are those conveyor systems with energy efficiency features, such as the gravity feed that make use of the force of gravity to substitute their power at convenient points.

There are also other measures that if well implemented, can result in even more energy efficiency. Things like selecting the right size for your factory, switching the system off when not in use, ensuring that it is kept well maintained for optimum efficiency and upgrading where necessary, are all going to help save energy.

Benefits of Conveyor Belt Systems in the Food Industry

  1. Reduced Errors hence Increased Productivity

With the automation of product and material movement, not only is more of it moved round, but it is also done efficiently. With the inclusion of the conveyor scales that monitor the weights of materials and products during production, errors in ingredient quantities and package weights are virtually eliminated.

  1. Sustainably Sanitary

There are those conveyors specifically designed to recycle excess products, such as toppings in food production, an example being the pneumatic conveying system. These evidently reduce waste and hence facilitate great economic returns to the manufacturers.

  1. Easy to Setup plus Improved Safety in Operations.

Conveyor systems can be purchased and easily installed where needed. Some can actually be installed by the owners themselves and that makes the whole exercise a lot easier on the pocket. Complete automations of the conveyance process means that there will be less human contact and even lesser risk of accidents.