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.”

Flexibility achieved with MODU System conveyors

MODU System was established more than two decades ago in Singapore based on the concept of modular and flexible products to meet the ever-increasing demand for conveyors and automation systems.

MODU straight beams, support structures and bend sections are made of various re-assembled components enabling these conveyors to be easily installed, reconfigured and realigned.

They are flexible and can be extended or shortened within a small time-frame by using standard hand-held tools.

All MODU conveyor standard parts are made of lightweight materials, such as aluminium alloy and engineered plastics designed to precision tolerances for a good fit.

MODU Conveyors are available in both aluminium and stainless-steel options.

MODU System provides a range of plastic chain conveyor systems with chain width sizes of 63mm, 83mm, 140mm and 220mm and belt width sizes of 315mm, 438mm and 585mm. Standard chain and belt material is PolyOxyMethylene (POM). Other available materials include Kevlar, Anti-static POM and Polypropylene (PP).

MODU’s spiral conveyors are manufactured and designed to be reliable, flexible and easy to operate. The MODU Automatic Lubrication System (ALS) and Chain Tension Adjustment System makes the spiral conveyor easy to maintain.

MODU Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) is a modern and modular mobile robot that can automatically navigate and transport materials from one location to another. It is suitable for manufacturing, textile, automotive, food and beverage, warehousing, hospital and many more industries.

MODU, together with its robotic supplier, is able to design and roll out customised robotic and palletising system solutions across all industries in Australia.

Twin-track pallets assembly solutions are designed to convey pallets/slave board from one process or assembly station to another. Based on MODU’s modular system, the twin track design offers customers plug-and-play solutions with flexible configure options.

The MODU Gripper system is flexible and lightweight, easy to install and compact, saving precious factory space. It comes in many gripping options suitable for all products. Quick change over time by incorporating adjustable crank system and digital adjustment readout.

Finally, the MODU elevator system features quick access maintenance touch panel, comprehensive guiding, universal mounts for any type of infeed and outfeed conveyor, continuous flow elevating with no reciprocating action, available in multiple heights, capacities and payload sizes as well as space saving.