The series and service changing food manufacturing

From meat mincing to bakery packaging, Bonfiglioli’s A, W/VF and EP gearbox series have a multitude of uses in food manufacturing. Here’s why.

Creating parts for food and beverage production is no easy feat. Hygiene concerns, machinery life and continuous quality assurances are all factors that every supplier must grapple with.

For industrial machine supplier, Bonfiglioli, who has been operating and refining its product creations for the past half century, it knows every product it produces is high quality.

A popular gearbox offering for the food industry is the A series, which feature bevel-heavy gear boxes and the W/VF Series, which feature worm right-angle gear boxes. Both boxes can be equipped with BX motors, which are a Bonfiglioli-specific motor that is also new to the market. The A series gearmotors offers torque range of 100Nm to 14,000Nm where W/VF offers 13Nm to 7,100Nm which can extend up to 9,200Nm with pre-stage units.

But beside these technical specs, the gearboxes maintain Bonfiglioli’s standards of reliability.

Gearbox for life

According to Harry Singh, NSW sales manager of Bonfiglioli, each and every gearbox up to size 40 are sealed for life and filled with high quality synthetic oil. The benefits of using synthetic oil includes doubling the gearbox’s life compared to the industry standard mineral gear oils, which is half the price.

“The only gearboxes we don’t use synthetic oil in is in our mining gearboxes,” said Singh. “But this is because mineral oil is more accessible on mine sites and maintenance are performed quite frequently as compared to general industrial applications.”

The gearboxes are also sealed for life which, according to Singh, means that they require no maintenance for its entire life cycle, even if its run 24/7, 365 days a year – a dream come true for many food producers.

The lifecycle is designed dependent on the customers’ specifications, with the gearbox expected to last the given life expectancy needed at a minimum.

Alongside these two favourite gearboxes is the EP Series, which is a gearbox designed specifically for the food and beverage market’s high hygiene needs.

In the EP Series, each gearbox is closed with special sealant and coated with a two-pack epoxy paint. These types of paints and sealants are non-corrosive, with the output shaft consisting of AISI316 stainless steel material.

“The benefits of this occur during wash downs,” said Singh. “For example, at a meat factory a butcher will wash the machine at the end of every day. When they wash Bonfiglioli’s EP gear box, the water doesn’t stay on the gearbox due to the unique design of the housing– it slides right off through the discharge holes. Even if they use bleach or a chemical, it won’t harm the gearbox or its coating due to the high-quality epoxy painting protecting the surface.”

What’s inside the gearbox is also equally as important. Unlike the A and W series, which only contain synthetic oil, the EP series contains food-grade oil at the top of the gearbox.

As the EP gearbox is designed to be close to food processes where hygiene is critical, the food-grade oil ensures an extra safety measure if any exposure to food products occurs. EP gearboxes are fully sealed to minimise the contamination of the environment, thanks to the double lip oil seals with stainless steel frame to achieve this.

This type of gearbox is commonly found in the baking industry where raw materials run alongside the gearbox before they are packaged. These gearboxes are, however, applicable across the entire food industry; moving from biscuits and baking, they can also be used in mincing meat and packaging sausages.

In these industries, it is common for meat to be processed and packaged using two separate gearboxes that apply different volumes of force. In the first stages, the meat is ground into smaller pieces and mixed with the butcher’s choice of local herbs and spices. Here, the force is radially and axially applied, due to the wide range of formats, such as frozen or thawing, that the meat could be processed in. From there, it pushed by another gearbox, which applies axial forces to fill the meat into its casings or packaging.

“When we designed the gearbox, we made sure we considered the worst situation, so the service factor is quite high before we select the product for the machine,” explained Singh.

“This is just one example of the many uses for our gearboxes though,” said Singh. “The raw material, which is ground, can be from any food and beverage sector. Some people use the same gearbox to mix, but it’s just the size and accessories changing between each food product.”

Each machine has the ability to conform to customers’ needs making it the answer to almost every problem in the food and beverage manufacturing. Bonfiglioli prides itself in the process behind the scenes and the around the clock service it provides.

Support on every level 

“The delivery times of the A and W series is five to seven working days, and in case of a breakdown we’ll have it out to you within 24 hours,” said Singh.

According to Singh, every department, facility and branch within Bonfiglioli has an after-sales market department. This means that across the world, if a Bonfiglioli machine breaks down, a local designated service person will always be able to make the trip out to help.

“We can provide any information about the gearbox, from product serial numbers to support maintenance,” said Singh. With 14 production facilities, 21 branches globally and 150 distribution partners, this level of service is one to be reckoned with.

Bonfiglioli’s machinery are built for scalability and integration.

“It’s common for us to bring the OEMs to the factory, so we know what the demand is, what the market is and the kind of clients their dealing with,” said Singh. “We usually have a quarterly discussion with our customers and OEMs to discuss these factors, then we can go from there.”

Putting it all together

All Bonfiglioli products are available locally and pre-stocked months in advance. On average, Bonfiglioli stock levels for parts sits between eight to ten million across both Australian and New Zealand shelves. With assembly occurring in Australia itself, products can be tailored to specific customer requirements.

An example is Bonfiglioli’s invertors that go alongside the gearboxes. Produced by acquired German brand Bonfiglioli Vectron, Bonfiglioli creates its own invertors from high-quality German material. From there, they are shipped to Australia where they are applied to gearmotors locally.

In this way, said Singh, Bonfiglioli is one-stop shop, able to manufacture entire ranges, with international parts, all based on customer needs.

With last year’s pandemic impacting supply chains globally, how did Bonfiglioli fare?

“The effect of COVID was minimum, to be honest,” said Singh. “We planned ahead. Even now we’re planning for 2022. That’s a company standard ­– planning 12 months ahead. This is a big task, which is why we increased stock level dramatically in the past 18 months.”

According to Singh, Bonfiglioli wanted to ensure they could supply all their Australian and international consumers uninterrupted supply as they started to grow again.

“Our lead times haven’t changed, and our services haven’t changed,” Singh said. “We just want to improve the market with the products we have and give the customers the latest technology they can rely on and a product they can trust.”

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