The Food Manufacturing Brainstorm features industry
experts sharing their perspectives on issues critical
to the overall food industry marketplace. In this issue, we ask:
What are the latest trends in conveying related
Crystal Willey, Director of Market and Business Development,
to the food industry?
Cambridge Engineered Solutions
There are several trends we’re seeing among manufacturers in key food processing categories where conveyor belts are commonly used. Many larger companies are shutting down smaller plants and making significant capital investments in regional “mega” plants. When our customers build these new plants, they are
looking to install lines with conveyors and belts that are wider, faster and capable of increased throughput to
make up for what was produced at the smaller plants.
Changes are also occurring with packaging processes. Many of our customers are getting away from containers and moving toward pouches. Belts must still support and move product along the line, but they need
to be as open as possible so the pouches can be cooled, chilled or frozen.
Manufacturers of all sizes are looking at their floor footprint and applying the latest Manufacturing Footprint Optimization concepts to develop unique solutions that allow them to push as much product as possible out the door. Bakeries,
in particular, are investing in cageless spiral systems that can be built around plant columns to maximize previously unusable space.
Increasingly, customers are looking for belts that don’t require a lot of maintenance. Whether it’s the system or the belt
itself, they are more conscious about quality and they want belts that are easy to clean so they don’t need to be removed.
With increased automation and reduced labor resources, no one wants a belt that only lasts a week. As a result, we’re
finding that manufacturers are willing to invest more on the front end to purchase higher quality belt products.
For a time, plastic belts were popular because they were lower in cost, but there has been a real resurgence in metal
belts. Much of it pertains to concerns with bacteria entrapment and product contamination. Plastic belts often need to
be removed and soaked overnight. With stainless belts, you can use a high-pressure wash with chemicals to easily clean
them. Metal belts also work well for plants that process multiple types of food products.
Jim Paulsen, Sales/Account Manager, Multi-Conveyor
Sanitation is the top trending conversation in building conveyors for the food industry. Staying ahead of the
requirements that the food industry dictates is key to developing sustainable designs that can work across
various food manufacturing segments.
Varying degrees of sanitation are required at different locations in process and packaging lines. It is neces-
sary to match those specific sanitation requirements with cost-effective designs for a particular application.
Understanding whether it will be clean-in-place, clean-out-of-place, how often cleaning takes place, and the
chemicals and temperatures involved all are considered when choosing designs, materials and components
to be used. Complicating the desire for open, easily cleanable designs is the safety aspect for operators and
mechanics that come in to contact with the equipment. Often the sanitary design and safety requirements
seem incompatible and it is left to the conveyor manufacturer to comply with both groups’ specifications.
The ever-present trends to go faster and increase reliability must also be considered. Increased throughput and the elim-
ination of waste and downtime are essential in providing a quality conveying system to the customer. New product-carrying
belts and chains and materials for wear parts must add to the performance criteria of a project, but must also meet guide-
lines for materials acceptable in the food industry while being resistant to chemicals used in cleaning and sanitation.
Ultimately the industry must trend towards conveyors that are cleaner, safer, faster, more reliable and technologically
advanced to meet the needs of the food industry segment of the business. Often times all of those characteristics are
required of each conveyor.