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The increasing use of overhead conveyor systems in modern food plants.

The demand for ever increasing output from European food processing plants has resulted in their widespread adoption of conveyor systems of all types. In addition, the tightening of hygiene regulations have imposed stringent requirements on all suppliers of equipment and machinery used in the handling and processing of food and beverages.

There are various areas of conveying in which significant advances have recently been made. Amongst the companies in the forefront of these developments is Stewart Gill & Co. Limited, who, along with their partner company Schierholz of Bremen, Germany, have supplied all Stainless Steel Overhead Conveyor Systems rather than the galvanised or plated conventional systems for use in the poultry, salad and processed meat industries. Examples of these systems are described:-

Application 1


After primary processing the birds require handling in the most hygienic conditions and recently, the weighing, air chilling, portioning and packing departments of a major UK poultry processing factory were refitted with 5,000 metres of 'Cleantrack' Overhead Conveyors, conveying single birds at speeds up to 24m/min, and manufactured in high quality stainless steel. By using 304 stainless steel fabricated assemblies, together with well proven acetal trolley straps and rollers with stainless steel bearings, the highest degree of corrosion resistance, and consequently the highest level of hygiene, were achieved.

The requirements for poultry conveyors to be thoroughly hosed down with powerful cleaning agents at the end of each working shift places enormous demands upon the materials of their construction. The use of stainless steel and plastics gives the optimum combination of hygiene and durability. On line weighing and selection of birds is also a feature of these systems enabling quantities, gross and net yields and grades to be recorded. Similarly demanding conditions exist within the maturation processes in poultry plants. Here, birds are typically stored for 6-8 hours on specially designed 80 bird 2000kgs capacity maturation carriers; suspended from overhead safety Twintracks. Stainless steel is used throughout for the carriers, frames, trolleys, overhead tracks and supporting steelwork. The trolley rollers, which allow free manual movement of the maturation carriers, are manufactured from filled nylon with fully sealed stainless steel bearings, and typically maturation systems have a capacity of 50,000 to 100,000 birds in storage.

Application 2


A unique means of handling high volume salad ingredients was provided from the German company Vita Gemuse of Reutlingen. Four mixing and packing lines needed to be fed from seven loading lines with a daily requirement of 55,000kgs of salad ingredients. An essential requirement of the processing company was that the floor needed to be kept clear for processing machinery.

Additionally, food hygiene requirements dictated that the electrical elements of the system should permit water jet cleaning. Full computer control of the system was required.

In order to meet all of the above requirements, a Schierholz type 324 Power and Free Overhead Conveyor System, in stainless steel was chosen. The electrical systems were protected to IP65, and the whole system was under control of a Siemens 150 system.

The system functioned, as follows:

In loading station a carrier is located on an overhead conveyor weighing track section where it is loaded. The weighing unit switches the loading conveyor belt off in accordance with the preset data and signals the measure weight to the system control for the record. The control passes the information on to the higher level commercial computer.

After loading, the carrier leaves the loading station and runs automatically into one of the two buffer storage tracks.

From this intermediate buffer store, individual carriers are called to one of the destination stations on the basis of their Article Number (up to 50 different article numbers per day). These calls are initiated by the commercial computer via the system control. After this sorting run, carriers with Article Number which are not required at the moment are routed back into a storage track.

At an automatic dropping position, the tub, which is pivot mounted in the transport hanger of the carrier, is turned upside down (180 degrees) by a stationary rotating device, and after a pause of 10 seconds it is turned back again.

After the tube has been emptied, the carrier again enters the main circuit and is transported to the washing plant. Once washed it is again ready to pick up a new load.

The conveyor system contains 19 automatic and 3 manual dropping stations (load is dropped at the push of a button) as well as a vertical track lift.

Application 3


As part of the highly automated manufacture of smoked sausage products, Co-op Industrie AG of Oldenbury adopted a Schierholz overhead conveyor system for the transport of sausage meats through smoking and maturation chambers. With a total conveyor length of 1360m, this system carries 660 loaded carriers, each weighing 400kgs. The fact that the loads are suspended allows free air circulation in the controlled climate rooms.

This complete process is controlled and directed by a computerised 'Operations Organiser' System, which logs and controls all movements, and responds to current production and despatch requirements.

It can be seen from the varied examples that the Food Industry places the utmost reliance on well engineered, hygienic and thoroughly reliable conveyor systems designed for the duty and conditions experienced in the industry, and with the ability to be controlled by, or communicate with, computer management systems.

Stewart Gill Conveyors and Process Plant 87/89 Farnham Road, Slough, Berks. SL14UN England. Tel: (0753) 575115 Fax: (0753) 692322
COPYRIGHT 1993 Food Trade Press Ltd.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Food Trade Review
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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