Choosing the right conveyor for bulk bakery ingredients
There are many bulk material handling equipment solutions to solve processing challenges faced by bakery manufacturers. Chris Brennan from Spiroflow highlights some available options for processors using bulk bakery ingredients.
Inflated labour costs, operational errors, cross-contamination and concerns over workers’ health has safety, has seen the bakery sector introduce increased levels of specialist equipment and automation to provide more efficient handling solutions.
Before advancements in technology, ingredient receiving and transferring to various stages of the production process was done manually; nowadays there is a wide variety of bulk material handling equipment available to solve many of the processing challenges faced by bakery manufacturers.
Here are some of the options available, together with an insight on testing and monitoring of your ingredient handling equipment.
Flexible screw conveyors
Certain bakery products lend themselves more to automated bulk handling solutions than others. Whereas minor ingredients are typically handled manually or via microdosing systems installed to improve the scaling accuracy of micro and minor ingredients, the movement in bulk of flour and sugar for example, can present a number of production challenges, making them more suitable for an automated conveying solution, such as a flexible screw or aero-mechanical conveyors.
Flour, due to its many variations, can also present a series of issues such as hygiene, dust containment, blending and batching. A flexible screw conveyor, having only one moving part – the spiral – constantly remixes as it conveys making it ideal for conveying flour. Depending on what type of flour is being used will depend on which spiral will be most suitable, however, for standard flours the round screw would work best.
The flexible screw spiral in the tube will rotate round and can convey the flour as a mass even at an angle. This type of conveyor works particularly well on products such as flour where degradation is not an issue. Most flexible screw conveyors can come with a drop out trap, quick release flanges and a reverse bung for cleaning which helps to make it a very hygienic flour conveyor.
In practice, iconic biscuits and crackers brand, Jacob’s Bakeries Ltd, use a flexible screw conveyor to feed bags of brown flour directly into their mixer, helping to keep their manufacturing process reliably fed.
Powdered sugar can also cause challenges as it is being conveyed due to it being highly flammable and explosive. It is therefore critical that a conveyor system is selected to eliminate this risk and that measures are taken in line with the European ATEX Directive.
Furthermore, powdered sugar tends to pack and cake as it is conveyed so further flow aids may be necessary to help with the discharging process.
Granulated sugar, on the other hand, is an abrasive material. This means the conveyor must be capable of withstanding the wear that the sugar will create as it grates against the sides of the conveyor. Just like powdered sugar, granulated sugar is highly combustible and potentially explosive and will ignite at high temperatures.
It is essential, therefore, that any conveyor is designed to prevent dust emissions and static buildup while also eliminating any possible source of ignition. The flexible screw works well with combustible materials as it is always full of product, preventing an explosive atmosphere.
Sugar is a hygroscopic material, meaning it will absorb any moisture it comes into contact with. Flow aids to ensure complete discharge of the sugar from the conveying system may additionally be required.
An alternative to the flexible screw conveyor is the aero-mechanical conveyor, which creates an airstream that moves the product up the tubes along with high-speed discs and a rope. Flour is conveyed in the air stream created by the rope and discs in the tube where the product is handled gently.
This conveyor is a great choice for conveying flour because any dust created during conveying will be contained within the conveyor, thereby reducing the risk of explosions caused by static build-up and the conveyors can be ATEX compliant.
This conveyor is airtight, runs quietly and with minimal energy, which also makes it a superior choice for conveying larger volumes of sugar. Providing a more gentle conveying option, it is perfect for products like sugar that require minimal degradation.
An aero-mechanical conveyor provides a range of operational benefits when manufacturers are looking to minimise product spillage and possible product contamination, as well as increase equipment ‘cleanability’ and operator productivity.
Bulk Bakery Ingredients Product testing
In selecting the right conveyor for bulk bakery ingredients, a good product test is crucial to ensure that the right choice is made and any future misapplication issues in the field can potentially be avoided.
Look for conveyor suppliers with a materials testing laboratory and machine test facilities, which should be equipped with a complete range of conveyors, as well as bulk bag fillers and bulk bag unloaders. A good testing facility will provide comprehensive scientific product analysis on bulk solids or powder, such as the bulk density and particle size.
Ideally, a product should be tested if one or more of the following applies:
- A conveyor or machine is being purchased that hasn’t been used before or a new product is being used on an old system. Not all materials behave the same way on different conveyors. To ensure that the correct conveyor type is being purchased for a product, a test will show how it behaves
- A product is characterised as ‘difficult to handle’. If it is friable, sticky, hygroscopic or that tends to cake or pack, this can be difficult to handle
- A new machine supplier is being used for the first time. Any reputable seller of conveying, discharging and unloading equipment will recommend having a materials trial to avoid any issues with the application
- A certain throughput needs to be achieved. If so, it is advisable that the machine is tested to provide an accurate determination of the actual throughput expected.
Testing should be conducted for the following:
- Blending and mixing – segregation of blends and mixes can be a problem in conveying, so a test can assess how or if a product will segregate
- Rate of flow – ingredients can vary greatly in their flow characteristics. Some ingredients will pack or cake whereas others tend to fluidise when moved. Machine testing will help to determine the flow of a material
- Particle properties – bulk solid bakery ingredients can vary greatly in their particle composition and size, shape and density so understanding the characteristics of a product is a key component of equipment design and choice.
Given that manufacturers base their profitability on having an accurate, high quality and reliable production output, clearly it is imperative that automated material handling equipment is well maintained and monitored – if a machine stops working in the middle of a shift and there are no critical spare parts on-site, long delays can occur which can be expensive.
Manufacturers are therefore increasingly turning to remote monitoring to provide them the ability to collect and analyse data from their machines and develop a program for predictive maintenance, as well as pinpointing potential operational bottlenecks.
Remote monitoring is not just about machine efficiency, is also has clear health and safety benefits. Workplace safety is essential to achieving optimal operation, avoiding substantial production interruptions and most importantly, protecting employees.
It can provide site-wide visibility of equipment, allowing management to view key indicators in not only production, but also in safety compliance by being able to spot possible safety gaps in their process.
This an insight on just two pieces of conveying equipment, but there are many other pieces of ingredient handling equipment, such as tubular cable drag conveyors, drag chain conveyors, bulk bag fillers, bulk bag unloaders (super sack unloaders), loss-in-weight or gain-in-weight systems, and custom processing solutions, to name but a few.
For any bakery manufacturer looking to invest in materials handling automation, the key to purchasing the right tools for the job lie in testing and finding an experienced supplier, who can provide appropriate professional support and advice.
Leading manufacturer of dry ingredients conveying and bulk bag handling, Spiroflow, is offering businesses a supply chain cost benefit by including foil or plastic bag liners within their woven bulk bags.
Working closely with leading bag liner suppliers, Spiroflow’s bulk bag filler equipment can now integrate these liners, which, following a nitrogen purge and heat sealing process, can significantly extend product shelf life. The innovative solution will be of particular interest to producers of nuts, seeds, coffee beans, dried fruits or any manufacturers in the pharmaceutical or chemical sectors who could benefit from extended product storage.
Commenting on the initiative, Spiroflow’s James Podevyn, said: “Traditionally when bag filling, the bag would be inflated with air before filling commences. Filling it with nitrogen instead eliminates any oxygen within the bag and after fill the bag can be left inflated or vacuumed, then heat sealed, thereby no air can get in or out. Bacteria feeds on oxygen so by removing it, products can last longer and shelf life will be increased.
“The foil or plastic bag liner could be used with any bulk bag filling construction we make and the customer may choose the perfect, bespoke bag for their product, enabling us to build the equipment to meet their exact requirement. This enhanced bag process could benefit any product that has a shelf life, is affected by contact to air, or is hygroscopic in nature. The scope of uptake may well go beyond the food and pharmaceutical industries and we are excited to see how this process solution can innovate a breadth of businesses.”
Spiroflow offer two types of bulk bag fillers. The C Series fillers, for low to medium volume applications, has a modular construction which has the capability to be scaled up from a basic set-up, to be modified when a change in production requirements demands it. The Cone Table Elite (CTE) Bulk Bag Filler has a densification system that can increase bag stability and filling quantity suited to high volume filing or where considerable densifying is needed. By increasing the densification, the cost of shipping is reduced as the bags can be filled with more product, thereby increasing cost efficiency. By increasing the stability of the bags they become safer to handle and to ship which could reduce costs.
Spiroflow designs powder handling systems, including specialised conveyors and bulk bag handling equipment for the food, chemical, mineral, pharmaceutical and other process industries. Spiroflow also manufactures Aero Mechanical Conveyors, Tubular Cable and Drag Chain Conveyors, Vacuum Conveyors, Bulk Bag Fillers, Ingredients Handling and Weighing Systems. The company’s technical and engineering expertise has led to it developing an international reputation for an unrivalled range of products with state-of-the-art control systems.
Watch the Spiroflow Bulk Bag Filler video below:
A Guide to Choosing a Bulk Bag Filler
Before selecting a particular bulk bag filler, some key factors need to be considered. This not only helps to assess a customer’s own particular needs but also assists our design engineers in determining the optimum system for those needs.
Q. How do we handle the bulk bag?
A. By pallet or by the bag loops.
Q. What bag style and size do we use?
A. At this stage, you should consult both the bag manufacturer and Spiroflow. The bag needs to optimize all its volume for safe storage and transport
Q. How do we contain dust?
A. An inflatable neck seal effectively contains the dust during filling. All our filling heads have an inner product flow and an outer annulus for dust evacuation. A dust extraction port is also included.
Q. Will the equipment need to be grounded?
A. If the area poses an explosion risk, static dissipative or groundable bags may be recommended together with a suitable static monitoring device.
Q. Do we need a bag liner?
A. If the product is very fine, you probably will, to prevent leakage or moisture ingress. However, various alternatives can be used such as coated bags or special bag seams. The liner must be inflated correctly to avoid creasing and subsequent discharge problems.
Q. Is your product highly aerated? Do you have problems producing upright, stable bags?
A. Usually, yes. Vibration at the base of the unit deaerates and compacts the product to optimize the bag volume and form a safe and stable load. The CTE bulk bag filler uses our patented Cone Table densification for highly aerated powders.
Q. Is automatic loop release and height adjustment available?
A. Automatic loop release is available but height adjustment is not offered on the CS Base Filler the C-Series & CTE bulk bag fillers offer height adjustment. Yes, automatic loop release of filled bags is a useful labor-saving option for pallet loaded bags. Powered height adjustment is also recommended if different sized bulk bags are being filled in order to speed up the filling process.
Q. Can the equipment be adapted to fill other containers?
A. Yes. Spiroflow supplies a range of options for filling rigid bins, drums, and boxes/octabins.
With an almost unlimited combination of filler designs, features and upstream equipment from which to choose, specifiers have the ability to tailor bulk bag filling systems according to capacity requirements, expandability, safety concerns, plant hygiene considerations, ancillary filling needs, upstream equipment and sanitary standards. While numerous available options can complicate the selection process, they can also yield a highly efficient and cost effective solution to any given filling problem, providing that fundamental steps are taken to evaluate equipment against precise requirements.
Get in Touch
In conclusion – before you purchase your next bulk bag filling machine consider these questions to ensure you get the right filler for your application. At Spiroflow we offer a wide range of machinery and we can conduct trials in our test facilities to give you an objective opinion about what will work best for your application. You can contact us by filling in our Contact Us form here.
Conveyors vs. Forklift Trucks – Reduce Manual Handling
What is the best way to move material across your business? Are you using a forklift truck to move your products? A conveyor system may be a better solution for you!
The forklift truck is one of the most common methods of moving product, especially in bulk bags, across the factory floor. This is because it is considered an efficient and low-cost method of moving things around facilities. However, when you consider the cost implications that are attached to hazards caused by forklifts they become less attractive price wise.
Hazards can include; damage to other equipment, damage to the product, injuries to the driver, injuries to other members of staff and unbalanced loads can tip over. With human error being the biggest contributor to hazards on factory floors, switching to a conveyor system to move your product will reduce manual handling and improve productivity! If this sounds like a win-win then a conveyor could be the choice for you!
A conveyor system won’t be late to work, will not take a sick day and can move your product efficiently, gently and hygienically. At Spiroflow we have one of the largest ranges of conveyor systems in our industry so we can fit the right type of conveyor to suit your application. We won’t just sell you one type of conveyor because that is all we make – we will sell you a solution that works!
Testing Your Product
All testing at Spiroflow is free and you can request a materials test whether you are a new or existing customer. All our tests are carried out by qualified engineers and are intended to accurately reflect the conditions under which you will be using the equipment. We have a wide variety of equipment is our test bay so we want to simulate the conditions under which your material will be conveyed and we then provide you with a comprehensive report containing the results of the test. All of this is to help us provide you with the best possible bulk material handling solution.
Flexible Screw Conveyors
The flexible screw conveyor uses a spiral inside a tube to convey the product up the tube and even around corners. This conveyor is perfect for maintaining a continuous blend as the spiral constantly remixes as it conveys.
Flexible screw conveyors require very little maintenance with wear typically occurring when conveying abrasive products or if the tube is excessively bent. They can also be easily cleaned with an operator simply running it in reverse to empty material into a receptacle. FSCs can be stripped down in a few minutes and usually have an optional quick release and hygienic fitting to aid clean down. The screw can be removed from the tube so smooth surfaces can be cleaned and visually inspected.
In summary, flexible screw conveyors require little maintenance, are cost-effectively installed, dust-free and can convey a vast variety of dry material, hot or cold. This makes them an ideal choice for companies looking to invest in a low-cost mechanical conveying system.
This conveyor operates with evenly spaced discs traveling at speed which creates an air stream to convey the product along with the discs. This is one of the most efficient ways of conveying a fragile material such as coffee beans as it carefully conveys the product and reduces the risk of damage. It is also ideal for powders as it is completely dust free. It is easy to clean and made of stainless steel so it reduces flavor cross-contamination if it is used for different batches of material.
Tubular Drag With A Cable And Disc
The tubular drag conveyor also operates with a cable and disc, but unlike the aeromechanical conveyor which uses airflow, this conveyor drags the product along inside a tube. Hence why it is called a drag conveyor. This conveyor is also an excellent choice for conveying fragile materials as it is gentle so does not destroy the product during the conveying process. It is extremely hygienic, easy to clean, a totally enclosed system and with our rope tensioner or DART the cable life can be extended which will reduce breakdown costs.
Tubular Drag With A Chain And Disc
This operates in a similar way to the cable and disc drag conveyor except the cable is replaced with a heavy duty chain. It is more suited to hazardous materials or for outside applications where a more robust conveyor is required.
Want to find out more?
If you would like more information on how a conveyor system could help you reduce manual handling and improve efficiency then get in touch via our Contact Us Form today!