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Enclosed Conveyor Reduces Lost Product

March 30, 2009
PIAB’s C5602-800 conveyor

Unilever Polska S.A. recently searched for a new conveying solution to transport tea in one of its packaging facilities. “Over the years, we’ve seen an increase in high-speed solutions for conveying and packaging,” said Mariusz Gradowski, senior area engineer for Unilever Polska (Katowice, Poland). “This is tied in directly to the increased rate of changeover required for new products and packaging on the production line. Because of this, it is important that we embrace a high-speed conveying solution to replace the system currently in place.”

Thousands Lost; 100 kg of Raw Materials Dropped Each Shift

The tea was being transported in buckets by a belt conveyor over a distance of 15 m. The conveyors were also on a vertical rise of 5.5 m, reaching a capacity of 3 tn/hr.

“The belt conveyor was proving to be an inefficient solution,” said Gradowski. “It would break down approximately once a month, which was resulting in nearly a full work day of downtime that affected the entire production line and mixing shop.”

The bucket conveyor was also dropping roughly 100 kg of tea each shift. Due to this, 2% of the total product was destroyed every day, or 5250 euros worth of raw materials each month.

Another issue was dust being emitted from the open-conveying system, which created a work environment that was not as healthy as it could be for employees.

Switching to an Enclosed, High-Speed System

The company decided to work with PIAB to find a solution that would increase productivity by reducing downtime and product loss, while also improving the air quality in the facility. Unilever installed two of the company’s largest C-series conveyors, now referred to as the C56, equipped with adapters and a de-dusting system. C-series conveyors are ideal for conveying starches, powders, and other dry ingredients that are typically used in the food, pharmaceutical, and chemical industries. Powered by pneumatically driven vacuum pumps, these systems safely and quietly transport up to 10–15 tn/hr of material in virtually any manufacturing or processing environment. They are made of Type 316L AISI stainless steel and can cope with the most demanding circumstances. The filter design can trap particles down to 0.3 µm and can be equipped with a HEPA filter, which can improve the vacuum-assisted flow by 25% without affecting energy consumption.

“The PIAB solution is one that fully met our requirements,” explained Gradowski. “It’s a fast, enclosed solution that was proven to be much more reliable than the bucket conveying system.”

730,000 Euros Saved Each Year

“Since the installation, we have nearly eliminated downtime that was causing a business loss of 8400 euros each month,” said Gradowski. “Aside from eradicating machine breakdown, we also greatly
reduced our maintenance costs.”

Unilever Polska saw the biggest return on investment with the reduction of product loss—both in raw materials and end product.

“Our overall savings has been measured at almost 165,000 euros per year. This doesn’t take into account the end products that we are no longer losing,” Gradowski added. “The results would then be over 730,000 euros per year.”

A global leader in industrial vacuum technology, PIAB offers a complete line of C-series vacuum conveyors for powder and bulk applications. For more information, visit www.piab.com.