In the overall body of a processing plant, conveyors are the veins that carry the lifeblood of the facility. For a conveyor to perform at the highest level of efficiency, it must be composed of the best parts.
As it stands, a majority of food processing plants in the U.S. still use conventional gear motors in their conveyor systems. Meanwhile, technological advances have helped birth the next incarnation of this integral piece of equipment in the form of drum motors.
Despite this, gear motors remain popular because they’re perceived as being more cost-efficient — up front, many gear motors cost only a fraction of the price of drum motors. But with drum motors being more hygienic, compact and energy-efficient, they actually save companies money in the long run.
For food processing facilities looking to make the switch to drum motors, here are some factors to consider:
Traditional gear motors tend to be bulky and have exposures and crevices in their design, allowing water to seep in and bacteria to thrive. To make these motors USDA compliant, drum motor manufacturers have sealed the motor, gearbox and bearings inside a stainless steel shell. A well-designed drum motor will already come enclosed in smooth casing that is conducive to hygiene and will require minimal maintenance.
Materials are also a critical factor in equipment design. A plant’s equipment must be durable enough to withstand everyday exposure to products as well as routine sanitation programs. For example, stainless steel is popular among drum motor makers due in large part to its durability and resistance to corrosion.
The best design will be compact in order to capitalize on a facility’s space. Traditional gear motors extend beyond the belt. Not only does this add to risk of exposure, but it also reduces the number of conveyors that can be installed. Conversely, a streamlined design that fits within the confines of the conveyor system will maximize space and increase production.
Although it may seem superficial, underestimating the value of aesthetics would be a mistake. A successful transition into more modern practices includes choosing equipment that succeeds in both function and form. Beautiful design is often a hallmark associated with state-of-the-art technology.
In the long run, energy-efficient equipment will pay for itself with the money that is no longer being allocated to higher utility bills. Drum motors tend to be more energy efficient than conventional motors. Although the savings may appear insignificant, companies could potentially save thousands of dollars in energy bills annually depending on the number of drum motors housed in their factories.
Increased energy efficiency also typically means less heat is emitted from the equipment. Reducing the heat can translate into fewer expenses on air conditioning and an overall more comfortable work environment for facility workers. Another benefit for companies producing food products that are sensitive to temperature to consider is how limiting heat exposure will help maintain the integrity of the products.
Certain drum motors are also embedded with encoders that can provide data on how many rotations it makes in a given period. This will monitor throughput and can subsequently provide critical insight to increase efficiency during production.
To save time and minimize costs, drum motors should be easy to install and integrate with existing infrastructures. Drum motors typically have multiple customizable components, allowing users to tailor the new equipment according to their specific needs.
Safety, of course, is paramount. By taking the aforementioned factors into consideration when purchasing new equipment, companies can promote safety in the workplace and their products in multiple ways.
For example, hygienic materials and design will help ensure food is not compromised by external factors. Compact, enclosed motors will minimize the likelihood of employees becoming entangled with exposed gears. Energy efficiency will in turn support lower temperatures in facilities, reducing the risk of workers or products becoming overheated.
It goes without saying that food companies should be taking the necessary measures in order to be in full compliance with industry standards, such as those set by the USDA and FDA. With the increasing evolution and enforcement of food safety laws, it’s important to verify certifications drum motor manufacturers are promoting are valid and up-to-date.
Drum motors should carry a standard sealing certification, which indicates that the equipment is able to withstand wet and high-pressure washdown applications. It’s also beneficial to check whether there are warranties for the drum motor’s components and the drum motor itself.
Moving Your Company Forward
There are several factors to consider when transitioning from traditional gear motors to drum motors. While it requires proper research and budgeting, the return on investment will be significant and will extend beyond just the bottom line.
Installing the right equipment will cultivate a better workplace for employees and potentially help companies avoid risk of lawsuits, loss of sales or recalls. In addition to the inherent benefits drum motors provide in regard to food safety and equipment quality, transitioning to drum motors reduces downtime, water waste, energy consumption and the amount of chemicals used during the food manufacturing process. Finally, investing in state-of-the-art equipment such as drum motors will help underscore a company’s commitment to safety and position its executives as innovative and responsible leaders in the industry.
About the Author
Ken Ferguson has more than 20 years of sales experience, specializing in automation components and motion control systems. As the U.S. sales and marketing director of Interroll, Ken is responsible for planning and implementing product development programs to achieve corporate objectives for products and services.
The Interroll Group is a worldwide leading producer of high-quality key products and services for material handling. Interroll serves around 23,000 customers around the world, including system integrators and OEMs. Core industries are courier, parcel and postal services, airports, and food processing facilities, as well as distribution centers and other industries.
Interroll products are in daily use at well-known global brands such as Amazon, Bosch, Coca-Cola, Coop, DHL, FedEx, Peugeot, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Siemens, Walmart and Yamaha. Interroll is engaged in global research projects for logistics efficiency and actively supports industry associations in developing standards. Headquartered in Sant’Antonino, Switzerland, Interroll operates a worldwide network of 32 companies with around 2,000 employees. The Interroll Group has been listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange and included in the SPI index since 1997.