How to avoid small product losses
June 19, 2012
by Ramon Cantu, project manager, POWER Engineers
When attempting to increase overall line efficiencies and productivity, manufacturers will often focus on the low-hanging fruit or the big hitters and leave what appear to be smaller losses to others. When improving efficiencies, considerations include faster and more efficient equipment or reduction of manpower. These types of initiatives will produce the greatest change in efficiency. Smaller adjustments will produce smaller results, but when considered all together, these adjustments could yield tremendous savings.
Common reasons for small product loss include:
- Product spilling over the side of a conveyor
- Product spilling at a transition point
- An improperly operating distribution conveyor gate
- An improperly maintained statistical weigher.
Product spillage over conveyor sides
Product spillage over the conveyor sides could be the result of those sides being too short. If production rates dictate an increase in volume, then the conveyor should be resized. Product spillage could also be caused by the conveyor running too slow. Sometimes speeds are adjusted by maintenance personnel or operations staff as production requirements change; even a slight change in speed can cause variances in product levels resulting in spillage.
Gaps in conveyor transition points
Conveyor transition points can also be a source of losses. If conveyors are installed improperly, gaps might exist between transition points among conveyors resulting in product loss. Gaps are also created when conveyors are accidently bumped and moved off center during operations or during routine maintenance. Eliminating these gaps is a simple step that will minimize spillage and reduce maintenance and cleanup costs while keeping product where it belongs.
Spillage from improperly operating distribution gates
Distribution gates are another common source of product losses. Damaged gates typically result in some level of product spillage, while improper stroke lengths can compound the problem. Checking the operation and positioning of gates should be a part of your routine maintenance. Product on the floor is often an early indicator of developing operational issues associated with a problematic gate; take early action to maintain your overall production rates.
Statistical weigher maintenance
Statistical weighers have many moving parts, which need to be cleaned and maintained regularly. Mechanisms should always move freely. Mechanisms can become sticky from the product itself, or they can become damaged during the cleaning and sanitation process. In addition, improperly functioning buckets can cause overweights and inconsistencies that prevent you from optimizing the profitability of your lines. You must take care to ensure statistical weighers and all of their moving parts are working as intended.
Small product losses are easy to spot. Product on the floor is a dead giveaway and a simple flag that something is wrong. Simply put, if the product is going on the floor, it is not going in the package and you are losing sales. There may be only a small amount of product lost in any one location, but the cumulative effect can result in large losses. If a half pound of product is lost every hour at ten different locations, the result is a loss of 5 lb per hour or 120 lb per day, which translates into substantial dollar losses that impact line efficiencies and your overall line ROI.
My advice? Do not ignore the crumbs on the floor — seek out solutions to the small product losses.
This story is sponsored by POWER Engineers, which has one of the most comprehensive teams of engineers and specialists serving the baking and snack industry. As an extension of its clients' engineering teams, the company provides program management, integrated solutions and full facility design for the baking and snack industry. Learn more at www.powereng.com/food.