Food Conveyor System Project in Atlanta GA
Industry: Sausage Packaging Facility in Atlanta Georgia
Challenge: Upgrade outdated meat packing/packaging process to increase safety and sanitation plus meet sudden high productivity demand.
Solution: Custom-built conveyor system with a “through-the-wall” renovation to make a distinct separation between meat handling and packaging.
Equipment: Integrated Hytrol Gravity Roller and Benda Conveyor with Habasit Modular Belt
Our sausage packing client in Georgia saw a 300% increase in their workload due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With that increased workload came incredible challenges:
- What do you do when the size of the facility and current equipment can not accommodate the sudden 3X increase on demand?
- How do you help workers handle safe social distancing when the current operation is crammed into one room?
Triple the Sausage. Triple the Challenge.
“That was the challenge. Safety, space, efficiency,” says AEC Conveyor Specialist Charlie Williamson.
“The sudden increase in demand made the current work area inefficient. Everybody was bumping into each other. The entire process, packing sausage then packaging it for delivery, was happening in one room.”
“It was all arms and elbows, with everyone trying to squeeze around one another while carrying boxes full of sausage.”
Then, someone at the meat processing company had an incredibly clever idea; they called on Charlie Williamson and AEC for help.
The Hole Solution
The solution? Cut a hole in the wall, then use conveyor systems to bring empty boxes in and full boxes out of the packing area.
“This was huge for them,” says Williamson.
“The old way worked fine over the past 30 years, but now they have this dramatically increased volume, while also trying to do social distancing.”
“The newly designed system not only provided a more efficient workflow, but it also spread the workers apart in different rooms while reducing the number of people needed for the process. It’s a win-win-win.”
Though space was incredibly tight due to a building column and the rooms had a 10-inch difference in elevation, Williamson was still able to plan and execute the new conveyor system design.
- The first conveyor brings in carts filled with empty boxes. The boxes are then taken to flow-wrap machines that wrap the sausage into individual packages.
- Once wrapped, the sausages move to a specialized Benda conveyor system with a Habasit belt. This custom-built system utilizes a higher class of cleanliness made especially for food-safe contact.
- Then fully packed boxes are fed through a semi-automatic taper machine and sent down a Hytrol gravity roller conveyor to packaging.
At this point, they’re ready to be palletized and loaded – far away from the sausage packing process.
“We’ve taken the packaging process out of the room, creating a cleaner food handling environment. More efficient climate control is also achieved as the new layout eliminated the use of an overhead door which let out the cold air.”
“There’s now complete separation of two different types of work functions,” says Williamson.
Increased Efficiency and Reduced Labor Cost
Thanks to the clever idea of feeding product and packaging through the wall, as well as AEC’s ability to design and execute custom conveyor systems, our client is looking at increased efficiency, safety, and reduced labor costs.
“There’s a term we have in our industry we call ‘Goods-to-Person.’ That means you use conveyors to bring the work to the operator – eliminating walking time and manual crate lifting,” says Williamson.
Due to the new layout, fewer people were needed for the process which drastically reduced labor costs.
“Now they have conveyors doing all the work, allowing operators to stand in one place and concentrate on their value-added work. And it’s absolutely safer because workers are no longer fighting for the same space.”
Add in the social distancing that will now take place since the conveyors are doing all the work, and the benefits soar. As Charlie says—dirt stays out, cold air stays in.
“I would expect a 50% decrease in labor and a 90% improvement in temperature control and cleanliness,” says Williamson.