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Caernarfon Creameries - Go Over The Top To Deliver

10-Oct 2008 - Press Release

Specialist dairy product manufacturer, South Caernarfon Creameries Ltd of Pwllheli, recently awarded Astec Conveyors a £270k contract to design, manufacture, install and commission a complete conveying system to transfer blocks of cheese, vacuum packed in film or wrap around corrugated cases, from their hillside production plant down to a new purpose built cool store some 300 metres away. Because of the terrain, this was a challenging project as it necessitated products being transported externally through a totally enclosed conveyor system mounted on platforms and walkways, over the dairy building, avoiding site services, crossing a road and spanning a river, prior to feeding into the new cheese reception area.

Factory Manager of South Caernarfon Creameries, Mr. Paul Jones commented, "Previous to the new system, the fresh cheeses from production were transported by lorry to the opposite side of the factory site, involving internal transport, double handling and additional labour. Therefore, in order to improve efficiencies and provide optimum hygienic operating conditions, we approached a number of materials handling companies to tender for the project.

Astec Conveyors were chosen because they offered a complete package - design, manufacture, installation and project management in-house. This gave them control of the whole project from start to finish, and this in turn gave us the confidence of a "one-stop" solution.

We think Astec offered the best solution for our needs, and took the time to plan for the future maintenance and life of the system. They were prepared to look at options and evaluate them, rather than try to push us down a particular road that suited them. All things considered, they provided an excellent package, delivered on time to the agreed costs".

New Hygienic Cheese Conveying System

With so many third parties involved from planning authorities, architects, civil engineers, etc. it was essential that Astec Conveyors took full responsibilities for Project Management to ensure minimum disruption to ongoing business and co-ordinate site operations to complete the project on time and within budget.

Corrugated cases or vacuum sealed packs of 20 kilogram blocks of warm cheese are fed onto the conveying system at a rate of 3 cases per minute. Products discharged from the packaging machine are inspected for open flaps then either transferred onto the main conveyor system or are routed straight on to a reject line for securing and returning to the system.

The exterior conveyor is designed so that the side frames and underguarding form part of a totally enclosed watertight stainless steel tunnel, with strategically placed windows for visual inspection and checking of system functionality. The conveyor is located on an overhead 6m high galvanised platform and walkway 1.5m wide (supplied as part of the contract) to facilitate safe and quick access to the system for maintenance purposes. This construction is capable of spanning 15m, unsupported and therefore, avoided ground level disruption having to remove obstructions, and assist in spanning the driveway and river separating the existing buildings from the new cold store.

The conveyor supports are also manufactured from food quality non-corrosive stainless steel, with modular plastic belting being preferred to provide smooth transfer of "soft to handle" product. This medium also offers greater stability in handling products of various temperatures and avoids tracking problems.

Packs are conveyed via a series of modular belt conveyors to the manual stack down area in the cold store. Due to the soft nature of the vacuum film packed cheeses, part of the design criteria was that the system had to be capable of accumulating products in a non-contact mode.

It was therefore decided to incorporate a number of indexing conveyors into the system to ensure that products could be accumulated in a pitched mode without pressure, and specifically to avoid pack to pack contact.

Under normal conditions the system acts as a transit conveyor operating at speeds up to 15 metres per minute, but when sensors indicate a build up in the reception areas the system goes into accumulating mode. A series of six (5 metre) belt accumulating conveyors are located towards the end of the system and sequentially pulsed to accumulate pitched products on build back.

When the accumulating conveyors are full, the remainder of the transit conveyors are sequentially closed down and a signal is given to the secondary packaging machine to cycle stop. A two line text display gives the operators visual line status information, and telephones located at either end of the system, enable operators to communicate and advise on such things as end of run, etc.

The system can accumulate approximately 30 minutes of production which relates to around 90 blocks of cheese, and is sequentially restarted when the build back sensors become clear.

As products enter the new cold store reception they accumulate on a low back pressure chain conveyor, feeding onto a brake metering which singulates the cheese blocks to pass through a metal detector, check weigher and labelling machine. On completion the product is discharged down a small section of gravity roller conveyor to be manually unloaded and palletised to go into cold store.

Paul Jones commented on the commissioning of the project, "The installation was managed by Astec Conveyors in conjunction with the main civil contractor on the site. All the sections were delivered pre-fabricated to the site to provide minimum disruption to operations, and craned into position onto supporting steel work. The installation itself was quick and effective, with the system being installed and commissioned within a short period of time.

The new system is operating 16 hours per day, 7 days per week, 364 days a year. It has resulted in many positive benefits, increasing efficiencies, reducing operational costs and providing even greater hygienic standards for South Caernarfon Creameries products. It has also made available a building previously used to receive cheese from production for other purposes.

South Caernarfon Creameries would not hesitate to recommend Astec Conveyors to anyone wanting to work with an excellent team of people who deliver what they promise."

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