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Lubborn Cheese - Provide Pallet Handling Solution

1-Sep 2008 - Press Release

Specialist dairy product manufacturer, Lubborn Cheese Ltd. of Somerset, recently awarded Astec Conveyors the contract to design, install and commission a pallet handling, accumulating chain conveyor system and lowerator feeding into their new cold store and distribution centre.

As part of Lubborn Cheese expansion plans, an adjacent building was totally refurbished to provide a separate new chilled storage area, freeing up valuable factory floor space for increased production and packing facilities. A number of factors had to be carefully considered by Astec Conveyors when designing the system. Firstly the pallet load was unstable, secondly loading/unloading from the conveyor was to be undertaken by powered manrider trucks, and also the adjoining floor levels differed in height by 3 metres.

Using their 50 years combined experience within the materials handling, processing and packing industry, Derbyshire based Astec Conveyors designed a pallet handling system that provided for a safe smooth transfer from the factory/packing area down into a chilled cold store warehouse.

Various shaped cheese products are positioned on "single trip" 1200 x 800 euro sized pallets, to a maximum capacity of 500kg and 1800mm height. Located in the packing area, a single pallet is fed onto the system with the 1200mm face leading, into a guarded loading station. An operator starts the automated system by pressing an accept button to activate the systems, and the pallet moves forward to a stop position in front of a fire rated roller shutter access door. Photo electric sensors monitor the presence of the loaded pallets within the system, and the lift and door will not operate until the next station is clear and the platform is located at the top access door.

Subject to the lift being clear and in the raised position, the fire door opens and permits the pallet to feed on to the platform. A sensor indicates the pallets presence and signals for the door to be closed and only then will the lift lower to warehouse level. On build back, the conveyor system will sequentially close down, with automatic restart when the build back sensor becomes clear; thus allowing accumulation of pallets throughout the system.
Lowerator System

The safe and simple to operate chain driven pallet lowerator was designed and built by Astec Conveyors to provide a smooth continuous flow of mixed pallet loads and can be run in reverse. Fitted with inverter control which provides for a smooth start and stop and ensures safe transfer of goods from the different floor levels. The lift takes up minimal floor space, and due to its counter balanced design is both energy efficient and provides optimum lifting capacity.

The design criteria was to handle pallets of 500kg and 10 pallets per hour, the lift far exceeds these capabilities (1500kg/60 pallets).

Because of the need to remove pallets from the conveyor by manrider trucks, discharge from the lowerator is at ground level onto triple chain conveyors, which were designed at the outset to be sunk into the floor as part of the new building construction.

In-fill plates are fitted for cleanliness and safety reasons, with a strengthened 10mm thick plate being located at the end position to support trucks driving on/off. To overcome possible "dead areas" which can occur on transferring pallets on butted chain modules, Astec Conveyors incorporated a cost effective design feature, staggering the chains to ensure positive contact with the pallet base and provide continuous drive and smooth transfer.

The whole system was designed, manufactured and installed by Astec Conveyors, including the fully automated controls. The system is guarded to provide a safe operating environment, incorporating fence guards and light barriers where appropriate. A RAG beacon at the upper level gives a visual indication of the system status. A message display on the main panel gives fault and line diagnostics at the lower level.

Mr Piers Feilden of Lubborn Cheese commented; "Our new Astec lowerator has provided a perfect solution to our long term problem of integrating two existing buildings with differing floor levels. All our operatives are happy using it and we look forward to it giving many years of service."

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