Habasit in pick and place trifle rescue – The need for perfect timing

With 170 million desserts a year to produce, 20 million of which are fruit trifles, one of Europe’s largest supermarket dessert manufacturers could not afford any conveyor belt downtime. As well as big orders for desserts, the company makes fresh cream donuts, eclairs and cream cakes, along with its biggest selling product – egg custards which are apparently very popular with the Portuguese market.

Not surprisingly, when there was a problem with the snack pot trifle production line, it was a case of ‘situation critical’! This is a key product manufactured in large quantities for major national supermarkets and accordingly, on time delivery is extremely important.

A fully automated rapid production robotic assembly line takes each plastic pot, fills it with sponge, fruit jelly, custard and cream, puts a lid on it and places it in a cardboard box. It’s an impressive and highly efficient process that operates around the clock – 24 hours a day, seven days a week without margin for any unplanned production downtime.

But when the existing non Habasit belts started to fail, and the manufacturer couldn’t keep up with demand for the product they turned to Habasit UK for a solution – and we were pleased to be of assistance.

“The robot ‘pick and place’ assembly line developed a fault at the point where the round pieces of sponge are placed into the trifle pots,” explains Gary Vickers, Technical Timing Belt Manager. “The profiles that index the sponge into the robot picking area were snapping off because of the speed of the line. The manufacturer had to stop the line to fit a new belt which took four hours!”

Of course, this huge amount of downtime was affecting production and profits. Habasit were called in and the first thing we did was to offer the customer a Habasit designed flighted timing belt that was suitable for direct food contact to improve hygiene.

“We then installed high frequency welded flights and profiles to the belts for an improved manufacturing technique, better performance and to prevent profiles from delaminating,” says Gary. To enable new belts to be fitted very quickly, Habasit supplied belts with mechanical pin joints. Habasit mechanical pin joints for flighted timing belts involve drilling holes through the tooth of the base belt and then inserting metal pins to form the joint. As a result, it now takes just 5–10 minutes to fit a replacement belt, which means increased production and less downtime.

This customer was also experiencing problems with a build-up of dust and crumbs from the sponges in the timing belt drive pulleys which was causing belt failure. To clean the line the belt must be taken off.

The Habasit solution to this problem was a metal self-cleaning pulley. The tooth form is angled to push food waste outside the machine. As well as being hygienic, this extended the life of the belt from two weeks to more than four months. With lowered bacteria levels it is possible to run the line three times longer before having to stop for cleaning. Downtime was eliminated, production back up to pace and profit growth forecast. (LC)

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