Extra space isn’t always a luxury enjoyed by operators of commissaries and other food production facilities. In fact, more often than not, a big part of successfully running such an operation is efficiently prioritizing what little available floor space is used for what equipment and processes.
With that in mind, conveyor systems don’t always seem like a viable option in these facilities. To be clear, says Jeff Klein, US service manager for Grote Company, “Space is probably the biggest issue for a conveying system in such a setting.”
Grote addresses this hurdle with two main points: customization and cantilevering.
The company’s sandwich assembly conveyor can be customized in length for a facility’s needs and belt widths of 400 mm and 600 mm are available, giving users multiple floorplan options. On top of that, Klein says much of the equipment that goes on the conveyor in cantilevered.
“That means it can be rolled on and off the line, depending on the production needs of a given product,” he says. “The bases of the machines will fit under the conveyor.” This, of course, means more options in as small of a footprint as possible.
The customization of the conveyors includes removable, self-locating racks that can be positioned anywhere along the length of the conveyor. These racks, which can hold up to 60 pounds, help with staging ingredients or equipment that employees occasionally use. Also, power plugs under the machine provide power to other machines or anything else being used on the line. These plugs limit the need for the conveying line to be close to an abundance of power supplies.
The system can also be customized with a Clean In Place (CIP) system. For coated belts, the CIP system provides for continuous washing and drying of the belt during production, working on the underside of the machine while the top is in use. It fits under the conveyor where the cleaning occurs, therefore taking up minimal floor space outside of the line.
“As with any machinery in the food industry, the ease of sanitation is paramount or else the machine is no good for its purpose,” Klein says.
The importance of sanitation also means equipment needs multiple ways to be cleaned. Outside of the CIP system, the line’s basic design features allow enough open access to thoroughly wash and sanitize each area. Depending on the type, belts can be removed nightly for cleaning with few —or no — tools.
The belting is fully adjustable for tracking correction and is held under tension on the idle side. The company says simple manual release toggles on the idle side provide slack in the belting. “These features make it easier for the belt to be removed and installed for cleaning both the belt and the interior machine frame after production is finished,” Klein says.
Also, belt speed is electrically adjustable in either manual or automatic modes, giving operators multiple options for control of the work flow.
And while this conveying system was designed for sandwich making, its uses don’t carry that limitation. “Since it was designed for making sandwiches, it is usable in any other ready-to-eat application,” Klein says. “This also means it can be used for non-RTE purposes as well.”