The Mepaco®’s Field Services and Engineering Team have been on hundreds of calls for all types of food processing equipment service. Seal issues are one of the common requests for service. Here’s the top 3 trouble signs for split seal types and how to troubleshoot repair.
The Trouble Signs:
The Possible Problem:
Grooved or Broken Shaft
A worn shaft may cause a loss of vacuum in your equipment. Depending on the space available and the extent of the damage, a worn shaft may be repaired on-site. Ignoring a grooved shaft can lead to a broken shaft resulting in a catastrophic failure. The timeline to order a replacement shaft may take weeks. Even if there is an extra shaft in inventory, there is a minimum of two days of lost production to replace it. If you suspect a grooved shaft, call Mepaco®’s Field Services to troubleshoot the issue.
Worn Seals and Missing Packing
Seals should be checked for wear and sanitized daily. Seals should also be part of your preventative maintenance program, with two to four extra seals in your parts inventory, depending on usage. Changing the seal during scheduled times will help save lost production; instead of shutting down production to replace a seal.
Seals must be correctly installed with recommended packing. Check to make sure that the seal housing is within tolerance. Revisit the documentation for seal installation instructions. If you have new staff, ask for a training session by Mepaco®’s Field Services experts to have them watch and advise on seal installation and maintenance.
Mepaco® equipment features one of three types of seals: Split Seal, Air-Purge Seal, and Mechanical Seal. Each seal is specified for the best use in the type of processing application.
Split Seal: A split seal provides ease of removal and installation. The construction is made up of rubber and metal reinforcement. It can be specified for a variety of applications. It is easy to disassemble for sanitation and holds up to rigorous COP (clean-out-of-place) processes.
Air-purge Seal: These seals are often specified for applications with high food safety risks and abrasive food product situations. The internal components of the seal rotate with the shaft, so there are no typical issues with worn shafts or missing packing. These seals are engineered to reduce maintenance and sanitation costs.
Mechanical Seal: This type of seal is suitable for applications with coarse, gritty food product. These seals are precision-installed and are not forgiving with tolerance. Mechanical seals are engineered for CIP (clean-in-place) sanitation processes.
Contact Mepaco®’s Field Services for answers to your current seal issues, request an audit, or schedule a consultation for a seal solution to fit your application.
Many processors make their own repairs to equipment, but in the case of agitators, the repair must be sound to avoid problems in the future. Mepaco Service technicians are trained and experienced to troubleshoot shaft wear and are specialists in the repair of stainless steel. Here is a list of what not to do when making your own repairs:
If you need to make a repair to continue production, be sure to schedule after care for the agitator. You need an assessment to make sure the agitator is straight and that the welds will hold under stress. We are currently experiencing long lead times for replacement agitators, so whether it is an after-event service call or a scheduled audit, it is important to have the agitator checked out to maintain production up-time.
If you have a transport, incline or metering screw, these conditions are symptoms of a failing auger / screw.
Screw conveyors are important to keep product moving between processes, so pay close attention to these systems to stay ahead of maintenance issues.
After any major incident, contact Mepaco Services to inspect repair. Mepaco Services may be able to make some repairs on site. Welding, straightening, stainless finishing can be performed on site. However, re-machining a new piece, shaft or remanufacturing a paddle/ribbon, needs to be worked at the factory.
It is important to assess the life and stress of the augers to make sure that you do not experience down-time. Mepaco Services can provide audits, service contracts or emergency repair to help to prolong the life of screw conveyors.
Mepaco’s Service Team is often called out on critical downtime situations. The goal for any food processor is to prevent these situations and if they are unavoidable, mitigate the time and cost associated with the breakdown. To start with, here are the top four calls that Mepaco Services receive for emergency support:
Broken Shafts Agitators are failing when they start to develop cracks or start to rub the tub side wall of the processing equipment. Agitators and shafts also fail when a tool or component drops into the equipment and damages the shaft or paddles. The damage is not always immediately apparent; a bent shaft may take months to start failing.
Gear Motors / Gear Boxes Oil leakage, hot temperatures and noise are all signs that gear motors or gear boxes may be failing. The motors and gear boxes commonly fail due to poor lubrication practices. They also may fail because of improper repair of the agitator and the gear motor and gear box may wear out prematurely.
Safety Devices Equipment is designed with safety modes and if the safety devices are damaged, whether accidental or environmental, the equipment will not operate.
Controls Internal programming errors, or physical damage to the HMI are also causes for emergency downtime.
In most instances, there are preventative measurements for processors to prevent downtime situations, but what can you do to mitigate the critical breakdown situation and get back online as soon as possible?
The Mepaco Parts and Service team strongly urges processing customers to consider a just-in-case planning mentally for parts replacement. There are long lead times on agitators, cylinders, motors, gear motors, safety devices and HMI panels.
After-event service calls or equipment-systems assessments are recommended to ensure production up-time and to alleviate safety risk. If you have questions, or to schedule service visit, call 920-356-9900 and ask for Mepaco Parts and Service.
Case Story: What can happen when an agitator problem is ignored?
A high-volume pet food processor utilized a Mixer/Cooker in their operations which produced 45-minute batches. The application called for 28 RPM and mixing cold product at 35 – 45 degrees. During the process of loading different ingredients into the Mixer-Cooker, a Vmag buggy fell into the mixer, causing damage to the agitator.
The processor made repairs to the bent shaft and paddles and was able to get the Mixer-Cooker back online into full production.
Many processors assume that if the paddles do not rub the side of the tub, that the agitator has had a successful repair. But in many cases (and in this case), there was extensive damage and over time the shaft began to flex, causing the agitator to break. This failure completely stopped production.
There are a few choices to stay ahead of agitator care:
Preventative Maintenance: Partner with Mepaco Services to inspect agitators to ensure the shaft is straight and look for stress and other damage.
After Event Care: Processors may be able to fix the shift to continue production, but contract with Mepaco Services to inspect the shaft and straighten if necessary.
Most importantly, processors should avoid emergency maintenance, causing down-time and lost production.
It is not uncommon to have dropped tools into Mixers, so prepare for the event if it does happen. Consider an audit to assess the life of the agitator and consider ordering a replacement so you can have duplicity for uninterrupted down-time.
Delivery of agitator replacements are 3 – 6 months out due to the availability of stainless material. Mixers, Blenders and Grinders are the work horse of the processing system, so be sure that agitator care and component availability are part of the maintenance program.
Mepaco Services offer on-site audits, training, and service contracts as well as emergency repair.
We received a request for a maintenance audit on a high volume meat processing line that is a supplier to fast food restaurant chains. The first round of inspection uncovered several maintenance issues:
A Pump Feeder motor kept tripping the breaker and caused constant down-time.
The gearbox bearings were bad and was causing excess loading. The gearbox was replaced which fixed the issue. Reducing down-time for that Pump Feeder.
Mixers on the processing line did not pull sufficient vacuum.
Both mixers had multiple vacuum leaks through cracked welds, worn out seals, incorrect seals and improperly installed seals The seals were replaces and the cracked welds were repaired which allowed the unit to pull required vacuum 2 minutes faster, decreasing cycle times.
Inspection uncovered possible catastrophic failure of the agitators.
Both mixers had agitators with cracked welds. They were repaired during scheduled maintenance.
Vacuum Stuffers were underperforming.
Two stuffers in the processing line were underperforming and producing poor quality product due to lack of vacuum. Both stuffers had worn out pumps that were rebuilt and worn out seals that were replaced. These changes gave the processor a 28% increase in throughput out of the stuffer and better-quality product without air bubbles.
The cost for the maintenance audit, including a detailed report was $2000, plus travel expenses. The result was savings in energy, down-time, batch turnaround and overall increased production. This processor in fact, contracts with Mepaco every six months for a maintenance audit to avoid unplanned delays and to make sure their line is running as efficiently as possible.
Learn more about Field Services
With the complex demands in food processing and production, safety, and quality, every component within food equipment is critical. Any machinery with moving parts will utilize bearings. Here are some tips to reduce wear issues and extend bearing life:
Mepaco's Field Services team have developed a quick-read download on the seal trouble signs that our technicians see in food processing plants. Also Learn about and compare Mepaco recommended seals commonly used on our equipment.
Download the Tech Paper to learn about the Top 3 Seal trouble signs and what to do to fix them:
1. Product escapes or purges out of the seal
2. Downstream food contamination
3. Loss of vacuum
Our techs make hundreds of service calls to troubleshoot and make repairs to seals on all types of food processing equipment and in many applications. If you have any questions or have seal related issues, give Joe Hertel a call in Mepaco Field Services at 920-356-7334.
DOWNLOAD TECH SHEET
[Infographic] 7 Parts to Consider for Holiday Shutdown.
Tis the season: Are you planning maintenance during the holiday shutdown? Do you have a spare parts budget to use before year end?
The infographic is a quick guide for common Mepaco parts. Some items have a longer lead time than others. Some parts are must-have inventory items. If you have any questions about parts or timing, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please have the model number and the serial number available for inquiries, and include the Apache/Mepaco part number on purchase orders.
Order parts now for your holiday shutdown!
Depending on the complexity of the equipment and controls, there are a few options for production personnel to learn how to operate the equipment. The manual explains the operation of the equipment and its components. The customer can visit Apache for training and testing or contract with Mepaco Field Services for on-site training.
In one example, the production staff did not understand how to operate the HD3000 Dumper, causing the carriage to bind-up where cylinders weren't lifting in tandem. The issue was caused by incorrect operation.
Due to the operational configuration of the hydraulic cylinders, the HD300 dumper must be fully cycled (complete cylinder extension and retraction) each time it is used. The production staff was not fully retracting the dumper leaving the carriage 12 - 18" off the ground. This allowed the cylinders to start up unevenly and compounded if the staff did not fully extend the dumper. This caused the dumper carriage to misalign and bind against the dumper frame.
Once the carriage binds against the frame the only way to safely correct the situation is to lock out the hydraulic power unit, disconnect the hydraulic line from the overextended cylinder and allow the carriage to drift down until it is re-timed. Once the cylinders are re-timed the power unit can be operated to bring the carriage to the fully down position. Air will need to be bled from the cylinder that had the hydraulic lines removed.
Please call Joe Hertel, Field Services Manager, at 920-219-2286 if you have any questions about the operation of Mepaco equipment or if a training visit is necessary for new personnel.
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