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.
If you would like to learn more about food safety and sanitation equipment innovations trending in food processing equipment and systems, we are offering a Lunch & Learn presentation.
Our focus will be to customize this presentation to talk about your production needs, and safety and sanitation goals.
We will monitor COVID-19 travel and distancing regulations and if allowed, we can have the Lunch & Learn at Apache Stainless or at your facility. Just let us know and we will take care of lunch.
We will also offer a virtual meeting if that works best, and we will send attendees a gift card for lunch on us!
We look forward to hearing from you!
Contact a technical sales manager to schedule!
In terms of material used in food processing and commercial equipment, here is the list of stainless materials from smoothest to the roughest RA range.
Electropolished surfaces range from 6 RA – 14RA microinches. Electropolishing can change RA values up to 50% smoother, depending on the material being treated.
2B Mill Finish – This is a widely used stainless steel finish, common in industrial, chemical and food applications. It is corrosion resistance and has a typical range from 15RA (16 gauge) – to 40 RA (7 gauge) microinches.
No. 4/Dairy Finish – For processing industries, the Dairy finish is required to meet the basic 3-A standards. It uses a 180 grit and has an RA range of 18-31 microinches.
No. 4 Finish – This finish uses a 150-grit abrasive creating a polished brushed surface. The RA range is 29-40 microinches.
No. 3 Finish – The No. 3 finish uses a 120 grit abrasive. It has a semi-polished finish with an RA range of 36 – 58 microinches.
Bead Blasted surfaces have a soft satin appearance and low reflection. The process of bead blasting utilizes bead material such as glass or ceramic beads to produce a non-directional, textured surface. The finer the blasting media, the more corrosion resistance the surface performance. The RA values are typically higher than 45RA microinches, but are dependent on the blasting process and the stainless material.
Improve your Stainless Finishes IQ; read our complimentary e-book.
An equipment safety and sanitation audit can provide direction for implementing improvement procedures and specifying equipment updates that mitigate risk and solve for safety and production goals. Here’s an excerpt from our audit checklist:
Here is a quick read on our products and industries that Mepaco serves.
Equipment Products: Cookers, Blenders, Dumpers, Metering Screw Conveyors, Mixers, Pump Feeders, Sanitary Belt Conveyors, Sanitary Design Lifts, Vacuum Stuffers and systems.
Food Manufacturing Industries: Dairy, Meat and Poultry, Pet Food, Plant-Based Foods and Proteins, Processed Foods and RTE, Fruits and Vegetables.
Download Line Card
1. Pull more out of your grinder
Ask your grinder experts about an upgrade kit to address a different plate configuration to increase throughput.
If you do not have a level sensor, contact your controls partner to add controls to turn off the grinder before it runs dry. A continuous flow of meat product will keep the plates and blades lubricated - required for best performance.
Keep the pins, bushings, heads, and knives in well maintained condition.
2. Tune your system
Schedule an audit to tighten up your process. Look to remove 15 - 20 seconds from all inefficient processes.
Consider VFD motors at different speeds to improve production flow.
3. Address small issues before they become a big downtime issue
With production at or near max or a lack of production staff, preventative maintenance may not be consistent. Operators need to allow time to address small maintenance issues. Rushing to close a safety grate that slams on the equipment causing welds to break, or not reporting wear of critical parts can lead to significant downtime.
If there is a repair needed on a piece of equipment, the best advice to ramp-up production is to have long-lead item parts on hand. Agitators that are custom fabricated can take up to eight weeks for delivery. Cylinders, motors, gearmotors and gearboxes are all long-lead items that can take up to 2 - 5 weeks for delivery.
Call Mepaco Parts and Field Services if you need support with these upgrades at 920-356-7334.
Mepaco's screw conveyors are engineered to the requirements of the food processing application. In the photo, these screw conveyors transported pet food. The conveyor in the foreground was placed after the grinder and transported ground product. The conveyor in the background was utilized before the grinder. It featured a trough design that handled large meat chunks, which fed the grinder.
Engineers work closely with the customer's production experts to design systems that minimize space while maximizing flexibility for product formulations and production goals.
Mepaco's screw conveyor systems have served many food processing industries: Baking and Snack, Dairy, Fruits and Vegetables, Meat and Poultry, Pet Food, Prepared Food and Ready-to-Eat. Application expertise includes: Metering, Reversing, Formulating and Thermal Processing.
For more information on screw conveyors and augers, visit:
Are you planning on going to Process Expo? Click here to see our show page!
We are highlighting systems and showing you how smart system designs and modified-to-order equipment, customized to specific applications, solves for processing goals:
- Increased Yield Performance
- Optimal designs for maintenance and operation
- Increased sanitation efficiencies
- Vigilant food safety compliance
We are also showcasing our new PosiFlo Chub Feeder that is a 28 cubic foot auger/loader with leveling ribbon and horizontal pump. We will demo the HMI unit that is integrated with the system. Other show equipment includes an industrial cooker, a sanitary design conveyor and a sanitary ergonomic lift.
Our tenured Mepaco sales and engineering teams are driven and dedicated to solving production problems for industrial food processing customers. Our specialists have an average of 20 years of experience from application support to equipment fabrication that forms an effective team to provide performance solutions.
Check out our show page and Ask the Experts at Process Expo!
Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.
Your browser does not support iframes.