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Case Story: What Can Happen When an Agitator Problem is Ignored?

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.


Mepaco Parts Status Update: Just-In-Time VS. Just-In-Case

Updated 4/1/21

An uptick in the manufacturing economy, reduction of COVID restrictions, COVID vaccine availability and the Suez Canal crisis have made material sourcing and parts management unpredictable.

Apache’s material supply in stainless sheet and plate are produced in the United States. Pipes, fittings, and electrical components are often produced overseas. Further, some components such as motors and gear boxes may require parts from foreign suppliers to manufacture their products.

In 2020, many material suppliers and component manufacturers depleted inventory to manage budget during shutdowns and slow economic conditions.  Now, these businesses are scrambling with staff and resources to support demand.

Apache is being proactive with all sourcing solutions.  We are working closely to leverage our relationships and buying power with vendors to manage our sourcing needs.  We are looking into other supply partners and manufacturers with flexibility and less dependency on foreign manufacturers.

We do not know when the situation will normalize, but we can offer our expertise and advise.  If you haven’t done so already, switch from a “Just-In-Time” parts program to a “Just-In-Case” program.  Make sure you have long lead items in your parts inventory, so you don’t experience downtime in your critical operations.

Long Lead Time Parts:

  • Agitators
  • Cylinders
  • Motors
  • Gear Motors
  • Gear Boxes

Please note that even short lead time components are at risk of delays.


For more information, please contact parts@apachestainless.com or call 920-356-7347.
 


Maintenance Audit Discovers Repairs that Decrease Batch Time by 2 Minutes

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:

SYMPTOM
A Pump Feeder motor kept tripping the breaker and caused constant down-time.

RECOMMENDATION/REPAIR
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.

SYMPTOM
Mixers on the processing line did not pull sufficient vacuum.

RECOMMENDATION/REPAIR
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.

SYMPTOM
Inspection uncovered possible catastrophic failure of the agitators.  

RECOMMENDATION/REPAIR
Both mixers had agitators with cracked welds. They were repaired during scheduled maintenance.

SYMPTOM
Vacuum Stuffers were underperforming.

RECOMMENDATION/REPAIR
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

 

 

 


7 Parts to Consider for Holiday Shutdown

Holiday-Blog-Post.jpg

Here's a quick infographic and guide with 7 common parts in food processing equipment that should be in stock for year-end / holiday shut-down maintenance.

EMERGENCY

1. Motors: Extra motors can prevent unnecessary emergency shut-downs and lost production.

LONG LEAD TIME

2. Agitators: Agitators are custom fabricated to your machine specification, and require longer lead time than typical parts.

3. Cylinders: Make sure you have cylinder back-ups, which can also have  long lead times.

RECOMMENDED SPARES

4. Safety Switches: Keep extra safety switches in inventory to reduce downtime.

5. Bearings: Mepaco's recommendation for bearings is 1 or 2 back-ups. Check to see if the bearing is a common stock item; if it is not common, plan for longer lead times.

PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE

6. Shaft Seals: Plan on 2 - 3 seals per shaft, depending on usage.

7. Gaskets: Gaskets are usually sold in bulk by the foot, check your inventory to make sure you have an ample supply.

 

If you want to review your parts needs, contact Monica Planasch, Mepaco's Parts Manager, at monica.planasch@apachestainless.com.  

 

 

 


Coating Technology Improves Component Sanitation Performance
With rising costs for energy and labor, there is a continuous need to improve operational efficiency, cut costs, and increase uptimes. One area of improvement is to increase the life and sanitation performance of motors, gear motors and bearings.

In consideration of the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), some processors choose food safe stainless motors. Encapsulated stainless steel food safety motors, however, are twice the cost of a standard motor. 

The use of painted components are common in food processing plants.  Sanitation is tough on equipment with caustic chemicals spraying at 1000 psi. Once the components chip, there is a risk for the paint chips to enter the food stream. Then corrosion sets in and reduces the life of the component. 

A cost effective, high-performance solution is to start with food grade components and apply the Steel-It brand coating technology using a special application process. Mepaco’s customers have been very satisfied with the result and continue to specify the food grade coating on components for all new projects.

The specialty coating is USDA approved. It blocks corrosion, wear and abrasion and lasts 5+ years in harsh environments.  It is formulated with 316 stainless micro-flakes, making it durable for sanitation and can be subjected to detergents, food acids, alkali, and various chemical agents.

Contact a sales manager for more information about cost saving sanitation.


How to Increase the Life of Bearings

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:

  1. Mount the bearing correctly after maintenance. Make sure shims are re-installed and that the shaft is correctly positioned, and make sure that the shaft and bearing housing have the correct tolerance. A bearing sitting loose on a shaft will cause significant damage to the shaft.
  2. Grease bearings according to manufacturer recommendations. A low RPM bearing on a mixer will not require grease as often than a grinder gearbox bearing. One grease schedule does not fit all bearings.
  3. Use the correct food-grade lubrication in the right quantity. Over-lubrication can blow out the grease seal, under lubricating can increase friction and cause failure. Seals protect bearing lubrication by keeping moisture, dust, and dirt out of the bearing; make sure seals are inspected and maintained properly.
  4. Check bearings regularly for excessive play and replace bad bearings before they cause damage to the equipment. Replacing a bearing is much less expensive than replacing a worn and grooved shaft.
  5. Choose the bearing type that will uphold to the food processing application.

    Standard bearings are steel ball bearings, mounted in a painted cast iron housing. Mepaco’s coating on standard bearings is a sealant with anti-corrosive benefits.

    In aggressive applications, food processors often choose polymer bearings. The polymer bearing has a moderate up-front investment – but the total cost of ownership is lower because it requires less maintenance when used in aggressive applications.
Visit Field Services for support!

Mepaco Parts Status Update

Updated 3-26-20

There are no major disruptions in our supply chain, but here is a status update with a breakdown of lead times and also recommendations for inventory.

RECOMMENDED SPARE PARTS IN-STOCK*

Disharge Seals
Door Gaskets
Seal Housing
Air Seal Kits
Cover Gaskets
Discharge Bearings
Safety Switches

*Most common spare parts are in-stock, but uncommon parts have a lead time of 2 - 3 weeks.


LONG LEAD TIME PARTS

Agitators  8 - 10 weeks 
 Part Factory Paint / Unpainted    Washdown Paint
 Cylinders 4-5 weeks 7-9 weeks
 Motors 1-3 weeks 5-8 weeks
 Gear Motors    2-3 weeks 5-8 weeks
 Gearboxes 2-3 weeks 5-8 weeks

 

We are working with required distancing and sanitation to help our customers maintain their production schedule. Our parts and service specialists are on stand-by to support you.

Contact parts@apachestainless.com or call 920-356-7347.


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