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.
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:
Please note that even short lead time components are at risk of delays.
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 920-356-7347.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
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:
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*
Air Seal Kits
*Most common spare parts are in-stock, but uncommon parts have a lead time of 2 - 3 weeks.
LONG LEAD TIME PARTS
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 920-356-7347.
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