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Animation Highlights Dumper Features that Solve for Food Safety

Mepaco’s Food Processing customers often opt for custom and modifiable dumping equipment features that provide the highest level of personnel and food safety, highlighted in this animation.

Locking Mechanism:  Pallet Retention cylinders secure the pallet on both sides to retain its position during the dump cycle. The locking mechanism is part of the PRS (Pallet Retention System).

Personnel Guarding: In the animation, personnel guarding is demonstrated for the entire dump-zone footprint and includes safety relays that control the e-stop position.

Elevated Load Height:  Whether it benefits production or personnel maneuverability, elevated load heights can be customized into the dumping equipment solution.

Pneumatic LRS (Liner Hold Down): A liner hold-down is controlled to enter the tote to prevent the liner from separating from the combo and falling into the hopper. The liner hold-down prevents operators from having to reach and try to control the liner by hand.

PRS (Pallet Retention System): The PRS design feature allows the combo to complete the dump cycle while separating from the pallet, limiting the potential for contamination in the food stream. Upon completion of the dump cycle, the dumper and frame are reunited, and the carriage assembly returns to the start-load position. 

The Pallet Retention System (PRS) and the Liner Retention System (LRS) are both available on the DP3000 Pivot Dumper (shown in the animation) and the HD3000 High Lift Dumper models.

Other food and personnel safety options include:

  • Upgrading from standard cylinders to stainless cylinders
  • Stainless Steel pivot bearings
  • Electropolished chute
  • Safety side shields or other safety cage customization
  • Beacon light

Mepaco offers dumpers with a range of versatility from 48” to 175” dump heights.  We also manufacture accessories including lifts, vats, tubs, and buggies for your material handling needs. The tote dumpers (DP3000, HD3000 and LD3000) have a working capacity of 3,000 lbs. (1,361 Kg) and a 45-degree dump angle.

Visit Mepaco’s Dumping Equipment for more information.


What NOT to do When an Agitator is Failing

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:

  • Do not ignore failing agitator – depending on their use of equipment, they need to schedule at least a temporary repair as soon as possible. Visit our blog to determine if your agitator is failing.
  • Incorrect weld repairs can cause the agitator to bow which causes run out and adds a new stress point in the agitator.  One incorrect weld repair may add another stress point in a different location.
  • Do not ask an inexperienced welder to make repairs. And experienced welder is required for agitator repair, there is a process of grinding out cracks, and cleaning procedures for proper repair of an agitator.
  • Don’t ignore straightening of the agitator after repair. It is very important for longer life of the agitator.

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.


Portable Column Dumper Solves for Flexible Production

There are multiple reasons to use a portable dumper equipment solution. Processors with quick turn batches and reoccurring recipe changes benefit from a portable dumper to use in multiple production areas. Some processors prefer to move equipment to designated sanitation areas. Also, the column dumper must be portable and move out of the way for mixers that require clearance for tipping hoppers to unload.

Another feature on the column dumper is an extended chute integrated with a 60-degree dump angle. The extended chute covers the gap between the column dumper and the mixer when the components prevent a close fit.

This processor utilized a 60-degree dump angle because the application required that every particulate was added to the batch.

Personnel guarding featured on this column dumper is designed for visibility and access with safety relays that provide safe fork truck access.

Reliably Built Standard Features:

  • 10-ga stainless on 120” dump heights, 7-ga stainless on 144” column heights
  • Full penetration welds
  • Built-in safety features including (3) proximity switches, e-stop
  • Completely wired motor starter in NEMA 4X enclosure
  • Minimum maintenance on broken motor, chain, bearings, and proxy switches
     

Processors should be able to focus on critical operations and not have to worry about auxiliary equipment. That's what Mepaco's CD1000 Column Dumper delivers; a Column Dumper that is heavily built, engineered for easy maintenance, built to strict sanitary design standards, and like our processing equipment solutions, modifiable to meet specific production requirements.

For more information, download our Column Dumper Flyer.


How to Determine if your Auger / Screw Conveyor is Failing

If you have a transport, incline or metering screw, these conditions are symptoms of a failing auger / screw.

  • The screw is rubbing on the wall of the tub
  • There is a bow or wobble when running
  • The hanger bearings are wearing out prematurely
  • The wear pads are ground down beyond normal wear.
  • The gear box is hot.
  • The drive shaft is worn out prematurely.

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.


How to Know When an Agitator is Failing

In some cases, there is a particular event that causes agitator damage such as a shovel or fork falling into a piece of processing equipment.  However, there are several other signs that determine when an agitator is failing:

  • The agitator starts developing cracks in the pipe or welds.
  • The agitator starts rubbing the tub side wall.

Here are some causes of agitator damage:

  • The drive end motor is not shimmed properly.
  • There is a bad bearing on idle side may create flexing.
  • Long term issues may be caused by a tool dropping into the tub.
  • The product is being over chilled. It is wrapping over paddles, the temperature probes are not functional, and the CO2 or Nitro is turned off.

Agitators are part of Mixers, Mixer-Cookers, and ThermaBlend Cookers.  This equipment is the most important part of the processing line and must be maintained for maximum uptime.  Other equipment, such as Metering Screws with Hoppers have leveling ribbons that may also need to be included in the list for agitator maintenance.

Currently, there is a 3-to-6-month lead time for a new agitator.  In some cases, agitator repairs can be made at the customer site.  Mepaco Services may be able to use a sleeve or secure welds to get the machine back up and running.  Sometimes, it is possible to make repairs for temporary production while the new agitator is put on order.

Contact Parts and Service at 920-356-9900 for more information.


4 Tips to Address Emergency Downtime

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?

  1. Self-Repair of Shaft Agitator with After-Event Service Call Mepaco Services does provide emergency repairs, yet there is travel time and scheduling to plan. Some processors have maintenance capabilities to make their own repairs.  If the repair is viable by the internal maintenance team, be sure to schedule an after-event care assessment. Mepaco Services technicians will verify the repairs, fix if necessary and provide an assessment of the remaining life of the agitator. Agitators are a long lead parts component, so it is crucial to order the component if there is any indication that the existing shaft will not last.
  2. Emergency Replacement Program for Gear Motors / Gear Boxes Nord is a common component provider in Mepaco equipment. If your equipment has Nord gear motors or Nord gear boxes, the company does offer a weekend emergency expedite program.  There is a premium price for the service, but some processors choose the pay it to avoid the cost of lost production. In some cases, the gear motors / gear boxes may be able to be reconditioned, and after repair they can be used as a spare.
  3. Safety Device Failure While it is not recommended, some processors have engineered workarounds on broken safety devices to continue to run the equipment.  It is very important however, to schedule an after-event service call to return the system to the original safety features, programming, and controls. On new equipment, order spare safety switches, relays, and other controls devices so if there is any failure during transport, install or commissioning, that a new part is on hand to start production on schedule.
  4. Controls If there was unintentional change to the equipment software, in most cases it is possible for a remote programming repair or reloading of the original program.  If the HMI was damaged by condensation from high-pressure, caustic washdown or accidental, a replacement may be required.

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.


When to Leverage Dual Zones in Thermal Jackets for Food Processing

There are various methods to heat and cool food product in cooking equipment. The application will dictate the best combination of methods and configurations ranging from stay-bolt or dimple jacket designs, to injected steam and thermal screw heating options.  On equipment solutions that use a heating jacket, a dual zone design may add versatility to operations.

Heating zones can be engineered for two separate zones that heat or cool independently.

The first chamber forms the bottom of the cooker tub to the centerline of the agitator. This zone has independent controls and can be used for small batches. The upper chamber can be activated to heat when the batch size and application demand.

The best-use application for dual zones are test market runs, small recipe variations, and staged cooking. Zoned heating jackets provide savings in time, energy, and cost for partial batch production. Depending on the application, significant efficiencies can also be realized by starting the batch in the first zone and adding the second zone to finish the batch.

The advantage of dual zones heating jackets is versatility of batch cooking processes and significant savings in energy costs.

The tenured sales and engineering teams in the Mepaco group are driven and dedicated to solving cooking and processing problems for industrial food processing customers. 


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.


Challenges Solved by Application Engineered Solutions and Agitator Design

The Mepaco team engineers equipment and systems specific to the processing application in each thermal processing project.  In mixing and blending operations, application engineering is especially important because product quality and efficiencies are at stake. The food product, viscosity, texture, cycle times, and thermal processing technology including agitator designs are considered in the best cooking equipment solution. Here are a few examples of challenges that were solved by cooking solutions customized to the processing application.

Challenge: A mega prepared foods processor needed to accumulate flowable product after the cooking cycle, while waiting for downstream operations.

Solution: Mepaco engineered heated Buffering Mixers which kept the particulates in various densities in suspension until downstream operations signaled for more product. A single agitator with an inner/outer ribbon was utilized to meet the products' homogeneous state required for quality targets for downstream filling operations.

Challenge: A chicken processor required a scaled tempering, tenderizing, cooking, and shredding solution to replace manual processes.

Solution: Mepaco provided a 75 gallon double agitated ThermaBlend Cooker with ribbon agitators that performed well in each processing stage.  The cooker was controlled to temper the meat, massage, tenderize, cook, shred, and finally blend with a thickening sauce.  All five processes were completed in the ThermBlend Cooker solution, removing manual operations.

Challenge:  A fruit pie filling manufacturer wanted to streamline pie filling cooking and blending operations while maintaining product integrity.

Solution:  Mepaco engineered a ThermaBlend Cooker that cooked and blended the fruit, then continued cooking when the sauce compound was added, then cooled the filling within a short cycle to maintain product integrity and increase efficiency. The agitator design was a single shaft with dual paddles and a scraper system to prevent product burn-on during the cooking cycle, and blended ingredients with minimal shear.

CLICK HERE for a video introduction to the ThermaBlend Cooker.

 


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.
 


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