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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.


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.


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.


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