Honey has always been in our home remedy tool belt. It is one of the easier things to get the kids to swallow when they’re feeling a bit under the weather. So, when one of our local automation and electrics specialists spoke to us about congestion at a honey factory, we had a bit of a giggle here at EQM Industrial. Get it? Congestion, honey… ok, bad dad joke, let’s move on 😉
Where it all began…
Manukora Honey in Te Aroha began back in 1998 with their founding beekeeper, Bryce Hooton. Bryce was a pioneering beekeeper of New Zealand’s East Cape, however, what made Bryce so unique was that he was blind. His belief was focused on working with bees and nature and not against them, with an unyielding dedication to sustainability and ethical honey production, he was well-known throughout the region.
What has been happening?
New Zealand is fast becoming world famous for its mānuka honey. Mānuka honey is a monofloral honey produced from the nectar of the mānuka tree, that originated as a cultivar in New Zealand. Known for its health benefits, Mānuka honey has a strong flavour, described by the New Zealand honey industry as having a “damp earth, heather, aromatic” aroma and a “mineral, slightly bitter” flavour.
However, with this rise in popularity comes an increase in supply and demand. And while this is fantastic for Manukora Honey’s bottom line, it did mean that their production line had to continually expand and change to keep up.
We know our conveyors, which is why Chris Haynes approached us to help with this sticky situation. With years of experience in designing and building automated machines for tricky tasks within factories in the dairy, fruit, and other industries, Chris was definitely the right choice for Manukora Honey’s automation.
Chris developed a guide rail system combined with a series of jar sensors that are all controlled by a touch screen. The screen then resembled the layout of the conveyor system to ensure that human interaction with the system was seamless.
What was needed?
To make the system foolproof there were a few key factors that needed to be ticked off. These included:
- System flexibility to cater to many jar shapes and sizes
- Merge two lines and accumulate within a 5 x 1.0m space
- Cleanable system in case of product spillage
- Quiet operation and smooth jar transfer
- Ability to easily pass food safety audits
“Branching is easy. Merging is hard” – Eric Sink
For the automation system to work and the congestion to ease, we needed to merge two filling lines that were exiting the filling room 1.6m apart. and needed to be indexed on one conveyor passing them through an induction sealer and jar labeller. At the same time jar accumulation was required
Next came the need to provide an accumulation of jars so the entire filling line didn’t need to stop when changing labels on the labeller. Due to the many different jar shapes from tall oval, small and large square, hexagonal and round, right angle conveyor junctions weren’t working and required constant attention to keep the jars flowing.
The new layout and automation features created a fully flexible touch screen operated variable speed system that ticked the boxes for the customer.
And the conveyor design chosen?
To achieve the desired results, we outlined a solution that saw us install a multilane slat band chain conveyor running on precision routered plastic beds. This allowed for the conveyor to run in multiple directions parallel to each other with minimal gap between beds, with the ability to achieve a smooth transfer of all jar types.
All gear drives utilised for this installation come from our STM worm gearboxes range. And to cover off the customer requests, we utilised shaft-mounted gearboxes to minimise noise and make it safe.
Now that you have read this far you must be interested…
So, get in touch with our friendly team today to arrange for a consultation followed by a proposal to eliminate bottlenecks in your production.