When it comes to the large scale production and creation of mixed salads such as lettuce, carrots and many other vegetables, it’s not a case of throwing everything together in a large bowl and seeing what happens, like we do at home.
EQM has been working with a food company that makes pre-packed ready to eat mixed salads. The market for ready to eat pre-packed food has exploded and salads are one of the many popular off-the-supermarket-shelf products.
This company purchased a new vegetable shredding machine to increase production but needed to make it more effective and efficient to get the production they required. They simply needed a smart hygienic elevating conveyor system to feed product at a constant rate to maximise the production.
That’s where EQM comes into the mix (excuse the pun). As Anthony explains, there was some important design customisations needed to create the best production process for both feeding and collecting from the machines.
The infeed conveyor was a standard N Track conveyor that was modified to operate at a steep angle, approximately 40 degrees to keep floor space used to a minimum but still enabling the vegetables to feed into the dicing and slicing equipment at a constant rate. It was fitted with a hopper designed to suit the crates used to handle the produce made for easy ergonomic loading by the operators.
The salad mix would then drop out into crates on a Gravity Roller Conveyor. This was designed so that as one crate filled the next one followed and so on, with no stopping of the machine required to swap the crates. The machine was designed at a good working height to make for easy lifting of crates with processed product to the next station.
The system only needs one operator, who unloads the raw materials into a hopper and then walks down to the end of the process line to where the filled crates accumulate.
“The process was designed so that as they increase production, they just add another person to help. It works well from an ergonomic perspective as well as ensuring there is minimal waste of salad mix and little mess to clean up,” Anthony says.
Both conveyors are constructed from stainless steel to exceed the hygiene standards, wash-down requirements and being mounted on wheels means they can be taken away from the processing machines to allow for easy cleaning.
“We’ve proven that there is potential for increasing production out of many processing machines by adding a custom design infeed and accumulating outfeed bringing immediate operator benefits and productivity improvements and efficiencies in this fast-growing market of ready to eat pre-processed food.”