by Bill Lisy, President
Thomas Conveyor & Equipment Co.
Thomas Conveyor & Equipment was recently approached by a customer who needed to address a series of problems faced by many of our customers today. The customer, a major supplier of packaged sauces and condiments to the fast food industry, was faced with rising costs, a lack of qualified job candidates, and a need to increase productivity.
Their existing process involved manually delivering stacks of pre-erected cases to each cup machine operator. The operator would then place an empty case in the fill position of the cup machine and once a case was filled push the case down a gravity conveyor line to a tape machine. The process was labor intensive and productivity suffered.
TCE engineers went to work to provide a design to automate the entire process starting with the front end. The first thing that needed to be addressed was their manual case erecting process. The TCE automation engineering staff designed and installed a Wildeck™ mezzanine outside of their production room. It was determined that a Wexxar WF30 automatic case erector would be installed on the deck on the mezzanine. The mezzanine would utilize existing overhead space, and the Wexxar unit is capable of automatically erecting cases at a rate of 30 cases per minute.
The next challenge was to design a conveyor system to convey and deliver empty cases to each of the cup machines. We designed a 24 volt motorized roller conveyor with zero pressure zoned accumulation and “pop-up” right angle transfers belts to divert the cases. The cases will be conveyed on the main “trunk line” conveyor and then transfer to descending gravity case accumulation chutes feeding each of the cup machines. The accumulation chutes utilize a pneumatic case escapement to allow one case to be discharged into the filling zone of the cup machines as a filled case is discharged. Full cases are then discharged onto a 24 volt motorized roller zoned accumulation conveyor and travel to a Wexxar BEL 290 automatic tape case sealer. The case is then conveyed to a top tier automatic palletizer.