Twin flexible screw conveyors do the heavy lifting of ingredients to the top of mixing tanks.
Operators at Casa Cuervo no longer have to climb to the top of tanks to dump in ingredients; instead, they load the ingredients at floor level (left), and Flexicon Model 1450 twin, flexible screw conveyors do the heavy lifting to the top of the tank (right).
One of the leading producers of tequila is Casa Cuervo, whose signature brand, Jose Cuervo, is highly regarded by tequila connoisseurs around the world.
Distilling tequila in Mexico is a process that blends tradition with technology. Mexican law mandates that all tequila must be distilled from blue agave plants in a region of the country called, not surprisingly, Tequila. Each manufacturer, though, has its own proprietary process and formulation techniques that give a brand like Jose Cuervo a distinctive taste and enhanced aroma.
Casa Cuervo’s process, which produces not only tequila but also rompope (eggnog), sangria wine and margarita mix, got a boost in efficiency, safety and quality with a simple but effective material-conveying system installed in its Guadalajara, JAL distillery.
Previously, operators manually dumped bags of sugar and powdered milk directly into the inlet port of a large mixing tank for tequila and other beverages. This meant operators needed to work about 10-20 ft. off the floor, depending upon the mixing tank being used. This created handling, safety and ergonomics concerns, as well as the potential for bag scrap contamination of the mix.
The new system employs Flexicon twin flexible screw conveyors to transport material to the large mixing tank from a floor-level hopper. Installed side-by-side, the Model 1450 flexible screw conveyors have 4.5-in. outer diameters and rise 30 ft. The conveyors, which are engineered for straight or curved routing with no effect on performance, exit the feed hopper at 45° and arc toward vertical, allowing installation within a restricted space of 20 sq. ft.
The conveyors attach to a dual charging adapter at the base of each hopper—Type D models designed for powdery, semi-free flowing materials—with capacity of 8 cu. ft. Sugar or powdered milk flows to the screws, each powered by a 5hp electric motor mounted on the upper end of the assembly.
Material is discharged through a transition adapter and 10-in. flexible downspout that empties into the tank at approximately 330 lbs. per minute—a dramatic increase over previous manual methods.
“The design works so well that the company specified a second twin conveyor system to feed a larger tank,” says Pedro Castro, Casa Cuervo quality assurance manager.
Tequila and other beverages are mixed in batches of two to five tons depending on recipe. Workers now dump 110-lb. sacks of sugar or powdered milk at floor level into the feed hoppers. Each hopper is equipped with a pneumatic turbine vibrator to promote material flow into the conveyor-charging adapters, a hopper screen for worker protection and a low-level switch to stop the conveyors when the hopper is empty.
“The flexible screw conveyors have few moving parts, which facilitates installation, simplifies cleaning and reduces maintenance,” says Castro.
The first twin conveyor installation carries material to a 13 ft.-high mixing tank with a capacity of 2,600 gallons. The second twin conveyor feeds a 23-ft. high mixing tank with a capacity of 7,800 gallons.