Food Engineering

Field Report<br> Conveying the crunch

March 4, 2004
New conveying system automates yogurt process.

Hold your hands out in front of you. Now imagine using them to scoop granola or cookie toppings by the bucketful all day, every day, in order to keep your plant operations running smoothly. Until recently, that was a typical day for several YoFarm employees at its Naugatuck, CT plant. For years, the creation of YoCrunch, a yogurt packaged with an accompanying packet of granola, required manual operation. Operators would literally scoop the granola, cookie or other dry ingredient out of an enormous 2,000-lb. tote using a stainless steel bucket. They would then carry the dry ingredients over to a filler machine, pour them in, and use the cup or doam that sits atop YoCrunch's yogurt cup as a guide to monitor the right quantities. But as demand for the yogurt increased, manually handling the dry ingredients became more and more difficult.

"Our production capacity has increased by more than 40 percent over the last few years," says Peter Riebe, YoFarm plant engineer. "We needed a transfer system that could keep up with increased productivity and make us more competitive and profitable, while reducing the physical strain on our employees." That additional production capacity included several variations to the YoCrunch line including a chocolate crunch topping, a cookie n' cream product, and a strawberry version with Nestlé crunch pieces. Each additional dry ingredient meant additional manual labor for the plant's employees.

YoFarm chose the PIAB C-33 conveyor for its fast installation and simple connection. The unit is lightweight and has minimal components and small dimensions. Source: PIAB, Inc.
To improve operations and productivity, YoFarm decided to automate the process of transferring these dry ingredients. The company turned to PIAB's C-series of conveyors, which are designed to transport up to 15 tons per hour of powders, granules and food. "By choosing PIAB, we were able to test the flow of products under real conditions at PIAB's testing lab. The C-33s had everything we were looking for in terms of functionality, hygienic safety and quality," says Riebe. The test helped confirm the various materials' conveying characteristics and identified any possible issues that needed to be resolved prior to installation.

Running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the two C-33 conveyors installed at the plant pneumatically transfer measured amounts of dry food to the filler machine. From there, the dry food is dropped into the doams, thermally sealed and then mated with containers of yogurt. "The PIAB conveyors have taken the manual labor out of the process," says Riebe. "There is now no risk of employee back strain, as the operators just have to run the machines and monitor the process."

By automating the process, the plant has also eliminated human errors that would sometimes occur during the filling process. Now, the quantities for each doam are precise. "The C-33 is very reliable, well-designed and extremely clean. Our employees appreciate the fact that it is simple to operate and requires almost no maintenance. And our inspectors like the fact that it eliminates almost all risk of contamination," says Riebe.

For more information:
Brian Wilson, PIAB Inc.
781-337-7309 x 419