Food Engineering

Field Reports: Conveying ‘Over the Moon'

May 1, 2006


The conveyor system stacks crates up to six high and consists of 12 case-stacking lines divided into groups of four. Source: American Conveyor.


Garelick Farms, a division of Dean-Suiza, is the largest dairy operation east of the Mississippi, processing more than a half-million gallons of milk each day. Located in Franklin, MA, and in operation since 1931, Garelick Farms also produces cream, ice cream, sour cream, cottage cheese and juice. Recently, the dairy introduced its Over the Moon milk, a fat free beverage that tastes like 2% low-fat milk, and also a 1% low-fat product that tastes like whole milk.

To keep up with production growth as well as current throughput, the plant needed to improve its packing, handling, shipping and conveying operations. Cleland Cochrane, Garelick's director of operations, chose American Conveyor Corporation to design and install the new system. "American Conveyor installed more than 3,000 ft. of conveyors and unitizers without shutting down the system for even an hour," says Cochrane. While it was important to keep downtime at a minimum during the changeover, the new equipment also had to withstand high-pressure washdowns and be easy to clean.

The conveyor system stacks crates up to six high and consists of 12 case-stacking lines divided into groups of four. Source: American Conveyor.
Stacks of six crates are collated "live" on twelve conveyors that exit the filling room on their way to the cooler. Inside the cooler, the twelve case-stacking lines are divided into groups of four, and routed to any one of three unitizers. After discharge from the unitizers, the block of cases (unitized load) is picked up by a clamp fork truck operator where the SKU is matched to a computer-assigned rack slot. The rack slot contains the product code, date code, time of day, and the location(s) where similar product is stored.

Matched against the order number, product, quantity, location, and scheduled delivery time and date, orders are picked up from five picking lines in the cooler and merged downstream to build a load that is routed by a load-out coordinator to one of five outbound lanes. A no-load conveyor sends incomplete orders or segments to a staging location where they're held until the complete order is assembled. After assembly is complete, the order is checked and released.

The system was designed with optimal drainage for high-pressure washdowns with water and chlorinated compounds. It also includes oversized, sealed bearings for durability. Recessed drives were inverted for ease of maintenance. Thus, pit-level conveyor motors and gearboxes have all been located above the floor.

Since project completion, the new conveying and handling system has decreased shipping and handling time by 40%, and it allows Garelick to pack and ship as many as 270 cases of milk, juice and other beverages per minute. "The new system saves us ten to twelve hours of load-out time every day," says Cochrane.

For more information:
Richard Dauphin, American Conveyor Corporation, 508-278-0033, rdauphin@americanconveyor.net


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