Food Engineering

Four Bolts from Disaster

March 27, 2003
In 1998, Pulakos Chocolates had a problem -- four bolts and shims were missing from a depositing plate on its new chocolate molding line running chocolate almond bars.

"We manufactured 25,000 bars that day," recalls George Pulakos. "The chocolate had already been wrapped, boxed and put in cartons." Finding the missing metal would be like finding a needle in a haystack.

Pulakos turned to Eriez Magnetics for a solution. Eriez brought in a model E-ZX Tec metal detector and began scanning the cartons. Once the case was identified, individual boxes were checked then individual bars. All four pieces of metal were retrieved, and the chocolate was shipped on time.

This experience prompted Pulakos to install Eriez metal detectors throughout the plant.

Three suppliers provide bulk chocolate coming into the plant in 1,500 to 2,000-lb. totes. After blending, the chocolate is pumped to various production areas for conversion into specialty confections.

"We have Eriez rare earth tube magnets in line with the pumps," notes Pulakos. "These help strain out metallic contamination originating either from the tanks, chocolate or other places." The magnets remove ferrous metal from dry and liquid products.

At the molding line, chocolate can be made into one of five different bars -- mixing in almond, rice, peanut butter, caramel or mint as well as plain. Eriez vibratory feeders deliver the mix-ins to the mixing cone accurately, reliably and economically, according to Pulakos. After the deposited chocolate bars set and cool, they are removed from the molds and packaged.

Despite the attentiveness of the personnel operating the molding line, Pulakos installed an E-Z Tec MPC (MicroProcessor Control) metal detector at the end of the line to scan the bars before packaging.

Pulakos also installed MPCTerm monitoring software that allows remote access and real-time diagnostic functions either elsewhere on the plant floor or in a centralized control room. This allows the company to have control and reporting functions directly from the same location as the process controls.

Fortunately, Pulakos averted potential disaster and took advantage of the lesson. "Using magnets and metal detectors helps to identify problems before major damage occurs to downstream equipment," notes Pulakos. "It also protects product quality and maintains productivity of the processing lines, saving time and money."

Eriez Magnetics, 2200 Asbury Rd., Erie, PA 16514-0608 Tel.: (814) 835-5000; Web site: www.eriez.com