When Atlanta-based Goldkist Poultry needed a mechanically separated chicken (MSC) processing system for its Live Oak, Fla., plant, lessons learned from a similar installation in Russelville, Ala., helped food engineers select equipment with superior performance and faster payback.

Goldkist managers in-stalled vertical scraped-surface heat exchangers in Russellville when they entered the value-added MSC market in 1996. Encouraged by product demand, they installed a second MSC line last year at the Florida plant, boosting capacity above 1 million lbs. per week.

But Byproducts Manager Ross Formica was determined to eliminate some of Russellville's production and maintenance problems, and a heavier-duty heat exchanger was a top priority. The answer was the Votator II vertical heat exchanger from Waukesha Cherry-Burrell. Featuring larger mechanical seals and shafts, "it's just a beefed up version of the units we have in the Russellville system," explains Formica. "It'll take more abuse without damaging the equipment."

Uncured MSC is particularly taxing on heat exchanges because, in the absence of the salt content of cured MSC, the moisture in the meat freezes at a higher temperature, creating greater stress on scraped-surface heat exchangers.

Goldkist's Russellville plant isn't up to the challenge, the Florida plant is, allowing Goldkist to meet market demand for uncured MSC. The key is the heat exchanger's drive system. Direct drive gear motors power the cylinder, not belt drives.

The hollow-shaft gear motor drive accepts the self-aligning mutator shaft. This innovation eliminates the need for a drive stub shaft and coupling. Seal durability is another advantage of the new system. Seals are changed almost daily in Russellville.

At $26 per seal, Formica says that cost is a big factor in doubling maintenance costs compared to the Florida plant, where no broken seals had to be replaced in 1999. "The units at Russell-ville have a lot of human-error factors that enter into the picture," Formica adds. "With the Votators, it's all mechanical. It just happens, so the carbon seals don't get damaged." When replacement is necessary, "just take it out, throw it away and put another one in," he says. "They've engineered out the human factor."

Consistent temperature control is a benefit of heavy-duty construction, and minimal downtime enables Goldkist to serve time-critical markets, which demand just-in-time production and delivery. When coupled with low maintenance costs and other advantages, these factors are expected to produce a two-year payback on the new system.

Waukesha Cherry-Burrell, 611 Sugar Creek Road, Delavan, WI 53115. Tel.: (262) 728-1900.