SaltWorks, a large gourmet salt company based near Seattle, WA, supplies premium-grade specialty salts to individuals, manufacturers, restaurants, retail stores and spice companies around the world. The company offers over 110 different varieties of salt, including authentic salts from around the globe, as well as SaltWorks’ own handcrafted lines of all-natural flavor-infused and cold-smoked salts. This wide selection of salts, used in a variety of applications by a diverse customer base, requires a vast range of very specific grain sizes.
SaltWorks needed a uniform method of sizing and de-dusting salt that would allow for fast and easy changeover of product, minimize contamination and meet stringent food safety requirements. The company was using multiple brands of vibratory round separators, none of which ran the same way. Employees had to be trained on how to operate each type of machine. Many tools were required to make adjustments and change screens, which was not only inefficient, but could also lead to possible contamination of one type of salt into another. The process was very manual and labor intensive. SaltWorks wanted to streamline the process, develop automation, enhance safety and improve efficiency, all while having the capability to customize salt for specific customer requirements.
“We’d seen SWECO displays at major trade shows, and we realized that they represent a gold standard in separating technology,” according to Colin Mclane, engineering manager for SaltWorks. “We consider SaltWorks the gold standard of all-natural salt, and we decided we needed to incorporate SWECO into our process.”
After SaltWorks discussed its processing needs with SWECO personnel, the two companies determined the best fit for SaltWorks’ process was the SWECO 48-inch MX Vibro-Energy round separator. At SaltWorks, an SQF Level 2-certified facility, 80 percent of the salt processed is gourmet salt, so food safety is top of mind. Easier cleaning is also important as it leads to more efficiency and allows for a smoother transition when switching between different types of salt.
The design of the SWECO MX round separator fosters a more sanitary process over other designs. These features include radius corner spouts, an enclosed motor and an open-base construction that allows for cleaning underneath the unit to prevent dirt and product buildup. Additionally, the no-tools force wheel and no-tools center tie down are designed to make weight adjustments and screen changes easier, as well as help prevent product contamination. Plus, the 316L stainless steel (polished to a number 4 finish) construction of the MX separators make them highly corrosion resistant.
“The build quality and attention to detail are truly top-notch. In the food business, that matters. We’re really pleased with the amount of stainless incorporated into the design,” says Mclane. “A salt factory is prone to corrosion. By building these machines for us from 316L stainless steel, SWECO significantly reduced potential corrosion issues.”
SaltWorks began its transition to SWECO separators by testing one unit in its plant, evaluating it and requesting changes to best suit the company’s needs, accommodated by the customizability of the MX round separator. SaltWorks requested one-piece, 50-inch extended bases that allow putting its large bins and super sacks directly under the extended spouts. In order to eliminate interference, SaltWorks requested that anything on the outside of the base be moved to the inside, including the junction box and the TechLube automatic greaser. Additionally, SaltWorks upgraded the motor to a high-speed inverter-duty motor capable of running up to 1,800 rpm, which allows for higher output and less screen blinding.
After the machine was fully customized by SWECO, SaltWorks ordered an additional five MX separators. With uniform machines in the plant, the company is now better able to control its environment, and has linked all of its SWECO units with a proprietary automation system. This system continuously monitors and records a host of process metrics including sifting efficiency, blending rate, sifting yield and total volume processed. Less training is now required for operators since all of the separators operate the same way. No-tools accessories for making adjustments and screen changes have led to a more simplified, cleaner process and less room for contamination, which ultimately leads to less downtime and greater output. Although it varies by the type of salt, output has increased by approximately 50 percent, with the potential of increasing even more depending on motor speed. For example, prior to switching to the MX, one notoriously difficult type of salt was processed at a rate of six 1-ton bags per day. After the installation of the new MX48s, SaltWorks has been able to increase the throughput to as many as eleven 1-ton bags per day.