A friction-driven spiral cooler used to cool toasted pastry products was hugely impairing operation at the Schulze & Burch facility in Searcy, Arkansas. Excessive inside belt edge movement disrupted product alignment and increased tension caused belt modules to snap. With every snap, surrounding product had to be scrapped due to risk of contamination, and production had to stop for repairs. Schulze & Burch estimates losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars in both lost product and unscheduled downtime.
After discovering belt breakages were also due to product grease on the spiral drum, the company became vigilant about cleanliness and placed a great deal of pressure on the sanitation team. Other preventative efforts include a maintenance technician assigned to inspect the belt’s outer edge for cracks every morning, and a system of 18 sensors installed throughout the spiral to detect broken links and halt the system if any were found.
Schulze & Burch also tried lubricating the wearstrips to improve operation. This had to be performed every eight hours and monitored constantly. Unfortunately, lubricant oil would occasionally drip onto the belt, creating a product contamination risk. This forced production to stop so employees could clean the belt and scrap any at-risk product.
To fix the alignment issue, Schulze & Burch invested in $500,000 worth of aligning equipment. These growing costs caused the company to consider a linear cooling tunnel in place of the spiral cooler, even though it would require great amounts of capital and floor space.
Whatever the solution, Schulze & Burch was in need of a new technology to replace the friction-driven spiral cooler. Employees were constantly concerned that the system may crash, and needed something that would run consistently. The company also aimed to eliminate both unscheduled downtime and product contamination risks.
Several employees from Schulze & Burch came across Intralox at a bakery tradeshow in 2013. They were impressed by the spirals on display, and even more so by the DirectDrive System. Alan Freeland, Schulze & Burch Director of Technical Services, reached out to Intralox to determine if they could provide a spiral solution to replace the problematic friction-driven spiral cooler. Intralox recommended the DirectDrive System, and invited Freeland and his coworkers to see it in action at another facility. This convinced Schulze & Burch that DDS was the perfect solution.
Intralox’s patented DirectDrive System advances spiral conveyance by eliminating the most common issues related to product migration, belt tensioning, and sanitation. This technology is ideal for applications where product orientation, belt life, and grease/oil buildup are concerns. Zero overdrive creates a smooth run, which decreases alignment issues due to belt movement. Excessive belt tension and consequent module breakage are greatly reduced, as the belt edge engages directly with the drum for frictionless operation. Furthermore, DDS operation is not impacted by grease buildup on the drum, so sanitation need only be a function of hygiene standards.
To improve monitoring spiral performance, Schulze & Burch also opted to install the patented IntraloxIntelligence solution. IntraloxIntelligence continuously measures data on key parameters, such as tension and temperature, set by the facility. Data is transmitted to Intralox servers, which provide real-time email and SMS alerts to the facility if performance deviates beyond set thresholds.
More than one year after installation, the Intralox DDS at Schulze & Burch has drastically improved the facility’s operation. The spiral has had zero module breakages, and caused no unscheduled downtime, product contamination, scrapped product, or held orders. Its product alignment is near perfect, so no further alignment is required downstream. Lubricant isn’t needed, and there is much less pressure on the sanitation team as cleaning is purely to meet hygiene standards and performed weekly. Intralox experts analyze the data they receive from the IntraloxIntelligence technology at Schulze & Burch, review trends, and make recommendations to further optimize the system’s performance.
“It’s been a complete transformation,” says Freeland. The Intralox solution converted the spiral cooler from the worst performing equipment to the best performing equipment at the Searcy facility, allowing efforts to be redirected to other key challenges. Freeland says the plant is looking forward to many more successful years thanks to Intralox.