Incorporating an MDR to a Food Production and Distribution Center’s Conveyor System Increases Efficiency, and Safety

A food production and distribution facility contacted E Tech Group to assess and upgrade the conveyor increasing output, efficiency, and safety.

Feeding Jams Cause Decreased Output and Safety Concerns: 

The freezer outbound ASRS section in a food production and distribution facility is responsible for moving products in batches of 16×2 cases across two lines.  

However, the current system lacks accumulation feeding to the robot responsible for palletizing the cases, leading to frequent jams and safety concerns for operators who must clear these jams.  

E Tech Group provided an assessment of the current issue and recommended the replacement of the existing thirty-foot conveyor on both lanes with a lane MDR (Motorized Driven Roller) conveyor to improve control up to the merge point. 

Project/Environmental Challenges: 

The replacement of the MDR section as originally described sounded like a straightforward solution as it was a complete replacement.  

Once our team began configuring/mapping out the solution they began encountering a number of challenges during the detailed design phase: 

Limited Mechanical Drawings

  • Limited Information: The client lacked comprehensive details about the existing system, leading to multiple measurement trips to gather essential information. 
  • Incorrect Conveyor Size: Initial measurements indicated a 30 ft length, but it was later determined to be 31.5 ft, necessitating a revision of our order. 
  • Clearance Issues: The new conveyor, at 25 inches wide, didn’t align with the existing 20-inch-wide conveyor, requiring a cost-effective alternative solution. The partial removal of the old conveyor prompted a reconsideration of our strategy. 
  • Belt-Driven Upstream Conveyor: Discovering that the belt we replaced powered an upstream diverging conveyor, we had to relocate the replacement motor, leading to additional unplanned work. 

Limited Electrical Drawings  

  • The onsite team had to rely on the existing panel to locate the power source, as they had limited electrical drawings. 

Limitations on Conveyor Hanging  

  • The client specified that the E Tech Group team could not add additional support to the ceiling in hanging the conveyor, which would need to be 22 ft high and as floor-supported as possible.  
  • The requirement to use floor supports rather than ceiling support posed an engineering challenge left to the E Tech Group team to determine how to effectively support this system. 

New and Old Conveyor Size  

  • As the team was required to use floor support, a height-adjustable system was needed to provide the alignment from the old to new conveyor dimensions. 


Overcoming Mechanical Limitations 

To address the mechanical challenges, the onsite team initiated a collaborative effort across multiple departments to develop an effective design solution. They worked diligently to address and solve: 

Steps taken included: 

  • Mechanical Footprint Design: Due to limited mechanical drawings, the team relied on precise hand measurements to establish the system’s mechanical footprint, serving as the foundation for the design efforts. 
  • Load Support Design: The team designed load supports tailored to the product’s weight and dimensions to ensure efficient custom
  • Bracket Fabrication: For handling different conveyor sizes, the team created specialized brackets fabricated at a local machine shop to meet project-specific requirements. 
  • Height Adjustment Design: To align conveyor heights without adding ceiling weight, the team engineered special brackets. These brackets were pivotal in achieving height adjustment and managing floor support effectively. 

Implementation and Benefits 

After a series of trips to refine the design solutions, the E Tech Group onsite team successfully implemented the proposed changes.  

Once the remaining variables were addressed, the implementation process went remarkably smooth.  

The key enhancement to this system being the incorporation of MDR (Motorized Driven Roller) accumulation, which added significant value to the system. 

The implementation phase involved the following steps: 

  • Assembly and Installation With the refined design in place, our installation team worked diligently to assemble and install the newly designed components. This included fitting the custom brackets, load supports, and the MDR accumulation system. 
  • Testing and Quality Assurance Rigorous testing and quality assurance procedures were carried out to ensure that the system operated efficiently and safely. We paid particular attention to the seamless integration of the MDR accumulation, which played a pivotal role in reducing the risk of jams and enhancing overall system performance. 
  • Operational Efficiency  The new design and components improved the system’s operational efficiency. The added MDR accumulation allowed for smoother product flow, eliminating the frequent jams that had previously posed a safety concern for operators. 
  • Enhanced Safety The implementation not only resolved the mechanical challenges but also significantly enhanced safety conditions for operators. With the reduction in jam-related incidents, the need for operators to intervene and clear conveyors was significantly reduced. 

Once the designed installation was complete and operational, the successful implementation of the solution brought about positive change in the system’s efficiency and safety, as anticipated, mainly through the introduction of MDR accumulation.  

This project exemplified E Tech Group’s ability to overcome intricate challenges and deliver an innovative solution that improved both operations and workplace safety.