Equipment & Technology

Capacity up and labour down with bulk bag weigh batch discharging

To meet growing demand and raise quality standards, an Indonesian drink manufacturer installed twin Bulk-Out bulk bag weigh batch dischargers from Flexicon (Singapore).

To meet growing demand and raise quality standards, an Indonesian drink manufacturer installed twin Bulk-Out bulk bag weigh batch dischargers from Flexicon (Singapore).

Indonesian drink manufacturer Singabera produces natural ginger mixes and other local specialties from locally sourced ingredients before they are shipped off to buyers around the world.

Michael Na, the company’s managing director, said the business is committed to creating the highest quality products derived from natural plants while managing its environmental footprint.

At its old factory, everything was done by hand. Workers would transport, weigh, and add coconut and cane sugar from 25 kg bags, cutting each open one at a time.

“That was a lot of work,” Na said. 

Foreign objects entering the process was another concern. 

“The US is our biggest market, and the standards are very strict. Any concern about quality is unacceptable,” he said. “We needed to do something differently to have fewer people at the operation and to ensure consistency.” 

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To meet growing demand and raise quality standards, Singabera built a new factory and installed twin Bulk-Out bulk bag weigh batch dischargers, each feeding parallel lines of three flexible screw conveyors, from Flexicon (Singapore).

The automated system weighs and delivers fine sugar to six juice cookers at high rates while containing dust and improving safety.

System handles bulk bags and handheld bags
The twin bulk bag discharging and conveying lines are positioned side-by-side and parallel to one another, each supplying sugar to three cookers on a 2m high mezzanine.

Each model BFC discharger is mounted on load cells and equipped with a cantilevered I-beam, hoist and trolley that lifts and positions a one tonne bulk bag into the discharger frame without the need for a forklift. A worker pulls the outlet spout through a 380mm diameter iris valve, which closes around the spout, preventing material flow. The spout is then untied and the valve opened slowly, preventing uncontrolled bursts of material and dust from entering the 400L floor hopper.

To promote evacuation of sugar from bulk bags, Flow-Flexer bag activators raise and lower opposite bottom edges of the bag with increasingly longer strokes as the bag lightens, eventually raising the bag bottom into a steep ‘V’ shape.

The hoppers include a bag dump hood for manually adding sugar from 25 kg bags, providing Singabera the flexibility to use material from bags of multiple sizes. 

“Most factories in Indonesia still use the smaller bags and sometimes we have to use them because of supply shortages,” Na said.

Discharging smaller bags at floor level into the manual bag dumping station means that workers no longer need to carry the bags up ladders or stairs to empty the contents into the cookers. This not only reduces the risk of injury from a repetitive and potentially hazardous manual process, it also reduces the time to achieve the desired batch weights when using smaller bags. A rigid screen keeps foreign objects and packaging material out of the hopper and supports the bag to ease the strain on workers.

Conveying in multiple directions, selectively by weight
The floor hopper for each station charges an inclined 7.5m long flexible screw conveyor that either feeds the first juice cooker or the charging adapter of a horizontally oriented 4.5m long flexible screw conveyor. The horizontal conveyor can, in turn, feed the second juice cooker or the charging adapter of another horizontally oriented 4.5m long flexible screw conveyor that feeds the third juice cooker. 

The sugar exiting the inclined conveyor passes through a short length of downspouting into a pneumatically actuated slide gate valve. This either opens to deposit the sugar into the cooker or closes to move the sugar through the horizontal conveyor to the next discharge point. The closed slide gate also reduces the effects of the cooker’s heat and steam on the sugar which could otherwise agglomerate and cause the convey line to shut down.

Each conveyor’s polymer outer tube encloses a flexible steel spiral that is driven beyond the point of discharge, preventing material contact with the bearings or seals. 

Once an operator selects which juice cooker should receive a batch of sugar, a programmable logic controller (PLC) actuates the corresponding slide gate valves and 4 kW gear drives of one, two or three of the horizontal conveyors. 

When feeding the first juice cooker, the PLC runs the inclined conveyer at full rate, and then at trickle feed rate prior to stopping the conveyor when the bulk bag discharger has lost the accurate batch weight. When feeding the second or third juice cooker, the PLC additionally starts and stops the horizontally oriented conveyors in the same manner.

Once a batch of sugar—typically 150kg —is added to a corresponding volume of juice, the solution cooks for 45 to 60 minutes. 

More capacity, accuracy, and consistency
A level switch in each bulk bag discharger’s floor hopper signals when workers need to load another bulk bag. The PLC maintains in-process batch information to ensure that weight accuracy is maintained during changeovers. 

Depending on the season, Singabera runs its drink-making process over two or three 8-hour shifts, employing three workers per shift instead of 10 workers required previously. Sugar throughput is 7 to 15 tonnes a day, twice what the old factory could handle.

“The system eliminates heavy manual labour, helping worker well-being tremendously,” Na said.

“Other benefits are accuracy, consistency, and hygiene. We can stack the bulk bags using forklifts or put them on racks, making warehousing more efficient than with smaller bags.

“Flexicon gave us a turnkey solution, and it’s been working to its full capabilities.” 

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