Agribusiness & Food

Goya Foods ups output with 16 automated bulk bag dispensers

When a major US food company needed to up its production, it turned to the Flexicon Corporation to equip its new site.

Goya Foods the largest Hispanic-owned food companies in the United States, importing ingredients from around the world to create more than 2500 food products.

In 2015, the company opened its new headquarters and distribution centre in Jersey City, New Jersey. At the same time, it invested in its existing distribution centre in Secaucus.

At 22,300 square metres, the new site is four times larger than the previous facility and relieves several long-standing bottlenecks, says Luis Valencia, the new site’s Plant Engineer.

“We had run out of capacity for rice mixtures at our previous site. In fact, all of the existing lines, including the bean and flour lines, were over-utilised. We were overdue for a change,” Valencia says.

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To prevent supply disruptions, Goya continued operating all 12 of its rice, bean and flour lines at the previous site while outfitting the new site with more efficient bulk handling and packaging equipment from Flexicon.

“We had Flexicon equipment here already, so we knew they were reliable systems,” Valencia says.

“Efficiency is the focus because the product and process demand it. The processes are relatively uncomplicated, so the simpler the process, the higher our efficiency must be. We’re always looking to increase quality, safety and efficiency.”

Cutting bulk bag unloading times

Goya receives rice, beans, dry vegetables, and flour in 998 kilogram bulk bags, while the spice mixtures are mixed into rigid 498 kilogram totes. Ingredients are batched to the packaging machines by gain-in-weight control.

To increase productivity, Goya needed to accelerate its handling of bulk bags. The Bulk-Out BFC bulk bag dischargers use a cantilevered I-beam, hoist, and trolley to load bags quickly.

Valencia says the fast-loading units allow just two forklift drivers to serve the site’s 16 bulk bag dischargers. A single operator can load and discharge bulk bags across several product lines.

In operation, a forklift places a palletised bulk bag in front of the discharger. The operator connects the bag loops to Z-Clip bag strap holders on the lifting frame and, using a pendant, hoists the bag into the discharger.

Rice mixes batched to high-capacity pouch filler

To match the production capacity of a new high speed pouch filler for rice mixes, Goya installed a gain-in-weight batching system for the rice, vegetable, and spice components. For rice, palletised bulk bags are delivered by fork truck to side-by-side BFC bulk bag dischargers that unload into two large 2268 kilogram capacity floor hoppers. The hoppers feed a common six-metre-long bucket conveyor leading to a weigh hopper which empties into the pouch filler. Each discharger unloads a 998 kilogram bulk bag of rice in four minutes.

Similarly, dry vegetables move from their respective bulk bag discharger to the pouch filler via bucket conveyor and weigh hopper.

Each weigh hopper rests on load cells that transmit weight-gain signals to a controller that stops each conveyor once the target weight is reached for each ingredient, automating, and expediting a process that previously required manual verification that batches reach the pouch filler.

Spices for the rice mixes are supplied in rigid totes, which are hoisted above a Model BFH-C-X half frame discharger mounted on a 1134 kilogram capacity hopper. From the hopper outlet, a 7.6-metre-long flexible screw conveyor is inclined at 32°, moving the spices to a weigh hopper which discharges to the pouch filler.

A flexible screw of specialised geometry for difficult-to-handle spices rotates within an 11.4-centimetre polymer outer tube of the flexible screw conveyor. The screw is the only moving part contacting material and is driven beyond the point of discharge, preventing material contact with seals or bearings.

“Goya Foods Secaucus has received an A++ rating by the British Retail Consortium’s certified auditors, the highest, for two years in a row,” Valencia says. “In this case the conveyor is sanitised daily by disconnecting the flexible screw from the drive shaft and removing the screw for cleaning.”

The plant specified Flexicon flexible screw conveyors for both the rice mix spices and flour lines because they are enclosed, simple, dust-tight and prevent the separation of blends.

Bean and flour lines operate at high capacity

The bean line deploys six BFC model bulk bag dischargers, mounted over 2268 kilogram capacity floor hoppers and arranged in three pairs. Each pair shares a bucket conveyor that feeds a weigh hopper which discharges into a pillow-bag packaging machine.

The flour line employs three BFC bulk bag dischargers, each with Flow-Flexer bag activator plates that increasingly raise and lower opposite bottom edges of the bag on timed cycles, ultimately forming a steep V shape that promotes total discharge.

Dialling it in

Goya Secaucus packages products of 50 different varieties of beans and 30 different flours. Each has slightly different flow characteristics. “We change over constantly, and when you change a bean or a flour or a rice mix, there’s a lot of fine-tuning,” Valencia says. Fine flours are among the tougher products.

“It’s a challenge to dial it in; the higher the speed, the more precision is required. Flexicon helped us with upgrading our electronics. They made sure the dischargers were feeding correctly and the controls were reading the hopper levels correctly. We control the weights better now and avoid process loss.”

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