Our goal as a material handling equipment manufacturer is to help our clients make their processes more efficient. How do you measure that? Well, the proof is in the numbers.
An engineering company that designs and manufactures steel automotive parts, came to us for conveyor help. We built them some customized powered extendable conveyor and roller conveyors, which were installed in October.
Since installation, our client’s Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), which calculates how a machine is expected to run versus how it actually does run, for their machinery has improved by 25 percent, reporting over 95 percent OEE in November.
Our customers were thrilled with the improvements, saying their operators don’t spend nearly as much time fighting with the machinery.
Running two jobs used to take 3 hours, Process Engineer Seth Monroe said, now it only takes 1.5 hours. That’s a 50 percent improvement.
Maintenance has also become easier. Replacing the belts on the extendable conveyors used to take two to three hours. Now it takes 30 minutes.
“It takes longer to get the belts out of the crib than it does to replace them,” Monroe said.
Tuff Automation supplies Salco CA doors, and there isn’t a better product for sealing your rooms gas-tight with ease. We offer Salco doors at competitive prices.
A standard in the European fruit industry, Salco gas-tight doors are constructed with a lightweight polyester surrounded by an aluminum framework and then finished with impact-resistant fiberglass. They slide easily along a stainless steel track, and can be sealed completely in as little as 2 minutes with only one operator.
Salco gas-tight doors come in a variety of sizes and colors to best suit your needs. They come in both horizontal-sliding and vertical-lifting varieties.
Whether you’re looking to have some existing controlled atmosphere (CA) equipment refurbished or serviced, or you’re in the market for some brand new, top-of-the-line nitrogen generators, carbon dioxide scrubbers, and CA controllers, Tuff Automation does it all and everything in between.
Tuff can save you thousands of dollars
With our complete, custom-engineered nitrogen generators, carbon dioxide scrubbers, and automatic CA controllers, you will save thousands on energy bills. We pride ourselves on our energy-efficient designs.
Already have a nitrogen generator? Have Tuff rebuild it with a warranty. We service all competitor models and guarantee our service and equipment, and you’ll have a much more efficient machine.
Open and close storage rooms with ease
Tuff supplies Salco Insulated Doors at affordable prices. These doors are durable, easy to use, and come in a variety of configurations so they can be ordered to suit your space.
We’ll analyze your current system for free
Don’t build or add to your facility without a free system analysis from Tuff Automation. We can help you determine the most efficient ways to incorporate and reconfigure your system so that you can save money.
Industrial networks are a necessary component of any automated material handling system. They are set up to use standard network protocols in rugged, industrial environments that require equipment to withstand vibration, extreme temperatures, humidity, and scalability. They require customization based on the environment and application of the machinery they control.
Tuff Automation has experience working with and implementing a variety of industrial network protocols. Our deep familiarity with such an array of networks further ensures our ability to customize a system that meets your exact needs. Some common networks we’ve implemented include:
Ethernet (Ethernet IP/Profinet)
and many more.
In-depth industrial networking experience is essential to building a comprehensive controls system. In cabling, bandwidth calculations, and future planning, Tuff Automation has the experience you need to make sure your system runs efficiently—without a hitch.
The best thing you can do to keep your material handling equipment running smoothly is to develop a customized maintenance plan. The simplest negligence can lead to extreme machine deterioration over time. But if you periodically make sure every component on your conveyor, lift, over under, or stacker is in good shape, you won’t have to worry about fatal faults at inconvenient times. We have a couple tips on what you should include in your specific maintenance plan.
What follows is intended to be a guide and is by no means all inclusive.
Before you even worry about what needs to be done to maintain your equipment, you should make sure you are able to do so in a safe manner. This starts with training your personnel.
Make sure your designated maintenance workers know how to safely and effectively perform maintenance on each individual component.
Make sure they are aware of any maintenance-related hazards they may encounter while performing maintenance.
Never allow personnel to perform maintenance while machine is operating. Always follow machine disconnect procedures prior to performing maintenance.
Replace all guards and safety measures once maintenance is complete.
Check motors periodically for excessive noise.
Monitor the temperature of running motors for excessive heat.
Verify all motors are securely fastened, tighten bolts as necessary.
Monitor chains for proper lubrication. Determine frequency of lubrication based on lubricant, usage, and manufacturer recommendations.
Check periodically for chain wear. Determine the cause of the wear (hardware malfunction or just normal wear and tear) and address as necessary.
Check regularly to make sure chain is operating at appropriate tension. Adjust as necessary.
Sprockets & Rollers
Make sure sprockets are properly aligned. Adjust as necessary.
Monitor sprockets and rollers for wear. Address as necessary.
Periodically apply lubrication to roller bearings. Determine frequency of lubrication based on lubricant, usage, and manufacturer recommendations.
Monitor rollers periodically for any bearing noise. Address as necessary.
Check periodically for appropriate belt tension. Adjust as necessary.
Monitor belt tracking and adjust as necessary.
Check entire belt for wear. Address as necessary.
Monitor all bearings for excessive noise.
Lubricate appropriate bearings as necessary.
Check periodically for bearing interference and remove as necessary.
Inspect entire machine for bolt tightness and integrity.
Remove any interfering debris from moving parts.
Keep machinery as clean as possible.
Be proactive in machinery maintenance
Bottom line, paying for extensive repairs on a problem that could have easily been avoided is foolish. Do your future self a favor. Keep up on the maintenance of your machinery.
The benefits of quality assurance don’t stop at establishing a good relationships with your customers. Doing everything you can to make sure your product is flawless can also save you thousands of dollars in damages. If a product fails and you have no way to prove the cause of the failure happened after the product was out of your hands, then you’re setting yourself up to pay hefty, undue legal fees.
One way our customers have addressed this risk is with our build line QA camera system. The system is custom programmed by Tuff engineers to take a photo, record the necessary information to identify the product, and store the photo with that information. That way, in the event something happens to a product down the line and your customer starts investigating the point of error, you have the proof to keep your reputation clear.
The system operates with a number of cameras attached by USB to a PC. The PC searches for a signal from the build line PLC, which then commands the cameras to take a photo and provides the product information (such as a serial number). Together, that information is sent back to the PC and stored for later reference.
Our current software is programmed to work with iCube cameras. It can support up to 4 cameras simultaneously on a single computer, enabling you to get pictures from multiple angles. The file names of the photos can include string data from the PLC and the date, time, and camera name as necessary. The software is compatible with ControlLogix/CompactLogix processors and uses an Ingear.Net software library, so no OPC is required.
The style of lens and the lighting necessary to take good photos will depend on the environment and application. We can work with you to figure out the best configuration of the system for it to work optimally in your environment. Tuff has worked on a variety of build line systems—with our experience you can rest assured that the integration of your camera system will go seamlessly.
Our customer had their employees pushing car seats down steel rails, and the force required to do this ended up causing numerous employee injuries. To address this, the customer came to us in need of something that could operate in the way the steel rails were while diminishing the force required to operate them.
We came up with the slide rail conveyor, a dual-rail conveyor outfitted with skate wheels to help easily move product.
Each rail features small, ultra-close affected wheel centers that are mounted on two lanes of staggered bushings. They create a very low rolling friction—even on heavy products with non-conveyable footprints—and they do it way better than UHMW or slide steel rails, which require more than 95% more push force.
The system can include as many or as few rails as required, and the customer can determine their spacing. They are painted with two-part epoxy paint in customer-specified RAL color, meaning they come in any color at no additional cost. The floor supports, guiding, and additional customization can vary with the application. They can also be incorporated with Tuff Automation metering stops or braking devices to control product flow.
Our slide rail conveyors are purely gravity conveyor—they require no electricity or controls to operate. As such, they’re a much more affordable alternative to powered plastic chain conveyors.
These conveyors are a durable solution to an expensive problem, and they can save companies thousands of dollars in electricity and employee injury costs.
Production facility floor space is sacred. The more organized and compact you are, the more efficient your production practices are.
Our customer wanted to crowd more conveyor into their existing space to optimize their production facility. Continuing to drive lift trucks through such a tightly packed space would increase the risk for damaged product and equipment. So our customer needed something to facilitate the movement of their product within this tight space while limiting the use of lift trucks. Tuff Automation worked together with Savant Automation to create a transfer cart that would solve their problems.
We constructed the transfer cart with heavy structural steel and laser-cut and formed components. It traveled along a rail embedded in the facility floor, which meant that lift trucks could still be driven in the same space as needed. The cart used an overhead power system, taking up the least amount of space necessary to move products from destination to destination.
The transfer cart had to carry five different products from their respective fill systems to one of two stations—a stretch wrapper or a conveyor that sent them straight to the warehouse. Check out our video of the system in motion:
The final product ended up being an excellent solution to the customer’s needs, getting the job done without trying to squeeze lift trucks through tight spaces.
Here it is June already, and before you know it your fruit will be ready to be stored. We at Tuff Automation hope you have a great season with few problems, and we’d like to remind you that it is this time of year, when you have access to your controlled atmosphere (CA) storage rooms and equipment, that you should be tuning up your systems.
To make this process a little easier for you, we’ve compiled a list of some things you can do to make sure your systems are in top condition and ready to store the fruits of your labors—pun completely intended. Read on for tips regarding some key points of CA storage system maintenance, starting with checking your CA rooms.
Check all rooms for airtightness
This is a time-consuming process, but one that can pay back in real savings. Airtightness is crucial for your CA storage rooms to operate optimally.
There are a number of issues that can contribute to the loss of airtightness in your CA storage rooms. Remember that not all lift truck drivers are as careful as you are, and leak-causing accidents can happen without your knowledge. Additionally, changes in temperature and humidity over the summer cause floors, walls, and ceilings to expand and contract, creating small cracks and holes.
You know as well as we do that once a room is sealed for the year, it can be almost impossible to fix some leaks. And depending on the size of the leak, you may have to continually supply additional nitrogen for the remainder of the season. So now is the time to check your floors, walls, and ceiling for cracks and holes.
Check room components for function
Just like most equipment, CA equipment does not like to sit around. It may have been months since your room valves, low volume relief valves, emergency glycol traps, temperature probes, as well as room lights and everything to do with the refrigeration have been used.
Now would be a great time to start up the system and make sure everything is working and ready for the fall season. It is a lot easier to make these inspections now while they are not being used rather than when you are loading them with fruit.
Check main equipment for function
Once you have your CA rooms inspected, repaired, and tested, you can move on to the main equipment. Most CA systems consist of a nitrogen generator, a carbon dioxide scrubber, and some form of CA controller.
Carbon Dioxide Scrubbers
Most carbon dioxide scrubbers will require a little maintenance and calibration. Monitoring the status of the following components will ensure your scrubber is in good shape.
A good scrubber has a filter for incoming regeneration air, and most of the time this has not been replaced throughout the previous year and should be replaced now. A dirty filter or one removed can cause the system to run less efficiently, and, if not taken care of, will damage the activated carbon that is used to scrub the carbon dioxide out of the nitrogen.
Air Controlled Valves
The incoming air to these valves should have the correct filters in place to protect them from dirt, oil, and water. If you have these filters on your system, it is good practice to replace them before the beginning of the season. Although they may be fine now, replacing them is a small price to pay to protect the scrubber from major damage later.
Most scrubbers use oxygen sensors to make sure the rooms are at the right oxygen levels and that the scrubber isn’t adding oxygen. It is good practice to have these calibrated at least twice a year. Some operators may even choose to do it monthly to make sure everything is in order.
Carbon Dioxide Sensors
Most newer scrubbers use carbon dioxide sensors to make the scrubber run more efficiently and monitor the levels in the room. It is good practice to have these calibrated at least twice a year.
Look over the whole scrubber for loose hoses, wires, and fittings.
Make sure all the valves are working properly.
Run the system for an hour just to make sure everything is in good working order.
Pressure check all pipes to check for leaky valves, scrub blowers, fittings, and pipes.
Blow or wipe off the dust and dirt to keep machine clean.
At the heart of any CA system is a nitrogen generator. If this goes down and you do not have a back-up, you could find yourself in a world of hurt. Just like the scrubber, most nitrogen generators will require regular maintenance.
Whether you use a PSA or a membrane nitrogen generator, filtration is very important to their function and longevity, so maintaining the components that facilitate this process is also important.
These machines are very expensive and should be maintained and watched by someone that is trained in their function. We suggest having a local distributor come in and tune up this component at least twice a year. Now would be a good time to have them come in and do their complete maintenance program on them. This includes, but is not limited to, changing the oil and filters and making sure that the system provides good, clean air free of any water, oil, and dirt.
It is also important to maintain pre-generator filters. Every nitrogen generator should have the following filters before the air enters them:
Oil mist eliminator
Activated carbon absorber tower
All of these filters should be maintained and replaced at least once a year or as necessary. If at any time you find water, dirt, or oil in these filters, there could be potential issues with the air compressor or dryer, and the system should be stopped and checked out by a qualified service technician.
Air Controlled Valves
The incoming air to these valves should have the correct filters in place to protect them from dirt, oil, and water. If you have these on your system, it is a good idea to replace them before the beginning of the season.
Most generators use oxygen sensors to make sure they are at the right nitrogen levels. It is good practice to have these calibrated at least twice a year. Some operators choose to do it monthly to make sure everything is in order.
Look over the whole nitrogen generator for loose hoses, wires, and fittings and make sure all the valves are working properly.
Run the generator for an hour or two just to make sure everything is in working order.
Dust and clean the generator to prevent unforeseen damage later in the year.
Not all storage systems have a CA controller, but a system with one connected to the internet can make your life much simpler. When installed correctly, it runs your system for you using information you have entered into its computer. It automatically reads your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels as well as temperature, room pressures, and the presence of ammonia, and then tells the system what to do.
The following components on your CA controller should be monitored for function.
Air Controlled Valves
Most controllers use electric solenoid valves for operation. The incoming air to these valves should have the correct filters in place to protect them from dirt and water. It is best to replace or check these before the beginning of the season.
Depending on which options you purchased with your controller, you will have a few sensors that will need calibration and should be checked out for proper operation. These include oxygen, carbon dioxide, and ammonia sensors. Along with temperature probes and pressure transducers, these components should be calibrated at least once a year and maintained per the manuals.
Check CA Controller for loose hoses, wires, and fittings.
Run system for 1-2 hours and make sure all of the valves are working properly and monitor the controller’s function.
Clean and dust controller to avoid any potential issues caused by dust and dirt.
Don’t let negligence get in the way of a productive season
Taking these measures will help ensure the post-harvest season success of your produce. Minor lapses in maintenance can lead to major, and potentially costly, hiccups later on. We want you to avoid these problems just as much as you do. So be proactive—do some preventive maintenance now and save yourself trouble in the fall. You’ll be glad you did.
On a single conveyor there can be multiple kinds of product, and they may all need different end destinations. This dynamic conveyor movement can be achieved by incorporating transfers into the conveyor system. They operate to reroute product 90 degrees.
Tuff Automation’s custom-designed belt transfers are easy to integrate, mounting into any live roller conveyor—line shaft, belt, or chain driven. They can cut lead times on conveyor transfers by as much as half.
Efficient, space-saving product redirection
Transfers are ideal for reducing conveyor floor space because they allow for this change of route without requiring large arcing curves. A mounted transfer simply pops up when actuated and pushes product over onto an adjoining conveyor.
Custom design with the highest quality materials
Tuff transfers are custom built to fit your application. They can be inserted into standard line shaft conveyor (1.9) with rollers on three-inch centers without modification, meaning you don’t have to buy special conveyor sections to accommodate them.
Our belt transfers are ideal for product that needs to be handled more gently—the belts don’t mar product. Our transfers are typically pneumatically actuated, utilize DC or AC conveyor motors, and can incorporate as many strands as necessary. Tuff transfers offer torsion bar design for smooth, level operation, and they are easy to maintain with simple belt changeout.
Shorter lead times
Installs into standard conveyor without modification