Customised material handling equipment improves manufacturing efficiency

According to Deloitte’s 2024 Manufacturing industry outlook report, “technology will likely remain a pivotal force in driving efficiency, resilience and innovation in the supply chain.” On fast-paced production lines where time is of the essence, integrating new equipment demands swiftness. So, how can manufacturers proactively tackle these challenges? Here, Stephen Harding, managing director of Gough Engineering, explains why the answer lies in customised material handling equipment.

Investments in new machinery and processes will be vital if manufacturers are to navigate industry challenges, foster growth and remain competitive. However, investing in new equipment is far from straightforward. Securing budget allocations can be a challenge, requiring meticulous consideration of the potential returns on investment (ROI), as well as financial metrics such as profitability and cash flow.

To calculate the ROI, manufacturers must identify their reasons for investing in the new machinery in the first place. These goals and objectives might include increased production efficiency, improved product quality or enhanced production capacity. Next, a comprehensive cost analysis is needed that encompasses the initial investment and related ongoing operational costs.

In other words, investing in new equipment necessitates a delicate balance between capital expenditures (CAPEX) and operating expenditures (OPEX). The former includes purchase costs, installation, training and any necessary infrastructure changes on the factory floor. OPEX encompasses the ongoing costs associated with day-to-day operations, such as utilities, planned and unplanned maintenance, salaries and supplies for expected reliability and performance.

These decisions must also be made quickly so that manufacturers can swiftly integrate advanced equipment into their lines. So, how can manufacturers get ahead of the game when investing in new machinery and processes? Fortunately, a solution lies in customised equipment.

One size does not fit all

Let’s look at the impact customised equipment can have on production lines. A food producer/distributor wanted to meet rising demands and expand its market reach across Europe and the Far East. The company sought to enhance its process for unloading big bags with high levels of quality control; with the possibility to load the product into silos, tankers, or even back into big bags.

Challenges included accommodating various big bag sizes, maintaining a fast throughput in excess of 20 tons per hour, and adhering to ATEX, the European safety standard for explosive atmospheres.

To overcome these operational complexities, the company enlisted the expertise of Gough Engineering to implement a tailored material handling system. Gough Engineering’s approach is to address specific challenges encountered by customers, aiming to minimise manual handling, reduce energy consumption, and optimise cleanliness while ensuring product integrity throughout the process.

Gough Engineering selected a range of solutions from its portfolio. That included the use of big bag discharging units, the use of temporary storage using silos and hoppers, followed by check screening processes to remove any conglomerates or debris.

Product elevation would be crucial to the new material handling system, lifting product between each quality checking process for final delivery. A system’s design can include a Gough Swinglink bucket elevator, Floveyor aero-mechanical conveyors or vacuum transfer systems.

These systems would work alongside vibrational screening as well as different over-band or ‘in-line’ metal detection systems — an over-band metal detector unit is positioned above the conveyor belt, or with an ‘in-line’ metal detection systems during product conveying and transfer.

Gough Engineering provided comprehensive design consultancy and engineering support services. This included factory acceptance testing and mechanical installation, to ensure smooth implementation of the system.

Tailored precision

Amid the surge in investments to enhance efficiency and innovation, decision-makers face the critical task of balancing CAPEX and OPEX to ensure optimal returns. Gough Engineering delivers tailored solutions that not only meet but exceed client expectations. From standalone units to complex integrations, the solutions are crafted to meet the diverse needs of modern production environments, offering controlled distribution of products tailored to each client's unique processes.

The integration of advanced and customised technology into manufacturing processes has become paramount, as highlighted by Deloitte's industry report, and will be key to driving progress within industry.