Largo foods have been in Ireland since 1983 and are one of the great International success stories in Irish business. Better known by their brand names, Perri Crisps, Hunky Dorys, King Crisps and the legendary staple of the Irish Diet, Tayto Crisps; these brands combined make Largo one of the biggest Food production companies in Ireland.
In their factory in Ashbourne Co. Meath they process over 30,000 tons of Potatoes, 10% of the national Irish potato crop, and produce crisps to satisfy 50% of the Irish Crisp market, amounting to over a €100 million turnover.
In a production facility with this high a volume of product processed, reliably is essential. If just one part of the production line breaks down the whole process can stop, causing backlogs, wasted produce, missed deadlines and most importantly money wasted.
This is why Largo Foods came to us. Largo have been investing in preventative maintenance systems over the past number of years and had identified a problem with bearing failure in the packaging hall which was causing ongoing problems
Crisp Packaging Line
In the packaging area, cooked crisps come in 2 main conveyor lines, each line travels across 3 conveyors, These 2 main lines then distribute to 11 smaller conveyors leading to packing machines. All these conveyors differ from the usual conveyor belt that use large rubber belt. Largo’s conveyors reciprocate forward and back, sliding the crisps forward.
The 17 conveyors are driven by a reciprocating action which gently moves the product along. The drive consists of a motor, Pitman and 8 specialised bearings. There are 136 bearings in total, a failure of any one of these bearings will stop the conveyor and therefore also stop any subsequent conveyor. The replacement of any single bearing would also cost in excess of €2000; but by far the highest cost is the lost production that would quickly run into thousands of euro.
Although a lubrication schedule was in place and it was be strictly followed, the amount of lubrication wasn’t being received frequently enough but an increase in frequency wasn’t feasible. Jack Sheils a Lead Maintenance Fitter at Largo Foods,
“We were lubricating the line on a Saturday morning once a month as it was the only time we could switch the machines off, and with 136 points to grease, this would take us up to 4 hours, at overtime rates. And when we were extremely busy increasing the lubrication schedule would increase the Labour bill as well as lost production time.”
The Automatic Solution
When searching for alternatives Largo Foods asked HLS for advice and after several site visits and discussion we recommended an Automatic Lubrication System. Being able to Lubricate while the conveyors are running, at a schedule that will never be missed, and as it can lubricate 136 points with 0 man hours required it was the perfect solution.
The reason that a Automatic lubrication will stop Largo’s bearings is simple, no manual Lubrication schedule can give moving parts grease as frequently as they require it. Fast moving parts will quickly displace or use grease, without grease metal will quickly start wearing.
Also machinery needs lubrication while it’s moving, manual grease schedules can only safely grease when the machine is stationary. The Automatic Lubrication System will constantly lubricate moving parts when they’re moving ensuring they can always move freely
“It was our first Automatic Greaser, we were hesitant that it would deliver, but we also knew that HLS have installed thousands of similar systems and they came highly recommended, but HLS answered all our questions and even installed a sample trial on one section of the plant, it showed it would do the job”.
The system we installed uses two Lincoln P203 Grease pumps, each feeding to separate Main Divider Valves (a piston driven progressive metering device). These 2 blocks then feed to 17 smaller divider blocks, one on each conveyor belt. This smaller block then evenly delivers to the 8 grease points on each conveyor.
The Automatic Lubrication System has been installed for several months now and we met up with Jack to see how they are getting on with the system. “My first impressions were how simple the design is, It’s very efficient and tidy. It looks like part of the machine”. And as for the ongoing cost of the consumable grease to fill it, Jack says “We didn’t need to change to a specialised product, we can use the same Ceran FG EP2 which is a food grade compliant product.”
We also wanted to ensure that the service provided by HLS and our fitters was up to the standard expected.
“We found the quality of workmanship by HLS Excellent, the installation didn’t interfere with our production schedule.”
Looking forward though, the most important thing is that, will the Automatic Lubrication System make the cost saving Largo hoped for. We asked Jack where they think their savings will be made “We are already seeing evidence of less replacement of parts and less down time, the less resource time for maintenance is a certainty already” How long do you expect the investment to pay off? “2 years”. And finally if the need arose would you feel confident to offer a similar job to HLS based on your recent experience? “Yes, very confident”