The macadamia industry in Bundaberg has been growing rapidly. After starting as a small industry in the early 2000s, Bundaberg overtook the Northern Rivers in 2016 to become the largest producing macadamia region in Australia.
Ben Steinhardt’s business, B Fabricated, has been heavily involved in Bundaberg’s macadamia industry since 2009 when he built the first macadamia harvester for his family’s farm. His harvesting machines soon gained popularity and orders flew in from the neighbouring macadamia farms.
Today, B Fabricated manufactures not just nut harvesters but all types of agricultural processing equipment, including conveyors, bucket elevators and batch weighing machines and also offers ad-hoc fabrication and repair services to the local farming industry.
As the Paul Kelly song goes, from little things big things grow – and this perfectly describes the relationship that has formed between a large bakery operation and theCBCBraeside branch in southeast Melbourne.
Recently, the bakery undertook a maintenance programme, for which they required the Rexnord Marbett conveyor bearings. CBC State Sales Manager, Leon Stefanec says these bearings are designed to withstand washdowns – which is necessary in any food manufacturing operation.Read more
Nobody who is allergic to gluten wants to bite into their ‘gluten-free’ biscuit to find that it did in fact contain traces of gluten. Manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure that this cannot happen.
Water washdowns are used in food and beverage processing plants to prevent cross-contamination between batches of different substances, as well as to eliminating bacteria or microorganisms from the surfaces of the machines.
But washdowns cause additional challenges when it comes to design and selection of machinery components. For example, standard bearings can quickly rust in wet conditions. Processing plants with heavy washdowns therefore need to use bearing materials that can withstand the corrosion. BSC Australia distributes Schaeffler’s FAG Black Series for this very situation. According to Wayne D’Souza, National Accounts Manager at Industrial Solutions Australia, part of Motion Asia Pacific (BSC’s holding company), Schaeffler’s FAG Black Series radial insert ball bearing and housing units feature a Durotect BS surface treatment to improve the bearing’s resistance to harsh, corrosive environments.
“Machines and conveyors used in a food manufacturing plant are often fitted with standard bearing and housing units by the original equipment manufacturers. These standard bearings usually rust within a few months, or even less, under corrosive washdown conditions. That is where using products like the FAG Black Series by Schaeffler offers much greater longevity and reduces downtime,” he says.
Other features of the Black Series also make it a robust choice for food and beverage manufacturing and processing plants, according to D’Souza.
“The FAG Black Series housing units feature flake graphite cast iron housings with a concave bore in which the radial insert ball bearings are fitted. These units are matched to each other and are available as plummer block housing units, flanged housing units and take-up housing units. So, there is a wide range available to suit different applications.
“Further, the Black Series radial insert ball bearings are supplied with RSR seals, which are zinc plated seal lips made from nitrile rubber (NBR) and additional flinger shield. The seal can add another level of protection to prevent water and dust from entering the bearing,” he adds. The Durotect coated inner ring surface contacting the seal lip does not corrode and thus provides a smooth and effective sealing over a much longer operating time.
While corrosion protection is the primary reason why D’Souza recommends using the FAG Black Series, the high temperature tolerance of the bearings is a bonus, particularly for food and beverage applications.
“Sub-zero temperatures and extremely high temperatures are common in food and beverage manufacturing. The insert bearings in the FAG Black Series are suitable for operating temperatures of –20˚C to +100˚C. Temperature peaks of up to +120˚C are possible for short periods.”
D’Souza says conveying equipment and machines for food container fitting and packaging are some applications where the FAG Black Series bearings are commonly used.
“At BSC, we have customers in the beer brewing industry, chocolate manufacturing, bakeries and dairy industry who use these types of bearings extensively. And if you look at those industries, they all involve heavy water washdowns in the production process,” he says.
Other industries where the Durotect-coated bearings find applications are in agricultural, construction and mining machinery, as well as any conveying equipment exposed to intensive dust or water. The bearing and housing units are also commonly used in water and wastewater treatment where they display better resistance against the highly corrosive hydrogen sulphide (H2S) gas.
D’Souza says installing and replacing the FAG Black Series radial insert ball bearing and housing units is fairly easy and something that the in-house maintenance teams at the factories usually handle themselves.
“However, the BSC team can also assist customers with bearing installations or where any technical expertise is required. For example, a plant might need to change the configuration of their conveying system or to install an additional conveyor. Our engineering team can assist customers with design, supply and installation of these new systems or to re-engineer their existing conveying system” he concludes.
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The Australian beverage industry has undergone significant shifts in the past decade. In an industry once dominated by full strength beer and sugar-sweetened soft drinks, the beverage industry is now catering to a wide range of consumer tastes and palates. Whether that be niche alcoholic beverages or the latest health drink, what has remained consistent in the Australian beverage industry is the need to package these liquids in an efficient and safe manner.
This responsibility has often fallen to bottling operations, and underpinning these operations are the parts and components that keep the plant moving smoothly. A critical element of any bottling operation are the cam followers, bearings that convert rotary to linear motion. However, just like any piece of machinery in a food and beverage operation, cam followers can be exposed to moisture, which creates the potential for corrosion.
BSC Australia distributes Schaeffler’s Corrotect coated cam followers for this very situation. According to Andreas Pieper, engineering and quality manager at Schaeffler Australia, this coating is critical in ensuring the longevity of the bearing.
“Because of what is happening in production, the bottling machine is hosed down by water after the shift or the production day. So, there is the potential that you have moisture and water being in direct contact with the cam follower and that’s where our bearings have the advantage over our competitors because we can provide cam followers with a corrosion resistant coating.”
As Pieper explains, Corrotect is a zinc-iron coating, where the zinc acts as a sacrificial anode. When a bearing comes into contact with water, the zinc corrodes, rather than the metal it is protecting. In addition to its composition, Corrotect is extremely thin, and Schaeffler has a patent on the half and one and a half micron thickness application.
For operators of bottling plants, this means that Corrotect coated bearings can be inserted into existing machines, without the need to adjust the machinery that the bearing interacts with. Importantly, BSC’s team provide their customers with support services such as installation to ensure the products are running correctly in their application.
BSC Australia’s Product Manager for Industrial Bearings, Tony Tormey, notes that the level of support BSC provides to customers is unmatched by other distributors. This is reflected in their national network of branches and the collective skill base of their engineers.
“BSC are represented in every state. We have a technical service person and a technical engineer available to look at ongoing problems or re-engineering, or we have key account managers that call on most of the food and beverage accounts in every state. Importantly, we’re available 24/7.”
For those engaged in the bottling industry, BSC can provide a custom-solution for the business.
“We have a huge stock profile to support our food and beverage customers,” said Tormey. “This includes Corrotect, which we can quickly order whenever and wherever it is needed through our national network of service and distribution centres. After hours services are available for 24/7 operations, and we have distribution centres in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.”
When it comes to the maintenance aspects of the Corrotect coated bearing, both Tormey and Pieper say that upkeep is simplified due to the composition of the coating.
“The iron-zinc compound can resist the rough and tumble of a shop floor,” says Pieper. “Even if, for example, the maintenance operator scratches the bearing, the Corrotect coating will still be active and no corrosion will occur in the scratch.”
Besides scratches and rust on the bearing impacting the performance of the coating, one element of the Corrotect advantage, Pieper points out, is the extension on the life of the seal of the bearing.
“We know that whether it’s in the food or bottling industry, a lot of bearings actually fail because the sealing becomes compromised at some stage and dirt or water gets into the bearing earlier than it should, with a Corrotect coating the seal contacts stay nice and smooth.”
Overall, Pieper estimates that depending on the operation, a Corrotect coated bearing can last twice as long as an uncoated bearing.
The marketing motto adopted by Japanese-founded bearing manufacturer NTN, with its history of more than 100 years, is to ‘make the world ‘NAMERAKA’, with ‘NAMERAKA’ meaning ‘SMOOTH’ in Japanese. It’s an apt tagline as NTN is renowned for its production of anti-friction bearings, which are made to be smoother than the surface of a mirror.
This phrasing could also be used to describe the unique relationship between NTN and CBC (Inenco) Australia. The two companies have been working together in Australia since the 1970s when the Japanese manufacturer began to grow its business abroad and shook hands with CBC founders to exclusively distribute NTN product in the country. The relationship forged back then paved the way to the long term–a 50/50 a joint venture company in Australia.
“It was a natural progression from the good relations that already existed between the CBC founders and Japanese management of NTN. Together, we are responsible for the entire territory, including the sales and marketing, business development, and engineering support of the NTN product in Australia,” explains Jerry Maki, who is a director of NTN-CBC Australia.
This arrangement bodes well for customers across all market segments in Australia, including the food industry where NTN is recognised as a leader for its special environmental bearings range. These bearings are designed specifically to withstand high humidity, along with the impact of cleaning agents and regular washdowns, abrasive contaminants, and the need for restrictive lubrication use, which are common to food processing facilities.
In terms of NTN’s reputation and ability to manufacture bearings that meet the high standards of the Australia food industry, product manager for NTN-CBC Australia, Fabio Rebecchi, draws an analogy between the NTN business and Japanese food.
“In Japan, the standards of the food industry are very high – and this is seen across all levels of dining, even the food that is served on trains. And that same expectation is assumed in business. It’s a clear reflection of how NTN does business and the products that they manufacture. NTN focuses highly on quality in whole process,” he said. “And this comes back down to why we have been so successful in promoting NTN product in Australia, because this standard permeates through everything.”
Importantly, NTN-CBC Australia is uniquely positioned in the NTN global family because of Maki’s very presence. Known affectionately by his moniker Jerry – which he good-humouredly suggests is to “avoid the embarrassment of Australian friends mispronouncing my name” – Maki has held various posts of NTN sales and is an acting director of the NTN-CBC joint venture business. This affords a number of benefits to NTN-CBC Australian customers, one of which is the ability to provide direct feedback from customers to the manufacturer.
“Bearings are highly engineered products. So being that bridge to Japan where we can provide feedback about specific customer requirements is a big benefit. We have total access to the manufacturing division,” explains Jerry. “It’s all about uptime of machinery with the customer, and us providing superior products. And we can provide that through a number of different avenues, whether that is in material enhancements or design enhancements in Japan.”
Moreover, Jerry brings a wealth of experience to the table. He has worked with NTN since 1981 and been placed in eight different countries by the company. And while he agrees that there are “superficial” differences between the countries he has worked in, there is a lot of commonality, especially when it comes to bearing-related applications and issues seen across the globe. He now has the rare ability to consolidate that experience into tangible benefits for customers of NTN-CBC Australia.
“This venture is not just a joining of two worlds but various worlds – it is global. It is one of the key advantages of me being here,” Jerry says.
Opening up that channel of communications is an enormous asset to NTN-CBC, echoes Rebecchi.
“Jerry Maki is not only an asset for NTN international or NTN-CBC but most importantly to our customer base because he can tap into all levels and aspects of the NTN global network,” Rebecchi says. “And our close relationship with customers allows us to give a direct contact to the plant and therefore shorten that lead time process from conception, design and delivery. This is very important in Australia which is very diverse, even within the food sector itself, and it’s a large country that can be difficult to get around. We rely on our network of branches and our sales engineers in the field to really assist in making that process better for the customer.
After graduating from university, Takao Maki went to work for NTN back in 1981. His career has not been a typical one, having spent the majority of his professional life outside of Japan.
“Many Japanese people will stay inside the country when they are in a sales role, but I’ve had the opportunity to go abroad and learn from people around the world. Actually, I’ve been out of Japan in various roles a total of eight times,” said Maki, who is known as ‘Jerry’ by his non-Japanese speaking friends across the globe.
Jerry has spent five years in the United States, eight years in Canada, four years in the United Kingdom, and a few years in France, Thailand and China. In between all of those, he continued working in Japan for NTN too and in roles that have encompassed business development and management, marketing, sales, communications and public relations. While he’s only been in Australia since August 2019, he enjoys the friendly nature of his Australian colleagues and has a love for rugby.
“What I’ve learned from my experience living abroad is that we have more in common than we have in differences,” Jerry says. “While this is a new experience for me, to work in a joint venture in with CBC (INENCO) in Australia, I feel that we can consolidate many global requirements together to make production easier. To use rugby talk, we wear the same jersey in the scrum to get the ‘TRY’ together.”
Lubrication-free xiros pillow block bearings replace metallic solutions and are designed to help maintain clean conditions in the food and packaging sectors. The units, which are developed by igus, are made of the FDA-compliant high-performance plastic xirodur B180.
Compared to metallic solutions, the user can save 83 per cent of weight with the new smooth-running compact xiros bearing. Thanks to the same dimensions of the hole spacing, a 1:1 replacement is quick and easy.
Used on roller conveyors or conveyor belts, pillow block bearings play a central role in the food industry. They ensure that shafts rotate smoothly even under heavy loads.
Metallic pillow block bearings, in contrast, have high friction due to their shield and grease filling. This means that, for example, the rollers of a conveyor belt no longer rotate and the conveyor wears out.
The ball-mounted xiros pillow block bearing is flushable and suitable for application environments of up to 80°C. Due to its special material and the built-in stainless steel balls, the bearing is very smooth and also corrosion-resistant.
Capable of coping with a high stress, the bearing withstands up to 50kg with up to 850 revolutions per minute. The new pillow block bearing is currently used by igus for shafts with a diameter of 25mm. Other sizes are available upon request.