Frequent failure of a roller chain at a major biscuit manufacturing plant in South Australia was causing significant delays in production. The chain had broken eight times over a span of 15 months and every time the chain broke, the line had to be stopped completely to replace the chain.
BSC recommended changing the existing triplex chains with Gates Poly Chain GTCarbon timing belts, which helped resolve the issue.
How Midwest Fabrication, a Queensland-based manufacturer of grain harvesting equipment, grew from building the first machine for their own farm to gaining national recognition for their products in just over two decades is the material great Aussie success stories are made of.
Martin Schutt, a second-generation grain farmer started Midwest on his family farm north of Moonie in Queensland. After purchasing his first combine harvester in 1998, Martin was frustrated with the performance of the imported cutting platforms and thought he could improve the design to gain better efficiencies in the field.
Starting from a basic sketch drawn around the kitchen table, the Schutt family were able to develop their first cutting platform in the workshop and test it in the field. The platform soon received national recognition from the contract harvesting community for its simple and efficient design. Orders started pouring in forcing the business to relocate to Dalby to be able to meet the increasing demands.
The company is renowned for its innovation winning multiple awards including Best New Innovation Award, Best Australian Agricultural Machine, Best Manufacturing Business and Business of the Year.
Martin says Midwest was the first manufacturer in the world to build a 12 metre (40 ft) front in 1998, and the 15 metre fronts followed a decade later. The advancements in innovation continue to set the standards and benchmark leading the world in grain harvesting technology now producing a whopping 18.3 metre (60 ft) harvest front, another world first.
But Midwest Fabrication’s innovations did not stop there. Over the years, the company has grown its range of draper platforms to suit different applications and fit all major combine harvester brands. Additionally, the company also produces a wide range of accessories and spare parts for its cutting platforms, including cutting knives specially designed for Australian farming conditions.
Midwest’s sole goal is to help increase harvesting efficiency for farmers and contact harvesters while reducing overheads and running costs. The wider drapers mean customers are working their harvesters to maximum capacity, saving time, fuel costs and receiving better return on their investments.
Midwest Fabrication has built a highly successful Australia wide dealer network consisting of 92 Agricultural dealers supporting our product nationally and are currently in the process of developing a one-acre factory in Dalby to bring its engineering and manufacturing facilities under one roof.
Martin believes such a rapid growth by a family business would not have been possible without dedication to continuous improvement and innovation.
“It’s only through constant improvement and being innovative that we’ve been able to achieve what we have achieved. Ever since we built our first unit, we’ve been up against some of the largest global agricultural machinery manufacturers; but through constant innovation, we’ve been able to remain ahead of the competition.
Over the past 16 years, Midwest Fabrication has been working with CBC Australia – as the largest supplier of bearings and industrial parts in Australia – to source components for its in-house designed products.
Martin says the collaboration with CBC has enabled Midwest Fabrication to refine its products further, making them more efficient and durable.
“We are continually improving the mechanical design of our products. In one example, CBC helped us replace the original four-band ‘B’ type v-belts on the main drive with the Gates high-strength Predator belts, and more recently we improved the design again and introduced the Gates Polychain carbon belts, providing a more efficient, quieter and cooler running drive belt.”
Warren Beale, CBC’s Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) manager for Queensland, says apart from being a key supplier, CBC also offers engineering and design supports to Midwest Fabrication where required.
“After so many years of working with Midwest Fabrication and holding regular meetings to understand their requirements, we now have a very clear understanding of the products they need each harvest season. This allows CBC to maintain the right stock level for Midwest Fabrication to meet its requirements when their demand is at its peak.
“Additionally, we also help them with engineering support and application-specific information. This might be helping with product improvements as it was in the case of the Gates Polychain belt upgrades or suggesting alternative components to make the designs lighter and more efficient,” he says.
Commenting on winning the Gold prize for Motion Asia Pacific’s Let’s Roll: Australian Business Awards 2020, Martin says the win is a result of hard work put forward by the team, as much as a result of engineering excellence and innovation.
“This award is also a recognition of our staff’s skills, their dedication to the business and their pride in their workmanship. If not for them, we would not be here today,” says Martin.
“As business owners, it is easy to get lost in the day-to-day running and focussing on keeping the wheels turning and not celebrate the successes when they come along. This recognition is a great reminder for us to reflect on what we have built over the years from that sketch around the kitchen table, our significant growth, and the exciting future ahead of Midwest.”
For a winery with a history as rich as South Australia’s Oxford Landing Estate winery, choosing the right equipment is essential to ensuring the wine’s quality. This is why when BSC Sales Representative, Robert Harris first introduced Gates’ food-grade hoses to the winery, he did not expect the winemakers to approve the product right away.
Robert says he knew about the stringent quality assurance process that the winery had in place, but he also had great confidence in the quality of the product he was offering.
Robert says when he called Oxford Landing Estates’ cellar manager to set up an appointment to introduce Gates’ hoses to him a couple of years ago, he was told to not keep his hopes high. He took his shot and went in with samples of the high-end Gates hoses. The winery agreed to test the wine transfer hoses and soon placed their first major order, forging a relationship with BSC that has flourished over time.
Chris Leggett, the Logistics Manager at Oxford Landing Estate, says the winery has one of the most stringent quality control processes in the industry.
“Any product that comes into any form of contact with the wine, such as the inside surface of the hose, needs to go through a quality control process and be approved for use before we can purchase it. Once we purchase a hose, it will go through a cleaning process and then through the quality control verification process,” he explains.
Chris has worked at the Oxford Landing Estate winery since the winery was built in 2004. He says he’s quite happy working with BSC as a supplier.
“BSC supplies us with quality hoses, as well as other equipment such as chains, bearings, seals and spare parts. We have never had any issues or concerns working with BSC. Their response time is very good and they understand what we need,” Chris says.
“The Gates’ hoses being of very high quality, it saves us time when it comes to testing the products. Robert visits us regularly on behalf of BSC and offers consultation to the maintenance department regarding any components that they need,” he adds.
Gates is one of the key suppliers of hosing solutions to the food and beverage industry in Australia and they work closely with BSC as a trusted partner to deliver those solutions.
Gates Australia Product Manager for Food Products, Kent Clark, says the Gates FOOD MASTER XTREME 250SD CR is an ideal hose for transferring wine, as well as any other beverage that could have its taste tainted if run through a lower-grade transfer hose.
“A number of well-known wineries only trust this particular product for transferring their wine. This is mostly based on their experience of being able to maintain the wine’s taste and flavor when it passes through the hose. We also sell the hose to manufacturers of beer, ale, milk, yoghurt, juices, soft drinks, cosmetic and pharmaceutical products.
What makes the FOOD MASTER XTREME 250SD CR unique, Kent says, is the proprietary Sanitron developed by Gates for use in the Food Master premium series.
The tube material, Sanitron provides a glass-smooth interior surface for efﬁcient product ﬂow – a smoothness competitors can’t match. It will not discolour foods and beverages or impart any unusual taste or odour during product transfer. And Sanitron is a snap to clean using open-end steam or high-temperature cleaning solutions up to 110°C. which meets the requirements of Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 3A-Class 3 and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“The hose is also reinforced with a conductive filament and a monofilament helix, which provides crush and kink resistance. This means the hose can be run over or hit up against hard surfaces without any impact to the structure of the hose,” he adds.
Gates also offers a range of other hoses particularly designed for the food and beverage industry. These include, among others, the light and flexible FOOD MASTER BEVERAGE 150SD CR and FOOD MASTER OILS and DAIRY 150SD, which is ideal for transfer of animal fat, vegetable oil and dairy products.
Kent says working with BSC, Gates is able to provide flexible and custom-made solutions when required.
“For example, our hoses are often available in the standard 30-metre lengths. But we also have a custom-length program with BSC, wherein we can provide customised hose lengths to customers on a case-by-case basis,” Kent says.
“We hold our customers in high regard and support them as best we can. We understand that pricing and product availability are top priorities for our customers and that is why we work with BSC to provide quick turnarounds for customers,” he concludes.
When one of the world’s global beverage manufacturers called upon the expertise of CBC Australia to assist in improving their roller chain conveyor drive issues, a collaborative effort ensued with both CBC and Gates engineers recommending a Poly Chain GT Carbon belt solution. That belt solution was installed in 2008 – and it’s still running successfully today.
“If you look at it from a product point of view, we changed the drive chain to a polyurethane belt. And this conveyed a number of efficiency improvements for the customer, in terms of both maintenance and from an occupational health and safety (OH&S) perspective,” says John Perri, who was the CBC representative working with the client at the time.
Perri explained that the drive chain that had been used previously needed regular lubrication, in which the Gates Poly Chain belt does not. Additionally, because the roller chain would stretch after a period of use, it also needed to be changed out periodically – again, the Gates belt does not (in fact, the original drive installed has still not been replaced after over a decade of use). And, besides the costs involved in regularly replacing the chain, there was also the issue of safety for those doing maintenance work onsite.
“The roller chain drive in use was heavy and the maintenance team would have to be lying down on the next conveyor just to access it, which was a clear concern from an OH&S standpoint. The Gates Poly Chain belt solved that issue as well,” Perri confirmed.
As a result of the positive performance of the Gates Poly Chain GT Carbon drive in the first two years, the beverage company went on to convert the entire bottling site to the Gates belt product. As Australia’s largest bottler, the costs saved from converting all drives has been significant.
Importantly, this example also demonstrates the confidence that client’s such as this particular beverage manufacturer have in the CBC team. Matthew Byrnes is the current Business Development Specialist from CBC that is looking after the Food & Beverage segment that this client falls under.
“They have absolute confidence as a result of the many years that we have worked with them – and that is testament to John’s work – in our services. We have built a rapport that enables us to look at ways we can improve various applications at their plant,” he explains.
Moreover, the customer still has the option to contact John Perri, who first started working with them in 2001. After observing the canning line conveyor and gaining an understanding of the problem they were having with the roller chain drive, Perri initially recommended the Gates product.
“I’m proficient in the Gates product but this was very much a collaboration with a Gates engineer to come up with the right solution for the client. We needed to ensure the belt was installed correctly and with the right tensioning,” he said.
Based on the outcomes of this experience, the customer also came to rely on Perri and CBC’s collective expertise in supplying products for other applications such as power transmission and sealing upgrades.
“They often still ring me when they want to discuss an issue, and I always pick up. They know that they can rely on me or any of our CBC team to be available to them, which is really not a service that other distributors provide,” Perri reiterates.
Moreover, the saturation of CBC stores across Australia and distribution network ensures that speedy delivery of parts and products as well as availability of personnel.
“Where we differentiate ourselves is that we are able to offer such a wide range of products and services, and our customers only have to come to the one place – they don’t need a separate supplier for power transmission, or bearings, and so on. We are in the unique position of being able to consolidate all our products, knowledge and technical expertise into the one delivery,” says Byrnes.
Case Study Details: Australia’s Largest Bottler
Application: Canning line roller chain drives on conveyors 1.1kW@300rpm
Problem: Customer having roller chain conveyor issues, frequent maintenance and lubrication caused excessive downtime. High noise levels of roller chain, 55dBA on each drive. Single chain drives were changed out approximately two-three times per year. In wash down areas roller chain would lose lubrication and rust solid.
Benefits of Gates Product: After 24 months the drives showed no signs of wear on either belts or sprockets. The entire bottling site has since been converted to Poly Chain GT Carbon drives. The drives are clean with no grease, lube, or maintenance required. Noise levels dropped to 40dBA on each drive. Drives have remained untouched since installation.
Industrial chain drives in food and beverage manufacturing plants are under a lot of stress. Transmission roller chains have to handle heavy loads, high speeds, high temperatures, volatile materials and other demanding environmental conditions.
And sometimes, the simple fact is, they can’t handle those things.
Re-tensioning and lubricating the roller chains can be quite time-consuming, costing businesses in downtime. Some drives even fail only a few months into their lifetime, requiring expensive replacements. All of these add up to the cost of the businesses.
That might have been acceptable in the past. “That’s how we’ve always done it,” business-owners would say. But that doesn’t cut it anymore, especially when there’s a better option available.
A better alternative Building on decades of experience in creating optimum solutions for belt drives in both automotive and industrial applications, Gates Australia has introduced Poly Chain GT Carbon belts, which are well equipped to handle the demands of any food and beverage manufacturing environment. Poly Chain GT Carbon are Gates’ most powerful synchronous belt, specifically designed for optimum performance on high torque, low speed drives often seen in industrial applications.
An excellent alternative to chain drives, Poly Chain offers many benefits to any business.
The body and teeth of Poly Chain GT Carbon are constructed using a lightweight polyurethane compound, which is specially blended to adhere to the cords and fabric. Carbon fibre tensile cords provide extraordinary power carrying capacity as well as exceptional flex fatigue life. Combined, these factors mean Poly Chain GT Carbon has the strength to withstand shocks and surge loading and is virtually immune to abrasions. Being much lighter than steel chain, Poly Chain GT Carbon also reduces overhung loads.
Additionally, the new Poly Chain GT Carbon has power ratings up to 30 percent higher than the company’s earlier versions of Poly Chain and a service life up to three times longer than conventional roller chains. Similarly, pulley life for Poly Chain is up to ten times longer than roller chain sprockets.
By eliminating the need for constant re-tensioning, lubricating and removing the links, Poly Chain GT Carbon belts increase the production efficiency and save businesses valuable time. Poly Chain GT Carbon belts are completely maintenance-free. They do not require messy lubrication or oil baths (a hazard for any food handling environment) or re-tensioning every few months. They will not stretch during service. They offer 400 percent greater capacity than HTD belts, five percent energy savings over V-belts, and 99 percent efficiency for the life of the drive.
Poly Chain GT Carbon inert to most acids, chemicals and water, making it an ideal solution for wet environments – unlike roller chains, which can rust, potentially contaminating food-handling spaces.
Poly Chain GT Carbon belts operate on Poly Chain GT pulleys and do not require any adaptation of existing GT2 applications.
Specifications Poly Chain GT Carbon comes in a range of pitches. This range now includes both short and extended custom lengths, to suit a variety of manufacturing purposes.
Short length versions of the belt in 5M and 8M are suitable for industrial markets requiring a short centre distance but high-density power and offer all the benefits listed above.
Poly Chain GT Carbon is also available in 19M lengths to handle longer drive centre distances, while delivering high-power capability, long life and freedom from maintenance. Poly Chain GT Carbon offers a massive 96 percent weight saving versus traditional, comparable transmission roller chains.
Extended length manufacturing capability allows for custom belt lengths with any tooth count – within the minimum and maximum length range.
All Poly Chain GT Carbon belts are fully operational in temperature extremes of -54°C to +85°C and can be used for applications in general manufacturing, food and beverage, timber, agriculture, oil & gas, cement and more. They are suited to a range of different environments, from food production to fans and pumps.
Poly Chain® GT™ Carbon™ also offers reduced width drive conversions for existing roller chain applications, and over 120,000 possible ratio combinations, making it easy to switch the drives. The space-saving, weight-saving, time-saving and money-saving drives offer a long and reliable service life.
Gates Australia is currently promoting their roller chain replacement product Poly Chain GT Carbon by offering an obligation free drive design and report showing the cost to replace a roller chain drive including ROI, simply complete the form at www.gatesaustralia.com.au/unchain.