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Roller chain upgrade reduces costs for pizza making operation

04 March 2022

For one pizza manufacturer based in France, a new roller chain has proven to be key to drive the plant’s conveyor that moves packaged product to a final chilled storage area.

With the majority of product shipped to supermarkets, profit margins are tight. This means that, in addition to ensuring quality, the pizza manufacturer has to maximise productivity and make sure that production targets are achieved.

The conveyor’s chain helps ensure that product is quickly and efficiently transported to despatch without damaging either the packaging or the pizzas. 

Every three days, the maintenance team needed to check the chain for elongation. While this important maintenance forces a halt in the production process, the consequences of chain elongation include uneven conveyor motion as well as an increased risk of breakdown. Vibration and slippage of the conveyor can damage the product, as well as causing uneven alignment and disruption to the subsequent packaging process. More seriously, machine breakdown caused by chain failure can result in lengthy downtime.

Despite maintenance and adjustment, including regular lubrication, the chain had to be replaced every three months. After this situation had endured for 15 years, operations management ultimately calculated that investing in a premium quality roller chain would offset the cost, maintenance and downtime of frequently replacing a lower quality chain. 

The trial of a premium quality roller chain resulted in increased productivity and a reduction in the total cost of ownership. As a result, the team selected Tsubaki’s GT4 Winner roller chain for the replacement.

A key attribute in reducing elongation is Tsubaki’s patented Ring Coining design. Applying a cold deformation process around the pin hole of the connecting link plate adds strength and reinforces the chain immediately surrounding the pin. Reinforcing this typical stress area allows the chain to be specified to its full kW rating and significantly decreases the effects of elongation.

In combination, Tsubaki’s Lube Groove system enables more effective lubrication, both decreasing maintenance requirements and increasing chain life. The specially designed lube grooves mean that lubrication is retained between the pin and the bush, the point of highest contact and friction, instead of dispersing. This feature minimised chain wear and elongation over time.

Following installation at the pizza factory, the new chain far exceeded the three months lifetime of the previous chain and only required its first adjustment after 18 months’ use. The longer life of the new chain resulted in a new challenge that the production facility’s maintenance engineers hadn’t previously encountered with the former roller chain: humidity. The original chains didn’t last long enough to be susceptible to corrosion, so Tsubaki suggested using the Neptune chain instead to further prolong life in humid conditions.

With a special coating and resin, the Tsubaki Neptune is tested to withstand 700 hours of saline spray and remain corrosion free. The chain retains the same tensile strength and resistance to elongation as the GT4 Winner, thanks to its carbon-steel base. The anti-corrosion treatment does not impact its strength or durability in any way, unlike some rust-prohibiting coatings.

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