If you want something done right, sometimes you have to do it yourself. That’s exactly what Guixens Food Group did when some of its co-packers failed to live up to its standards. Instead of working with new vendors, Guixens Food decided to take on the responsibilities of purchasing and packaging some of its food products itself. To do that, the company turned to Hapman, a Kalamazoo, Michigan-based manufacturer of material-handling equipment and systems, for a flexible screw conveyor that allows Guixens Food to convey and package a wide array of dry and bulk products with ease and flexibility.
Founded in 1993, Miami, Florida-based Guixens Food Group is a family-owned company that distributes specialty and imported food products, such as Madame Gougousse jasmine rice and La Trigueña olive oil, to chain and independent supermarkets in the Southeast United States. As Guixens Food began to expand, the company discovered some of its private-label vendors had let quality control slide. For example, the co-packer sourced low-quality products and packaged them poorly with labels placed off-center and seams not completely sealed. The subpar performance of its co-packer prompted Guixens Food to take over the sourcing and packaging of those products.
“We couldn’t find a co-packer that could meet our standards and provide a high-quality product priced for the market. So we decided to do it on our own,” says Manuel Guixens, a partner at Guixens Food.
Based on recommendations from colleagues in the food processing industry, Guixens contacted Hapman. He needed a conveyor that was versatile enough to convey eight dry and bulk products of various sizes and consistencies, ranging from rice and beans to oatmeal and flour, at the company’s Tampa facility. Hapman suggested the Hapman Helix Model 500 Flexible Screw Conveyor.
Guixens Food uses the flexible screw conveyor to convey about 40,000 lb of products a day per line. Employees hoist a 2,000-lb super sack and empty the product into the 12 cu ft bulk hopper. The conveyor is attached between the hopper on the floor and a motor attached to a trolley system mounted to the ceiling, which Guixens designed so workers could easily move the conveyor to different stations around the plant. The conveyor consists of a fixed tubular housing with an electric motor that drives a screw, also called an auger. The stainless-steel screw is the conveyor’s only moving part. The screw rotates within the 5-in. sealed tube, which is made of UHMW food-grade polyethylene, and creates directional force that conveys material 15 ft high at a 45-degree or 35-degree angle. The conveyor then discharges the product into the auger filler of the vertical form/fill/seal (vf/f/s) machine for packaging.
Guixens Food uses two interchangeable flat wire augers within the 5-in. tube casing. The 4-in. diameter screw is ideal for powdery or granular products, such as ultrafine corn flour, rice and sorghum. When it conveys larger, fragile products like dry beans and pasta, Guixens Food switches to the 3.5-in. diameter screw to prevent breakage. A smaller auger provides an increased allowance between the screw and the casing, decreasing friction and creating a more gentle conveying process for fragile items.
“The Hapman is very versatile, and we can tailor it to whatever process we have,” Guixens says. “The integral controls also allow us to run the screw faster for finer materials and slower for fragile items, such as dry beans and oatmeal. Plus, it allows us to reverse the direction of the screw to remove product from it when we’re ready to clean it.”
Consistent, efficient operations
Controlling the speed of the auger is crucial for ensuring a consistent flow of product to the auger filler so that the vf/f/s machine can dose the correct amount of product into the packaging. The flexible screw conveyor can convey between 180 and 360 cu ft of product per hour, or 100 to 200 lb of product per minute, depending on the material bulk density. When the conveyor is positioned between 35 and 45 degrees, it can run as slow as 112 rpm and as fast as 450 rpm.
“The Hapman is very good at keeping our auger filler at just the right level, which allows for very consistent and reliable output,” Guixens says. “It stabilizes what’s going in the bag.”
The tool-less design of the Hapman flexible screw conveyor is another benefit, according to Guixens. The T-handle couplings allow operators to disassemble the conveyor from the hopper and the motor in minutes. As a result, plant workers can quickly and easily change the augers, clean and wash down the conveyor tube and augers, and perform maintenance.
“Anything that’s tool-less is like gold. You don’t have to have a specific wrench or socket of a specific size,” Guixens says. “Those things always get lost in a plant.”
Since buying its first Hapman flexible screw conveyor in 2012, Guixens purchased another one in 2015 for its Tampa facility. As the company prepares for expansion in the next few years, it plans to install more Hapman flexible screw conveyors when it opens new facilities.
“We plan to do some expansion, and I’m not even going to shop around,” Guixens says. “It’s another Hapman. Why change a winning strategy?"