Automated Bulk Bag Dischargers Help Keep Pace With High-Speed Packaging

A new distribution center not only provided four times the space to help relieve previous bottlenecks in rice, bean, and flour lines, but also needed more efficient bulk handling equipment to keep up with other high-speed functions.

As the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the U.S., Goya Foods was bursting at the seams. Though continuing to invest in its distribution center in Secaucus, N.J., it was time to open a new larger site as well.

Goya Foods packages beans, rice mixes, corn meal, and other dry products at its new facility in Secaucus, N.J. Pictured here, filled and sealed packages of Spanish rice proceed to a cartoning line.Goya Foods packages beans, rice mixes, corn meal, and other dry products at its new facility in Secaucus, N.J. Pictured here, filled and sealed packages of Spanish rice proceed to a cartoning line.Flexicon“We had run out of capacity for rice mixtures at our previous site,” says Luis Valencia, plant engineer for Goya’s new headquarters and distribution center in Jersey City, N.J. “In fact, all of the existing lines, including the bean and flour lines, were over-utilized. We were overdue for a change.”

Goya imports ingredients from around the world to create more than 2,500 food products of Latin cuisine traditional to Mexico, Spain, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. The new site, opened in 2015, provided four times the space of its previous facility—relieving several long-standing bottlenecks, Valencia says.


   Goya announced that it would spend $80 million to expand its manufacturing and distribution facility in Brookshire, Texas.

Not only did the company want more space, but it wanted higher-capacity equipment to fill that space. It outfitted the new site with a high-speed pouch filling line for its rice, along with more efficient bulk handling and packaging equipment, including 16 bulk bag and rigid tote IBC discharger systems from Flexicon.

“We had Flexicon equipment here already, so we knew they were reliable systems,” Valencia says.

Efficiency is a key focus for these operations, Valencia notes. “The processes are relatively uncomplicated, so the simpler the process, the higher our efficiency must be,” he explains. “We’re always looking to increase quality, safety, and efficiency.” 

Bringing in the materials

A cantilevered I-beam with hoist and trolley allows bags to be raised and rolled into a discharger using a pendant.A cantilevered I-beam with hoist and trolley allows bags to be raised and rolled into a discharger using a pendant.FlexiconGoya receives rice, beans, dry vegetables, and flour in 2,200-lb bulk bags, and puts spice mixtures in rigid 1,100-lb totes. Ingredients are batched to the packaging machines by gain-in-weight control.

The handling of these bulk bags was one bottleneck that needed to be improved to increase productivity. The solution came in the form of Bulk-Out BFC bulk bag dischargers, which load bags quickly by means of a cantilevered I-beam, hoist, and trolley.

They provide more efficiency as well. The fast-loading units allow just two forklift drivers to serve all 16 of the site’s bulk bag dischargers, Valencia says. A single operator can load and discharge bulk bags across several product lines. After a forklift places a palletized bulk bag in front of the discharger, the operator connects the bag loops to Z-Clip bag strap holders on the lifting frame and, using a pendant, hoists the bag into the discharger. 

Matching high-speed packaging

To match the production capacity of a new high-speed pouch filler for rice mixes, Goya also installed a gain-in-weight batching system for the rice, vegetable, and spice components, automating and expediting a process that previously required manual verification that batches reach the pouch filler.

For rice, fork trucks deliver palletized bulk bags to side-by-side BFC bulk bag dischargers that unload into two large 5,000-lb capacity floor hoppers. The hoppers feed a common 20-ft-long bucket conveyor leading to a weigh hopper, which empties into the pouch filler. Each discharger unloads a 2,200-lb bulk bag of rice in 4 minutes. Dry vegetables move from bulk bag discharger to pouch filler in much the same way.


   Learn how Flexicon's bulk bag discharger helped JB Cocoa create a dust-free environment and optimize operations for its cocoa powder processing line.

Flexible screw conveyors transfer ingredients from bulk bag dischargers, through a wall, to feed packaging machines in the next room. The screws prevent product contact with seals or bearings.Flexible screw conveyors transfer ingredients from bulk bag dischargers, through a wall, to feed packaging machines in the next room. The screws prevent product contact with seals or bearings.FlexiconSpices for the rice mixes are supplied in rigid totes, which are hoisted above a Model BFH-C-X half frame discharger mounted on a hopper with a 2,500-lb capacity. From the hopper outlet, a 25-ft-long flexible screw conveyor, also from Flexicon, is inclined at 32 degrees, moving the spices to a weigh hopper that discharges to the pouch filler.

The flexible screw, which rotates inside a polymer outer tube, is the only moving part contacting material—keeping the material from contacting seals or bearings. “The conveyor is sanitized daily by disconnecting the flexible screw from the drive shaft and removing the screw for cleaning,” Valencia notes.

Fine-tuning bean and flour lines

Bean and flour lines are not only operating at higher capacity now with BFC bulk bag dischargers, but upgraded electronics are also enabling those lines to operate more precisely.

The bean line uses six bulk bag dischargers—mounted over 5,000-lb capacity floor hoppers and arranged in three pairs. A bucket conveyor feeds a weigh hopper that then discharges into a pillow-bag packaging machine. The flour line uses three bulk bag dischargers, each with Flow-Flexer bag activator plates that increasingly raise and lower opposite bottom edges of the bag on timed cycles to promote total discharge. 


   Tune in to the first episode of Take 5 with ProFood World, where we talk about digital innovation amid the COVID-19 pandemic and sustainability efforts with intern program MnTAP.

Goya Secaucus packages 50 different bean varieties and 30 different flours—each with slightly different flow characteristics. “We changeover constantly, and when you change a bean or a flour or a rice mix, there’s a lot of fine-tuning,” Valencia says.

Fine flours are among the tougher products. “It’s a challenge to dial it in; the higher the speed, the more precision is required,” Valencia says, noting that Flexicon helped the facility upgrade its electronics to help with that precision. “They made sure the dischargers were feeding correctly and the controls were reading the hopper levels correctly. We control the weights better now and avoid process loss.” 


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