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Sanitary conveyors meet almond processor’s food safety needs

FoodEngineering Magazine

August 18, 2016 — Since 1985, Hughson Nut Incorporated in Hughson, CA, has specialized in the processing and marketing of in-shell, shelled and blanched almonds to high-end confectioners, such as chocolate producers and bakeries, both domestically and internationally.

The company realized the traditional bucket elevators it used were causing problems. “The hard plastic buckets tended to become very brittle over time and would break off from wear and tear, which is a very serious health and food safety issue,” says Butch Coburn, plant manager for Hughson Nut.

The company wanted a conveyor feeding process similar to that of the bucket elevators, but with a greater focus on food safety, to meet more stringent food safety requirements. It also wanted simplified cleaning and maintenance. So, Coburn and maintenance manager Andy Fontana began looking into DynaClean sanitary conveyor systems from Dynamic Conveyor Corporation in Muskegon, MI.

Hughson Nut already had one horizontal DynaClean conveyor but decided to purchase an additional six vertical Z conveyors to replace its bucket elevators. One of the conveyors Hughson purchased was specially designed by Dynamic Conveyor for dual-lane sortation using one conveyor belt.

Hughson Nut uses essentially the same steps as it did with the bucket elevators to process its almonds; now the nuts are fed by the DynaClean conveyors into areas for cleaning and rinsing, then screening and aspiration, and finally, through electronic and hand sorting. However, with the new equipment, the employees can clean the conveyors much faster, from daily wipe-downs to full teardowns of the conveyors.

“Our new process is basically the same as our old process, but we have doubled our production per hour. Thanks to installing state-of-the-art electronic sorting to accompany the dual-lane conveyor system, we now need five employees instead of six per shift, and we have doubled our production,” says Coburn.

Also, the DynaClean conveyors require little to no tools to be cleaned—expediting the cleaning and sanitation process even further. Hughson Nut’s sanitation team has different processes for cleaning the conveyors daily, weekly and monthly. One of these includes belt removal, but the company has found this does not have to be done as often as with the bucket elevators.

“The DynaClean conveyors are much quicker and easier to clean than the bucket elevators. The time is cut in about half, which means our labor has been cut in half,” explains Fontana.

“Now we are confident everything is clean, and our product is safe,” adds Coburn. “We know there is no longer the possibility of hard plastic from the buckets getting into our product.”