To provide food processors with insight into the industry’s current challenges and opportunities, Cablevey Conveyors, a global specialty conveyor manufacturer, and Automated Handling Solutions, a service-focused subsidiary of Cablevey, have released results from an annual proprietary survey conducted among food processing companies.
The report, The Food and Beverage Industry 2023 State of Conveying, highlights the latest market trends as well as top concerns and objectives related to conveying systems. The findings reveal the predominant obstacles now facing the industry, along with the promise of innovative conveyor automation and product testing options that can help to optimize both production and future purchases.
Updated data to make the best decisions
In modern food processing plants, the art of conveying foods has evolved into a finely tuned process that prioritizes efficiency, hygiene and safety. For processors, the report now provides trend analysis and new findings not only about the industry but also about how organizations are specifically conveying food products in their facilities.
“As food processing continually embraces innovation, industry professionals are committed to making the best decisions possible for their specific conveying needs. To make those decisions, the industry needs data. This report builds on the data and findings from 2022 to provide food processors with the new and updated data they need to make the best decisions moving forward,” said Brad Sterner, Cablevey CEO.
Cablevey contracted with independent outside research firm Ascend2 to reach more than 320 professionals at food processing firms, including production managers, engineers, and executive managers. These individuals work in the food manufacturing and processing industry in the United States, UK, Mexico, and Brazil. The responses were collected during July 2023.
The most prevalent product categories conveyed in the processing facilities surveyed included frozen food (49%), snack foods (39%), blends & mixes (37%), breakfast cereal (30%), coffee (26%), and nuts (23%), as well as rice, powders, pet foods, specialty seeds & beans, specialty & brewery grains, hemp, and other products.
Key food processing industry findings
The good news is that the food processing industry is rapidly growing. Almost two-thirds of respondents’ companies grew at least 10% in the past year, and almost one-quarter grew at least 20%. This mirrors the growth from 2022 and indicates a long-term trend for the industry.
However, the cleaning and maintenance of food process conveyor systems is still a major concern for the industry. Over half (54%) of survey respondents cited cleaning and maintenance as the primary challenge related to conveyors.
In fact, more than two-thirds (69%) of those surveyed clean their conveying systems three or more times per week, and 38% clean their systems four or more times per week. For 31% of those surveyed, this process takes more than 2 hours, and for another 60% the process takes 1 - 2 hours. Related to cleaning and maintenance, downtime was the next greatest challenge at 33% (up from 28% last year).
Nearly all (97%) of those surveyed agree that they would benefit from finding a more efficient way to clean their conveying systems. Most (79%) move multiple products through their system that make cleaning necessary.
For those requiring greater efficiency, innovative solutions can now automate the conveyor wet cleaning process, eliminating most manual labor while reducing downtime and the risk of improper cleaning.
Due to their need, many respondents (61%) have shopped for or purchased a new conveyor system in the last year. More than 80% plan to update or replace parts of their conveying systems in the next two years.
Of those surveyed, virtually all (98%) agree that testing products on a new conveying system is a critical step to take before purchase, with 67% strongly agreeing.
Research firm Ascend2 also used the survey data to rank seven types of conveyors (round-link chain conveyors, cable conveyors, pneumatic conveyors, bucket elevators, vacuum conveyors, aero mechanical conveyors, screw augers) based on maintaining product integrity, energy and efficiency, maintenance and downtime, and accommodating facility requirements.
Cable conveyors ranked top in each category, followed by pneumatic conveyors, bucket elevators, and round-link chain conveyors in that order. Tubular drag cable conveyors gently move product through a sealed tube using a coated, flexible stainless-steel drag cable pulled through on a loop. Solid circular discs (flights) are attached to the cable, which push the product through the tube without the use of air. These conveyors excel in transporting delicate, precise blends for a wide variety of food types in versatile layouts and configurations.
To help industry professionals make more informed purchasing decisions, the survey provides free conveyor evaluation tools. The study contains links to an ROI Calculator that estimates food processors’ savings based on minimizing their conveyor cleaning and maintenance. A link is also included in the report to a collection of white papers and guides that cover issues designed to improve conveyor reliability, performance, efficiency, and safety.
To access the full survey results, visit The Food and Beverage Industry 2023 State of Conveying at https://cablevey.com/white-papers-and-guides/2023-state-of-conveying/