Australia is a major player in the world’s malting industry and Australian barely is highly sought after by brewers across the globe. The country produces around one million tonnes of malt barley every year, from which local brewers use about 190,000 tonnes for domestic brewing. The remaining malt is exported primarily to Asia to support the brewing market there.1
Australia’s domestic and exported beer is renowned for its quality that are the result of the nation’s specific malt harvesting conditions and brewing processes, and the industry tends to draw the interest of some of the more creative minds in the food and beverage industry. In more recent years, the country has experienced a surge of independent ‘craft’ brewers and beers brands that feature unique flavour profiles and brewing processes – particularly in Queensland, South Australia, and Victoria – and the industry continues to be ripe for innovation.
However, according to the Craft Brewers Benchmark Report by manufacturing performance software company OFS, the industry’s average production time sits at about 45 percent of its full potential due to inefficiencies in brewing production line operations.2 This industry snapshot reveals that the booming industry is in dire need of improvement when it comes to streamlining production processes and increasing the operational efficiency of brewing equipment.
Enter CBC Geelong Senior Account Manager Brian Crouch and his colleague Rob Michaelson who serves as the National Product Manager for Belt Solutions for Motion Australia. Together, they have an accumulated more than half a century of industry experience, including the design of large-scale drivetrain and power transmission solutions for the food and beverage industry.
Recently Brian and Rob completed work on project for a local malthouse that involved upgrading the site’s production equipment and supplying a full range of power transmission products, including belts, bearings, motors, and gearboxes. The project two nearly two years to complete and required a significant amount of planning and engineering design input.
“If you’re a beer drinker you’ll understand that one of the most important production processes in a malthouse is the preparation of the barley for malting,” says Brian. On this customer’s site, they had a box feeder grain system on an upwards rolling chain conveyor system that turns and washes the barley in a big concrete bath that is about 40-50 metres in length and according to Brian, the original design was underrated for the application.
“A malthouse bath is an environment with a lot of heat and moisture that gets very humid, and the conditions of this customer application were destroying the conveyor roller chains and incurring costly downtime,” he explains. “The labour-intensive job of changing out the drive components was becoming very expensive for the malthouse and they reasoned that an overhaul to the system would be a worthwhile long-term investment.”
The customer had the team at CBC Geelong come in to assess the damage and develop a new conveyor system design that would better suit the application and improve the efficiency of the process. Working alongside Rob and Motion Australia’s in-house engineering team, they developed a new drive design that would replace the conventional metal roller chain with a Gates® Poly Chain® Carbon™ Volt™ belt solution and proposed upgrades to the bearings, couplings, and sprockets used in the application.
The Gates® Poly Chain® Carbon™ Volt™ belt was introduced to the power transmission market by Gates as the first of its kind. Designed to be an alternative to conventional roller chain, the Poly Chain is actually a toothed belt made from polyurethane and reinforced with the tensile carbon fibre cords that are a central feature of Gates’ high-performance belting range.
“The Gates® Poly Chain® Carbon™ Volt™ has a few standout features for food and beverage producers that make it an incredible power transmission solution for brewers looking to bolster their production targets,” emphasises Rob. “Most notably, the belt requires zero maintenance – which means it doesn’t stretch or rust and requires no re-tensioning or lubrication. The polyurethane exterior is resistant to washdown cycles; and the carbon fibre reinforcement gives it impressive longevity on demanding applications.”
Conveniently, the Gates® Poly Chain® Carbon™ Volt™, uses its own unique pulleys / sprockets, for a precision matched drive solution. Furthermore, Gates’ testing revealed that, on average, the belt is 97 percent lighter than standard metal chain and can carry up to 400 percent greater load capacity. This equates to a significant increase in productivity for food and beverage operations, according to Rob.
“From my perspective, the Gates Poly Chain solution is about increased efficiency surrounding all aspects of production,” Rob enthuses. “Where conventional metal chain is heavy and requires constant lubrication to prevent rust and the ingress of dust and contaminants, it also tends to be susceptible to loosening under stressors and requires frequent re-tensioning to maintain optimal performance.”
“If you can picture the metal chain on a bicycle you had as a kid, it works very similarly,” he elaborates. “Then imagine that you could replace that rusted loose metal chain with a polyurethane belt that no longer requires oil to loosen the links and sprockets, holds its tension, and resists water and the elements. Ideal right? Well, that is exactly what customers are getting with the Gates® Poly Chain® Carbon™ Volt™ belt.”
After consulting with Gates on their custom drive design for their malthouse customer, Brian and Rob commenced with work on the installation of the new system. On the technical side, Rob stepped into assist the with the fitting and tensioning of the Gates® Poly Chain® Carbon™ Volt™ belt. After installation, he notes, the belt is pretty much “set-and-forget.”
After six months back in service with the brand-new grain feeding conveyor system, the customer is very happy with the new production process, according to Brian. As their Account Manager, he still visits the malthouse a few times a month to check in on production and provide after sales services and support.
“Aside from being an avid beer drinker and getting to work with some of Australia’s best and brightest brewing companies, the best part of a project like this is the opportunity to demonstrate the broader spectrum of our capabilities as an industrial solutions provider,” Brian summarises.
“From offering a range of power transmission products and services to the design, planning, and installation; aftersales visits are just one of the ways the team at Motion Australia ensure the success of a drive design and enjoy the fruits of our labour,” he concludes. In this case, over a schooner of locally brewed malt beverage, we can only assume.
- Barley Australia: https://www.barleyaustralia.com.au/
- Brew News, OFS releases craft brewing report: https://www.brewsnews.com.au/2022/08/26/ofs-releases-craft-brewing-report/