With huge orders to fulfill, an untimely breakdown was the last thing that a major Australian biscuit manufacturer could afford. So, when Chris Wheatley, BSC Agriculture, Food & Beverage Manager for South Australia, was informed that the plant’s maintenance team was facing issues with a conveyor chain drive, he immediately took action.

“The plant was having trouble with a conveyor that runs biscuits through the cooling tower before packaging. The chain in the drive system had already broken eight times over a span of 15 months and every time the chain broke, the line had to be stopped completely to replace the chain, causing hours of producing delay,” Chris explains.

BSC supports a large number of clients, including some of Australia’s biggest manufacturers, with industrial parts supplies and engineering services. Chris says BSC has been servicing the biscuit manufacturer for nearly a decade, helping them improve reliability across the plant and reduce the risk of downtimes. 

Before proposing any solutions, it was important that the BSC team first track down the root cause of frequent chain failures.

“BSC Engineering Specialist Andrew Fant carried out load and speed calculations, which indicated that the chain was under-designed to cope with load surges in the machine, which was the main reason for the frequent chain failures,” says Chris.

“Our first suggestion was to replace the existing 12B-3 triplex chain with a heavier chain like a 20B-3 triplex chain. But after further calculation, we realised that the heavier chain would cause further problems in the existing setup,” he adds.

The team then came up with a better solution, which was to replace the chain drive with a pulley and belt setup using the Gates® Poly Chain® GT® Carbon timing belts. The solution was received well by the plant’s maintenance service team, who saw benefits in no longer having to do re-lubrication, re-tensioning or constantly monitoring the drive. 

“The 14MGT Gates belt was of a comparable cost to the first solution we had proposed, but the belt and pulley combination weighed about two-third the chain drive option. The Gates belt is also completely maintenance-free, which is another bonus. No lubrication also means the maintenance process is less tedious and a lot cleaner,” Chris remarks.

Cost savings from the upgrade were also considerable, Chris explains.

“Moving to the Gates® Poly Chain® GT® Carbon belt was cheaper than upgrading to a heavier chain setup. Considering the loss of productivity that the plant had with each chain breakage, we have estimated that the upgrade to belts has saved the plant at least $25,000 in upfront and maintenance costs over three years.”

“Gates® Poly Chain® GT® Carbonsynchronous belts have a renowned industry reputation for high performance and huge cost savings in a range of applications. Gates uses patented carbon fiber tensile cords for increased horsepower rating, compactness, and flexibility,” he adds.

A few months into the upgrade, the cost savings are already apparent.

“Since the implementation of the new drive system, the BSC team has been running monthly inspections to ensure the machine runs smoothly. The plant’s main cost saving since implementing the chain-to-belt solution has been in saved downtimes. So, you can say the new solution is already paying for itself.”