As all bakers know, there are many variables that can lead to the success or failure of bread rising, which is why the recipe needs to be followed accurately. Likewise, in an automated, state-of-the-art bakery facility, all the machinery needs to run seamlessly, because if a part of the process breaks down, it will have consequences on the overall production. Just as every individual ingredient is necessary to the whole loaf, so are the bearing components to the success of an entire bakery plant. 

This was the experience of a large-scale commercial bakery operating out of Victoria, who, with the help of Motion Australia have managed to improve the performance of their critical machinery and prevent unnecessary downtime. Prior to working with Motion Australia, the site had experienced a number of breakdowns, particularly on their conveying applications. This was due to low quality bearing components that kept failing. 

“We won this business through our in-house know-how, around the clock customer service, and by recommending high quality bearing products that resolved their primary issue of equipment failure,” explains Leon Stefanec, National Business Development Manager for Food and Beverage, Motion Australia. “When we first engaged with this customer, we offered to do a site audit, which immediately struck a chord with their maintenance manager. Through that, we were able to identify all the part numbers, quantities and brands of components such as bearings they were using on the equipment.”

The site audit enabled Motion Australia to consolidate the customer’s bearing range. This weeded out inefficiencies (such as double ups of stock and the use of multiple brands for spare parts in the same application) but more importantly allowed them to address one of the key problems – equipment failure from low quality bearings that couldn’t withstand the rigours of the applications. 

“There are two standout applications where bearings were failing – in their dough proofer chamber and conveying system that takes hot product out of the oven and on to the product cooler infeed conveyor where product gets snap frozen,” he elaborates. “Basically, the bearings need to be able to handle the extreme temperatures and humidity of the dough proofing chamber, as well as the cold temperatures of the cooling conveyor.”

The NTN 6000 series deep groove ball bearings and mounted ball bearing units were recommended and installed on these applications. The result has been positive with the customer noticing a significant increase in bearing operational life. 

“The NTN product stood up well, and the customer agreed with our proposal to then replace all bearings out at the site with NTN bearings,” says Leon. “When the plant 

performed maintenance recently during a planned shutdown and reviewed all of their equipment, the maintenance manager was impressed with how the NTN bearing range had performed as they had seen a significant reduction in breakdowns since we started supplying them. This was positive feedback and testament to the good job our team has done.”

Importantly, Motion Australia also had some standard NTN bearings custom-modified to meet the extremely cold temperatures as described on the product cooler conveying application. 

“This is where we are able to add even more value, because our Motion Australia company, CBC, has a unique relationship with NTN – it’s called the NTN-CBC Joint Venture – where we have a direct line to the manufacturer and their engineering design division,” explains Leon. “We were able to have them modify the standard bearing by flushing the grease out and putting in a special low temperature grease which allowed the bearing to work in temperatures at minus 20 degrees Celsius.”

Overall, the customer has been pleased with the outcome of switching their bearings over to NTN.

Four key benefits

Since standardising the plant to using NTN brand bearings, the bakery operation has realised the following benefits:
• Less frequent bearing change-outs

• Longer equipment up time

• Fewer unexpected break downs

• Improved stock availability

Despite the bearings costing more than those the site was originally using, Leon said the price was the least of the customer’s concerns. 

“While the upfront cost of the bearings is perhaps more than other brands, the customer cost savings in the long run were proven when it was clear the bearings were directly correlated to greater productivity, less maintenance, and less downtime,” says Leon. “These NTN bearings are a great example of how we’ve provided value, but it’s just one part of what we’re supplying to this customer.”

Leon says the relationship has been built on trust that Motion Australia will deliver a full end-to-end solution, and will be available to the customer in times of crisis.

“It’s our ability to offer a 24/7 service, meaning we can supply out of hours when maintenance is done,” he says. “It’s also our combined technical expertise and in-house knowledge. Our capability to supply not just bearings and power transmission solutions, but fluid transfer, sealing, plastics and engineering services. We can be a one-stop supplier that they can completely rely on. Our relationship with this customer is just beginning, and I’m excited about how we can continue to help them improve the efficiency of their operation.”