When MSF Sugar Project Engineer Mitchim Elder sought a solution to a low-grade pan sugar stirring application, the answer came through a collaborative effort between his local BSC branch in Cairns and coupling supplier, Timken®.
Elder had wanted to remove the maintenance-heavy hydraulic system and simplify it with an electro-mechanical solution to reduce both maintenance costs and downtime. Integral to the process was a coupling that could transmit high torque. This goal was not only achieved but the coupling supplied continues to operate – 5 years after its installation – without Elder ever having experienced an issue with it.
“In engineering, no news is good news! It’s when components aren’t doing the job that you hear about them,” Elder enthuses. “When you install a component and it works away without a problem, that’s the solution you want and that’s been our experience with the Timken® coupling.”
As one of Australia’s leading agribusinesses, MSF Sugar is a processor as well as a grower, marketer and exporter of raw sugar. The company has been operating for over 124 years, and employs around 760 people in Queensland1.
Michim Elder is the Project Engineer for the Mulgrave Central Mill which is located in Gordonvale, up in North East Queensland. It’s about a 20-minute drive to his local BSC branch in Cairns.
Elder explains that within the sugar mill operation, there are a number of low-grade pans in the process house, including one which has a stirrer application, which is viewed as a critical asset to the mill.
“This particular pan is one of three, so if we cannot get product through that pan it will hold up the whole process. It won’t stop our operation completely, but it definitely has a significant impact on production when there is downtime,” he says. “So, I took the opportunity to change out the hydraulic drive unit and put in an electric motor gearbox.”
Elder’s decision to overhaul the drive system was followed up by a conference with his BSC branch as to the design and supply of components. This involved consultation with the BSC Area Account Manager, Paul King and Sean Young, who was the North QLD Regional Sales Manager for Australian Timken® at that point in time.
“There was a significant amount of consultation at the time regarding the details and design. There was a lot involved in terms of modification – particularly from the existing hydraulic motor base and trying to incorporate a solution bound to the gearbox,” explains Elder. “We actually used the existing hydraulic motor base frame and mounted the new gearbox on this together with a coupling. BSC worked with us to come up with a solution that best fit our needs.”
Sean Young recalls that the Lovejoy® QF1000 QuickFlex coupling by Timken® was recommended as the ideal coupling choice after a site visit.
“This was a vertical high torque application utilising a metallic gear coupling which required lubrication and was in a difficult location to easily access,” he explains. “In order to replace the gear coupling a crane had to be hired, the roof removed and the entire coupling replaced – but only once the hydraulic motor had been removed also. This was very time consuming and also affected production.”
Young and King obtained all the relevant information about the drive from Elder including the motor power, output speed, shaft dimensions and space restrictions before selecting the coupling.
As to why the Lovejoy® QF1000 QuickFlex coupling by Timken® is such a good fit for this application, Young breaks it down to three key features – lack of wear, accessibility and lubrication.
“It is a shear style coupling, which means once it is set up the only item that wears is the element. This is easily and quickly accessed,” he explains. “This coupling does not need to be lubricated at all – unlike the gear coupling that it replaced.”
As far as Elder is concerned, he achieved his goal of improving the efficiency of the application and reducing the amount of maintenance required by changing out the drive system. This translated to significant cost savings and would not have been achievable without his collaboration with BSC and Timken® with regards to the coupling component.
“We’ve had zero issues from a maintenance perspective, and this has been in place for 5 years now without any worries,” he says. “So that’s the perfect solution. That’s what you want. And the BSC team worked with us to make it happen – it was definitely a collaborative effort.”