Lower TCO chain avoids chocolate contamination

Maintaining food production lines requires expertise and specialist products to ensure efficient and reliable operation. One production line at a chocolate manufacturer was experiencing chain elongation and contamination of the chain lubricant, causing loss of production. Switching to Tsubaki Lambda Lube Free chain has resulted in maintenance costs savings as well as improved production reliability.

The maintenance regime required to keep the moulded chocolate production line running was costly in both man-hours and consumables, such as food grade lubricant. Despite the best efforts of the maintenance engineers, the production line still experienced unacceptable amounts of lost production time, due mainly to wear and corrosion of the chain drive system used to convey the chocolate moulding trays. The OEM chain would typically  last up to 3 years before it would have to be replaced, at considerable expense. When the cost of maintaining this chain was included along with the cost of lost production, the overall total cost of ownership (TCO) was alarming, which meant an alternative was sought.

A root cause analysis by Tsubaki established that the lubricant, which was being regularly applied, was being contaminated with chocolate. This prevented it from penetrating into the bearing areas of the chain. This reduced lubrication caused increased wear and corrosion on the pin surface, which led to elongation of the chain and ultimately to moulding tray crashes which would cause the production line to be stopped.

The Tsubaki engineers suggested installing a Lambda Lube Free chain, fitted with an attachment which connects with the moulding trays. The Lambda chain is dry to the touch, with the lubrication impregnated into the bushes, so it can be installed straight from the box and begin  operation, without the need to lubricate it.

According to Tsubaki, the improved wear-life can reduce the overall cost of replacement chain; as lower quality chains will have to be replaced several times before Lambda shows any sign of wear. It can also return several times the purchase value during it’s working life through reduced maintenance and costs of lubricants and associated automatic and manual lubrication procedures.

In addition to lower TCO costs, there are obvious benefits to using lubrication-free roller chain in clean industries such as food processing where product contamination should be limited. The replacement chain in this case has now been in operation for over 8 years and it is still performing without the need to continuously maintain it and without causing any loss of production. In that time, the replacement chain has saved over €12,000 every year compared to the OEM product. In addition, reduced maintenance and lost production costs amount to an annual saving of over €50,000.


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