One of Europe’s leading supermarket groups has its own meat processing/re-packaging factory. A frequent task in the factory is to transfer large, heavy and awkwardly shaped pieces of meat from trolleys to slicers. This is a tough phase for operators, who have to stretch up towards the top of the trolley and bend down towards the bottom while holding a load of up to 15 kg.
The lift solution must therefore be safe and ergonomic for operators, as well as robust and reliable to keep costs down. In this food-related application, however, there is also another major demand: the ability to withstand frequent cleaning.
RDL Engineering (Izegem, Belgium) recommended and installed a stainless-steel lift table solution from VPG. RDL’s Xavier De Leersnijder explains the stringent hygiene requirements: “The twelve lift tables are cleaned intensively with water and cleaning products every day. That means every component – electrical, mechanical and hydraulic – has to be able to withstand very aggressive conditions.”
“Furthermore, the pit where the lift tables operate is also emptied for thorough cleaning every week. That means the lift tables cannot be permanently fixed in it. Instead, they are attached to special frames designed for easy cleaning and to prevent food residues adhering.”
RDL and their customer went for a solution based on VPG’s stainless steel lift tables. “VPG’s complete customized installation offered the reliability, ergonomics, and low cost of ownership the project demanded,” continues Xavier. “It was also easy to build in safety features, such as sensors and controls to ensure the correct positioning of racks and trucks.”
Says Rutger Clovén, KAM at VPG: “The VPG solution allows the trolley to be moved up and down from the pit in the floor, so operators can always work in the magic window – at a height of 700-1100 mm and with no stretching or bending. With back and neck protected, operators can work longer, safer and 40% faster. And with the installation under fingertip control via the easily accessible control panel.”
The meat-processing factory presented one further challenge: once installed, the solution could not be removed for modification. “The route we chose was to build a prototype for approval, then deliver identical units to the site,” says Xavier. “We tested and refined – and tested again – until everything was absolutely right. Only when our customer was totally satisfied did we go ahead with volume production. Despite all the rigorous testing the project took only one year from first contact to final commissioning.”
Rutger Clovén, KAM at VPG, says the project shows how easy it is to customize VPG lift tables for specific and demanding applications. “We are always here to advise. But it also helps that we already build in features like easily accessible yet well protected power packs and controls. They were important in making our solution resistant to repeated washing.”