Communicating and cutting cheese at Bega

Wednesday, 20 July, 2005

Based in New South Wales Australia, dairy farming started in the Bega Valley in the 1850s. During these early years each farmer produced and sold cheese from his own dairy.

Local farmers decided to improve their individual production and marketing activities and banded together to establish the Bega Co-operative Creamery Company in 1899. Following on from this foundation the factory began production in 1900 and now with over 100 years of tradition and expertise Bega is Australia's number one selling cheese brand. As the brand has developed, the quality of the product has been recognised with many awards.

The Bega cheese plant is equal to the best in the world in terms of capacity, hygiene and atmospheric control. The latest in manufacturing technologies ensures a pharmaceutical standard is applied to the art of cheese production and packaging. It is therefore imperative to Bega that its manufacturing processes are always at peak performance so that they can continue to drive forward the reputation they have built within their market.

When Bega Co-operative Society was looking to improve the down time on its high-speed cheese cutting machines it turned to Norgren to provide a solution that could make a difference in this reliability driven application.

The current generation of Bega's high-speed cheese cutting machine employed conventional ISO cylinders with external proximity switches that caused a particular problem with reliability. A critical aspect of food manufacturing is cleanliness. It is imperative that all machines utilised within the food production process undergo a washdown procedure to ensure that bacteria that could contaminate the product being manufactured is neu-tralised. The washdown procedure frequently involves the use of chemicals combined with hot and cold water. Bega discovered that the washdown process was having a detrimental effect on the external proximity switches on the current ISO cylinders. This was causing Bega acute problems with machine down time that was ultimately costing money in lost production time.

With many years' experience of supplying solutions to the food production industry Norgren has recently introduced a range of Smoothline cylinders that have been engineered to match the exacting requirements of this demanding sector and to offer reliability in applications where it is critical. Offering an engineering advantage in food production applications, the Smoothline cylinder has been developed with the harsh washdown process and bacterial contamination issues in mind. Norgren engineers have optimised the device to suit the application and have included features such as a spherical/smooth profile design and special polyurethane wiper seal all included to ensure the minimisation of bacterial contamination. What's more, the Smoothline cylinder features completely concealed proximity switches for position sensing. The switch wiring is connected internally to a central electrical M12 connector and because the switches are internal they are not vulnerable to the washdown process as with the original ISO cylinders. The Norgren Smoothline cylinders have been accessed by HACCP, an Australian food safety organisation that has endorsed Smoothline cylinders as being suitable in food safety applications.

Michael Jones, engineering manager at Bega, gave the go-ahead to install the PVA/182000 Smoothline cylinders into the harshest environment on the cutting machine. The cylinders are exposed to salt; whey and fat residue from the cheese during production, which is followed up with hot water washdown, chemical agents and cold water every day so they need to be able to cope with these extremes. Bega also needed to make the change fast without making major modifications to the existing machine, which again could result in lost production time. As this series conforms to ISO VDMA dimensional standards, no mounting modifications were needed for the change. Other competitor units were considered by Bega but they found that the Norgren solution was the only one that offered an adjustable position proximity switch with wiring from both switches exiting through just one M12 electrical connector. Since putting the cylinders to the test, Bega has experienced no reliability problems or failures thus ensuring that performance of the machine has been optimised and that machine up time is improved.

For further information contact Norgren

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