Why Run Dry Matters
While many of us learned that 70 percent of the earth’s surface is made up of water in school, we might not remember that less than one percent of that water is easily available for our daily use and consumption. In the beverage manufacturing industry, finding ways to reduce water usage is not only good for the environment and future generations, but can also be a way to save money.
Studies show that beverage companies use between four and seven gallons of water to produce a single gallon of their product. With gallons and gallons of product being produced every day, you can imagine just how much water is being used as well. While we don’t have to ration water today, and it doesn’t come at a high cost per barrel like oil, it is still important to find ways to reduce water usage.
The good news is that it is possible to eliminate water on your can, bottling, or keg line. By retrofitting an existing conveying line into a run dry solution, you can save water while also increasing productivity and saving money. More traditional beverage lines utilize water and soap lubrication to reduce friction, flush away spills, dissipate heat, and reduce chain wear. However, as there are drawbacks to using soap and water, some beverage manufacturers have turned to dry lubrication instead. This method uses mineral oil with lubricating additives instead of soap and water. While dry lubrication does reduce water usage, it is more delicate than soap and water lubrication. Dry lubrication also requires additional equipment for supplying lubricant to the conveyor. Other drawbacks to dry lubrication include paste build-up, causing premature wear, noise, pulsation, and hygiene issues.
Another option is to run dry (with no lubrication) using premium materials and smart design chains, belts, and components. The use of premium materials such as engineered resins in chain and belt components provides a sustainable advantage over the industry standard LF material. Their reduced coefficient of friction properties allow end users to reduce or eliminate their chain/belt lubrication to provide a true “dry running” conveyor. These NGE materials can help eliminate the water needed for conveyor lubrication by up to 80-90 percent.
Breweries Lead the Way
Breweries have been some of the first to adopt these run dry processes. Some in the industry have already replaced water and soap lubricated chains with run dry concepts, while others are finding ways to extend dry run operation to more of the production line.
Having the ability to run a conveyor line without lubrication provides benefits in terms of performance, safety, and sustainability.
Additional Benefits to Run Dry:
- Slippery floors and bacteria growth can be reduced, which improves safety
- Drip trays can be removed, allowing for easier inspections
- Moisture related damage to packages can be reduced
- Noise levels of conveying equipment can be reduced
- Reduced energy consumption because of the low-friction components
- Reduced costs for water, lubricating chemicals, and wastewater discharge
- Easier on conveyor bearings and frames means decreased component maintenance
Proven Results in Beverage Manufacturing:
Breweries and beverage manufacturers around the world are experiencing success with run dry conveying:
- A craft brewing company in California saved 750,000 gallons of water per year by retrofitting their keg line with a dry running conveyor. They have also maintained production needs while decreasing component maintenance.
- A large Dutch brewery increased chain life by 500 percent while maintaining production volumes and increasing total line efficiency by replacing acetal chain with a New Generation chain designed for dry run operation.
- Another brewer replaced soap and water lubrication in their inspection and coding zone with a dry run chain system. After two years of running dry, the chain showed no measurable wear while significantly reducing water reclamation costs.
- A brewery in Holland replaced soap and water lubricated stainless steel chain with dry running belts to save on water and energy consumption. The change also improved the hygiene standard of the line and the accessibility of the conveyors by eliminating the drip trays while also reducing noise levels in one specific turn from 91 decibels to 77 decibels.
- A brewery in Washington eliminated 111,000 gallons of water and 675 gallons of soap for lubricating stainless steel chain, and produced savings on energy, maintenance, damage to bearings, sensors and concrete floors. The change to run dry also cut water use by 60 percent and eliminated the need to clean the conveyor after every shift.
- A mineral water plant in Europe changed from lubricated stainless steel to dry running belts to reduce water usage and water reclamation costs. The switch to dry run belts also allowed the line to increase production by 60 percent.
- An Irish spirits bottler moved from water and soap lubrication to dry running NGE chains because the existing chain was damaging the expensive glass bottles. The switch to a dry running chain eliminated chain-related product damage and improved quality.
- A wine producer increased line output yields payback in six months by installing NGE chain and are seeing other benefits such as lower noise level in the plant, reduced slip hazard and improved cleanliness.
Consider switching your line to run dry to be a little more green, save some green, and save the water for beer!