Bulk Solids Handling and Conveying Put an end to drudgery: Bulk bag filler boosts pale ale malt packing output with reduced labour

Editor: M.A. Manja Wühr

For brewers malt is an essential ingredient. But for workers of the packing unit it means hard work: Malt producer Thomas Fawcett & Sons required a more efficient system to pack pale ale malt into 350 kg to 1000 kg bulk bags, sold across the UK and internationally.

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Operator attaches bag loops to the four retractable bag hooks on the fill head.
Operator attaches bag loops to the four retractable bag hooks on the fill head.
(Source: Flexicon)

Thomas Fawcett & Sons produces an extensive range of coloured malt products from the palest caramalts through the crystal colour range to the darkest chocolate and black malts. As with the white malts, consistency is vitally important. The company operates roasting machines that roast between half a tonne and one tonne of product at a time. As with all forms of cooking, better results come from smaller batch sizes. Fawcett also produces crystal and roast forms of wheat malt and rye malt.

Most of the company’s malt was previously supplied in 25 t bulk lorry loads and 25 kg sacks. When the company first supplied malt in bulk bags, members of the malting staff transferred batches of malt from pre-weighed 50 kg sacks into bulk bags by wheeling the sacks on a sack truck on the upper floor and tipping them into a bulk bag held on a fork lift truck on the floor below. This was a three person job: one filling sacks, one tipping sacks, and one operating the forklift truck.

But there is now an easier way: Installation of a Flexicon Twin-Centerpost Bulk Bag Filler and flexible screw conveyor in the packing room area has created a more flexible packing operation and saved operators from double handling of the malt. “By installing the bulk bag filler, we save between six and eight hours of operator time each week,” says Brian Hickman, Thomas Fawcett & Sons’s Malting Manager.

A bulk storage silo was fitted with a charging adapter for connection to a Flexicon horizontally-oriented flexible screw conveyor 7.5 m long and 168 mm in diameter. From the conveyor’s discharge housing, malt flows through downspouting to the bulk bag filler inlet. The bulk bag filler is equipped with an adjustable fill head that can be raised or lowered to suit all popular bag heights, and secured in place with two quick-release pins. An oversized filling spout accommodates open-top bulk bags. Mounted on load cells, the unit can weigh-fill 350 to 1000 kg of malt into bulk bags. To fill a bag, the operator positions a 1200 x 1000 mm pallet on the filler deck and attaches the bag loops to each of four retractable bag hooks on the fill head.

The operator secures the bag inlet to the downspouting. The system’s PLC runs the flexible screw conveyor at a high feed rate, reducing the feed rate to trickle before stopping the conveyor when the accurate target weight has been loaded into the bag. The bag and pallet are removed by pallet jack. “Individual customer orders are typically 24 one-tonne bulk bags of malt,” says Brian Hickman.

Upgrade Saves Time, Increases Production

“The system works well and we are pleased with the reliable operation it provides to our malting facility,” says Brian Hickman, adding, “The Bulk Bag Filler and flexible screw conveyor operate separately from our 25 kg sack filling system, providing another advantage as we can now do both operations simultaneously, saving time and increasing production. We fill the bulk malt outload silo in the evening when the 25 kg sack line is not running, and then we can pack simultaneously during the day.”

Thomas Fawcett & Sons is a ­seventh generation family business that has been manufacturing malts for over 200 years on its ­original site in Castleford, West Yorkshire. The company supports and assists brewers of all traditions and sizes and its customers range from multi-national brewers to the latest start-up micro-breweries.