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Amal Grow has achieved a 75 per cent reduction in maintenance times on its potato grading and washing machines by upgrading bearing units and fitting SKF System 24 single-point automatic lubricators.

Ewan Pervis of Amal Grow, a vegetable grower based in Jersey, said: ‘We specialise in vegetables grown outdoors, with the sale of potatoes accounting for a large volume of our business.

‘These are harvested and then graded and washed before being packed for delivery to our customers.

‘Machinery is generally running seven days a week and is exposed to the elements, with the operating environment for both the grading and washing machines being especially tough, ranging from dry dust, dirt and grit in the summer, to wet liquid mud in the winter months.

‘As a result, we found that these machines needed constant maintenance; in particular, bearings fitted to the rotating drive, agitator and idler shafts needed regular lubrication and frequent replacement.

‘Bearings had to be lubricated manually via grease nipples.

‘These were often located behind machine guarding or were hard to reach safely.

‘Additionally, it was difficult to apply the correct volume of lubricant and easy to miss lubrication points, so bearings could run dry or be over lubricated; in each case their operating life was dramatically shortened, resulting in considerable downtime.

‘It was not uncommon for us to have a machine offline for several days and for two engineers to be tied up carrying out repairs,’ he added.

The solution was to supply replacement stainless-steel bearings, which are fitted as each existing unit needs replacement, plus a dedicated SKF System 24 single-point automatic lubricator attached to each bearing.

Once set up, the SKF System 24 lubricator is fully automatic, eliminating the need for manual lubrication.

Each device is constructed from a tough polyamide plastic cartridge, filled with lubricant and hermetically sealed to prevent the ingress of dust or moisture; it is also transparent so that lubricant levels can be checked.

Integrated into the head of the cartridge is a hydrogen cell that releases gas at controlled intervals to pressurise an internal piston; in turn, this forces lubricant through the neck of the cartridge, which is screwed directly into the bearing unit.

The piston and internal cartridge surfaces are shaped to ensure that all the lubricant is thoroughly dispensed, while the rate at which lubricant is distributed is accurately controlled by an integrated timer.

This can be adjusted on-site, allowing oil or grease to be distributed at intervals of between one and 12 months and at rates that can be as low as 4.5g/month.

‘SKF System 24 devices are tough, are simple to fit and setup and are available with a range of different lubricants, including food-safe greases,’ said Pervis.

‘We’ve fitted them where they can easily be seen on the machines, so a quick visual check of reservoir levels is all that’s required during a routine monthly maintenance check.

‘Typically, each device operates for around 12 months before needing replenishment.

‘Since we switched to the SKF System 24 technology, we estimate that we’ve cut the maintenance time required for lubrication by more than 75 per cent,’ he added.

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