Drives & Controls Magazine September 2023

42 n MAINTENANCE, SERVICE AND REPAIRS September 2023 Failed mixer drive causes a stir at Baxters food plant A sudden failure on a 750kg batch sampling machine used to mix sauce and dressing recipes almost caused a sticky situation for the condiment manufacturer Baxters Foods, threatening costly downtime and lost production. The machine, which is used to mix small batches for approval at the company’s Colchester plant, is a vital stage in finetuning recipes before they move to mass production. Use of the machine is carefully scheduled, often a long time in advance, making any downtime potentially highly disruptive. “We do something in the region of 28,000–30,000 bottles per day, so any downtime can be extremely detrimental to our operations,” explains senior Baxters engineer, Trevor Goff. “Normally we schedule trials up to a fortnight in advance so that we can have everything ready for when the customer turns up to taste their products.” The mixer requires precision control, because over- or under-agitation of a product can ruin its quality, while recipes must be followed precisely to ensure that products achieve the desired colour, consistency and taste for maximum customer satisfaction. An unexpected failure of a drive used to control the mixing machine’s 8.5kW motor was discovered at the start of what was supposed to be a busy morning shift of batch tests. Because the drive was essential to delivering the close control required for mixing the products, the machine could not run without it. “We immediately realised we had a problem when the old drive wouldn’t start up,” Goff recalls. He contacted the Essexbased Gibbons Group, which specialises in drives for the food and beverage sector, and gave them the drive’s ID plate. Gibbons were on-site within two hours of the failure being reported and, by that afternoon, had installed and commissioned an ABB drive to replace the original (non-ABB) drive. They also optimised the new drive to ensure that it was operating at maximum efficiency while delivering the speed range required, and provided training to Baxters’ engineering team to help familiarise them with the drive’s controls. Inspection of the failed drive revealed that water ingress was the likely cause of failure. The replacement “ticked all the boxes,” Goff reports. “It does everything the old drive did, plus it’s gone into a very tight cabinet, and it’s very user-friendly. We’ve had no issues with it at all since the installation.” n After a critical drive failed on a mixer at Baxter Foods’ Colchester plant, a replacement was needed urgently to minimise downtime and disruption. Fortunately help was at hand, and a new drive was up and running by the end of the day. Condiments and soups mixed at a Baxters mixing plant in Essex are now back on the menu following the speedy installation of a new drive.