In the context of plant modernizations, the Belgian French fries producer Lutosa cooperated with SICK to implement an intelligent concept at the plant in Leuze-en-Hainaut that provides maximum machine safety, while at the same time optimizing output capacity.
Lutosa ranks among the largest producers of deep-frozen French fries and potato specialties worldwide. “Currently, we are processing about 665,000 tons of potatoes a year,” Pierre Eeman, responsible at Lutosa for projects in the fields of electrical engineering and automation, provides a specific figure. Production covers all process steps – from delivery of the potatoes from storage silos and the processing stages of cleaning, cutting, frying, deep freezing all the way to packaging in bags, feeding of the bags into cartons, and fully automated palletizing of the cartons. In order to produce efficiently, Lutosa invests every year in modernizing individual plant sectors, such as, e.g., conveying systems, pallet wrappers, or pallet changing systems. “In this connection, recent years saw optimization of the safety facilities at the French fries production lines – in cooperation with a system integrator on location and SICK,” says Pierre Eeman.
Idea of safety cells a convincing approach
Analysis of the actual status revealed important potential for improvement. For example, in the past the palletizing unit – together with the rest of the roller conveyor – used to be a single safety area. The problem associated with this was that “for any required operator intervention in the wrapping unit, e.g. for inserting a new roll of packaging film or in the event of torn film, it was necessary to open the safety barriers, which resulted in stoppage of the entire pallet roller conveyor,” Pierre Eeman recalls. This led to the development of a modular safety concept that subdivides the entire facility into safety and work areas, respectively. “Now, if you need to stay in a work area or in one of the safety areas, only the corresponding area goes out of service while the rest of the machine can continue operating without interruptions. This enhances significantly the availability and output capacity of the entire plant,” Pierre Eeman confirms the success of the new safety concept.
Safety portfolio provides suitable sensor and control solutions
Lutosa decided in favor of SICK as a partner for equipping the plant in terms of safety technology. This decision was based on many years of experience regarding safety sensors already in use, the flexibility and user-friendliness of the Flexi Soft safety controller, as well as awareness of the cost-effective and customized service by SICK. The devices used – in each case adapted to the individual basic conditions and installation locations – are multiple light beam safety devices of the M4000 product family in the Standard version and in the Advanced version with muting function, as well as C4000 Palletizer safety light curtains, which in addition are capable of managing without muting sensors.
They are monitored using the Flexi Soft safety controller, programmed by Lutosa staff based exclusively on the manual. Providing extra service to the customer, SICK checked and cleared the programs, enabling the machine builder to grant CE certification upon completing implementation of the safety concept.
- Product information: M4000 multiple light beam safety device and C4000 Palletizer safety light curtain, Flexi Soft safety controller
- Customer information: Lutosa
- All articles: safety, food