The tradition of pasta-making meets high technology
The De Cecco pasta-making company has managed, thanks to its determination to preserve and maintain the great tradition of pasta-making (much appreciated worldwide) while optimizing its engineering and technological resources, from both the production and logistics angles.
A visit to the plant in Ortona shows us how challenging and competitive our globalized world is, and how we can respond − via innovative solutions arising out of impressive, typically Italian, capabilities in the design and manufacturing fields. The De Cecco plant in Ortona (operational 24/7) opened in 1997.
The approximately 230 employees are deployed in three shifts. The 12 functioning lines have a production capacity of about 4,000 quintals/day, for an overall quantity of 1,100,000 quintals per year. The fresh semolina is all ground at the Fara San Martino mill, and is kneaded with water from the company-owned spring, of the Maiella aquifer, at an ideally low temperature. The water is used to produce very many pasta formats subjected to the traditional process of bronze-wire drawing. The fresh pasta then undergoes a stage that tells us what De Cecco and the Italian art of pasta-making really mean.
In fact, this stage consists in slow, low-temperature drying. Usually, the story ends here. It is as though packing and conveying thousands of boxes didn’t play a part in the struggle to keep production levels high.
De Cecco, instead, understood that its policy of uncompromising preservation of traditions required innovation, precisely there where the products leave the factory, on their way to any number of destinations.
Overhead conveying for transport and palletization
In the new area of the Ortona factory in front of the loading area, a veritable ‘motorway’ of overhead conveyors has been installed for transport and palletization of packs ready for delivery. Here, De Cecco had to ‘go the extra mile’, beyond the use of a simple conveyor system to bring the packed products to the palletizers. Indeed, it had to think in terms of a fully automated installation. For the conveyor system that had to be installed, the problem concerned getting the boxes, of various sizes, from production to pallets while taking into account the productivity of each line. As often happens when designing, the problem was how to handle space problems and yet meet clients’ needs. Furthermore, while loading and palletizing are normally tasks handled manually by operatives, a modern industrial approach requires of us that we do away with as many physically demanding or strenuous tasks as we possibly can (e.g. lifting heavy packs or repetitive jobs). It was therefore decided to bring the line ends to the new fully automated palletization line and construct the components needed for the overhead pack conveyor system. The great challenge was to take into account the potentials of the three existing lines, each of which transports ten boxes per minute, and have these lines converge on a single line capable of receiving thirty boxes per minute, i.e. boxes travelling at a speed of one metre per second.
Rollers, Drive Rollers and drum motors provide added-value for the entire line
The new conveyor system is based on a Compac project using products from Rulli Rulmeca, that were ‘gleaned’ from among the top products that this company from Bergamo can place on the goods handling market. The solution entailed adoption of differing box conveyor systems on various overhead lines, placed at heights of 4-5 metres, so that operatives and the already existing machines below encounter no obstacles. Given the load-bearing structure of the building, the solution was to provide support from above, anchor point heights notwithstanding. This project enabled input from the 12 production lines to the advanced automatic systems for palletizing, wrapping and transport to the warehouse. The project includes 11 systems for raising the boxes (4 of one kind and 7 of the other), and hundreds of metres of overhead conveyors of various kinds that can accumulate the products in the event of a downstream stoppage and release them as and when required. Rulmeca’s products enabled construction of the required conveyors, tailored to needs and deploying motorized rollers, drum motors, clutch rollers, idler drums on the back of the belts, and components in general.
The solution adopted at the De Cecco factory entails use of 113LS 0.37kW 0.32m/s series drum motors, 135 diam. 50 series motorized rollers, KRM diam. 58 series tapered rollers, nd GL diam. 50 series idle rollers, all manufactured by Rulli Rulmeca. The drum motors of the LS range are motorized for light loads with the reduction gear in steel. It was decided to use these drum motors for the conveying system constructed at the De Cecco factory because these items are totally protected (hermetically sealed) and are therefore ideal for processing and transporting food products. The use of drum motors is indicated in normal and damp environments and where washing takes place frequently (IP66/69), as in the Ortona warehouse. Drum motors can be cleaned very rapidly and easily, thus lowering operational costs, above all for the purposes of processing food products. The 135 series pinion-driven rollers were used for this project because they enable any number of combinations, providing maximum conveyor flexibility and installation modularity. Idle rollers in steel − which roll on pre-lubricated and sealed off radial ball bearings − were used because they are particularly smooth-running with a high load capacity, while tapered rollers in steel were used for the driven curves, relatively free of obstacles, thus ensuring that the packs can be moved smoothly along also at these points.