As one local conveyor manufacturer looked to diversify, it ran into problems when one of its product’s main attributes also put it at a disadvantage in one key target industry: food processing.
The solution: use the company’s years of experience in the equipment market to make a flexible product, but one that met the food industry’s strict cleanliness guidelines.
Dynamic Conveyor Corp. — originally part of Pliant Plastics Corp., a Spring Lake injection molding firm — grew to 20 employees and shares a 48,000-square-foot facility with Nauticraft Corp., a boat manufacturer. Dynamic originally incorporated in 1991 and became a separate company from Pliant.
Dynamic Conveyor President Jill Batka said the company, which did $4 million in sales in 2012, originally stuck to what it knew: injection molding.
“We started with a very unique conveyor system designed primarily for the injection molding industry. It’s a reconfigurable conveyor system,” Batka said. “Our customers buy modules which would be like a LEGO brick. They then assemble their conveyor and, when their needs change, they can take it back down to that module level and rebuild it to a different configuration.”
This ease of reconfiguration allows companies to quickly and efficiently change the workflow in a factory when manufacturing procedures change or when a company needs to retool to break into a new industry. Existing segments of the machines can be reused and matched with new segments that are purchased, and the simplicity of the system allows for easy cleaning and maintenance, Batka said.
While the DynaCon parts conveyor was popular due to its versatility, after 20 years of selling the same equipment, Batka said the company wanted to branch out into something new.
“After having our DynaCon reconfigurable conveyor line for 20 years, it really matured. So sales pretty much leveled off,” Batka said. “We realized we needed something new, something different to be able to grow.”
However, there was a steep learning curve when the company looked to break into the food processing industry.
“This is a new industry for us,” Batka said. “We know conveyors, we know them very well and we wanted to be able to expand the business … but we didn’t know the (food processing) industry. It’s different.”
The versatile nature of the DynaCon parts conveyor was also its barrier to entering the food processing industry. The same attributes that made the products easy to use spelled issues for preventing the growth of bacteria. To make the conveyors reconfigurable, the systems were full of small nooks and pockets where water or product could collect, Batka said.
To break into the food industry, the company had to go back to the drawing board and redesign the system while still retaining the flexibility of DynaCon.
“The reconfigurable conveyor system we’ve been selling to industry for 20-plus years didn’t bode well to food, and we knew that from the beginning,” Batka said. “We had to design a totally different system, but I think we’ve done a nice job with that.”
The new product, DynaClean, is designed to be as simple as possible and is built with non-toxic, non-absorbent materials that are easy to clean. In the DynaClean family of products there are two basic systems: DynaClean Ultimate Food Processing Conveyors and DynaClean Food Packaging Conveyors.
Its plastic and stainless steel components meet USDA and FDA standards, are corrosion resistant and can be cleaned with everything from hot water and steam to detergents like sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid, according to the company. The belts themselves are bacteria-resistant and can be easily removed for cleaning, allowing access to the belt supports and rollers as well as the drive motor for cleaning and maintenance.
Additionally, the DynaClean system requires no lubrication and has no mechanical belt tensioners or external bearings, according to the company. The drum-style motor is hermetically sealed and has a stainless steel finish.
The design for the DynaClean systems is so unique, Batka said Dynamic has applied for a patent.
The average cost for a DynaClean conveyor system is between $15,000 and $20,000 depending on the width and length of the conveyor. While she declined to give specific names, some of the food processors Batka said Dynamic has contracted with included a bagged-ice company, a cookie manufacturer and a granola manufacturer.
“Currently, we have an order for a deli meat processor over in Detroit,” Batka said.
The addition of this new line of conveyors for the food processing industry allowed Dynamic to join the Food Processing Suppliers Association (FPSA), a trade organization whose goal is to give member companies an edge in winning contracts in the food processing and related sanitary processing industries.
When asked what her goal was for 2013, Batka had one simple answer.
“Sell more of our DynaClean conveyors to the food industry,” she said.