Hide icing and grading technology

9 October 2002

Pelmac Ltd are a new UK company which has been spun off from Moclam Engineering to service the leather industry. In addition to acting as agents for Rizzi, Feltre, Olcina, Dose, Incoma and Persico, they are also agents for the marketing and sales of the products of the Icelandic ice machinery company Skaginn and they will exclusively sell their products into the leather and hide industries. The company have supplied their new ice technology and fresh hide grading system to Michell Ireland and Pelmac say they are confident that the new liquid ice technology has a future in the preservation of raw hides as opposed to salt or conventional ice. Pelmac have tried to address the problems associated with the grading of raw hides in terms of weight, sex etc and the preservation of the hide. The normal way in which this is done seemed to them to be that relatively large numbers of operators drag individual hides out of piles, trim them, usually on the floor, carry them to scales, weigh them, determine the sex and put them on pallets or in bins for salting or icing. These traditional methods are labour intensive, slow, inaccurate and physically demanding as well as subjecting workers to the risk of repetitive strain injuries. The system developed with Feltre and Skaginn works in the following way: The initial method of handling the hides depends to a large extent on the way in which they arrive at the place where they will be sorted. At Michell, they arrive in large tipping trucks which back up to a roller shutter door and the full load of hides (up to 20 tons in weight) is then tipped onto a large Feltre conveyor which is in the sorting area but at a lower level than the road outside where the tipper truck unloads. At one of the companies in Italy, which also has this system, the hides arrive from the abattoir in plastic bins which are taken off the truck with a fork lift truck with rotating head. The hides are tipped onto a Feltre conveyor. Obviously this conveyor does not need to be as large as the one at Michell as it doesn't have to take the weight of the full load all at once. Typically it will carry 6-8 tons of hides. Pelmac are currently working on projects where the hides arrive again in tipper trucks but where the factory's floor level is the same as the level where the truck stands. This means there is no alternative other than to tip onto the floor. In these instances, the hides are to be picked up by either a JCB type grab unit (such as the ones seen regularly in tanneries in Italy to load drums) or by a grab attachment fitted to a standard fork lift. In both cases, the hides are then carried the short distance to the conveyor and deposited onto it. An operator has control of the conveyor on which the hides are now sitting. He inches this forward and feeds some of the hides onto a smaller conveyor running at 90° to the stock conveyor. He then inches forward the two conveyors in combination until he has enough hides on the lateral conveyor to work with. As an alternative, the stock conveyor can just feed hides onto a stainless steel table. Over the top of the lateral conveyor/table runs a chain conveyor with special chain noose clamps every couple of metres. The chain conveyor runs continuously. The operator clamps hides onto the chain nooses as they pass him; the hides are at waist height so he has no bending and his job is relatively simple with no great physical effort involved. The hide attached to the chain rises and goes to the trimming area where two operators stand; they trim off faeces, excess fat etc and check to see if the hide is cow or ox. At this point, they can also make an assessment as to whether there is any dung on the hide. They press a button for cow or ox and a button for the amount of dung they estimate to be on the hide. Normally, there are four dung allowance buttons and the values are pre-set in the computer and can be altered easily to suit different types of hides, seasonal variations etc. A typical example would be to have say, button A for 0-2kg dung, button B 2-4kg dung and button C 4-6kg dung etc. The hide continues on to a weighing station where it is weighed automatically on line with the dung allowance deducted from this weight by the computer. The hide now arrives at the unloading station where a series of pneumatic devices release the hide into bins placed below. The hides are dropped into the relevant bin according to weight and sex. Typically there would be seven bins: light cow, heavy cow and five different ox weights but any number is possible. Pelmac are currently working on one for twelve different selections. Digital displays over the bins show how many hides are present and a warning light alarms to show when the bin is full; this being determined by the number of hides dropped into the bin which again can be pre-set on the computer. At this stage, the fork lift changes the bins and takes the bins with the sorted hides to a salting area. (Feltre now make an automatic salting machine for hides). If the hides are to be iced, there are two possibilities. When a hide drops into the bin, an operator shovels ice on top or ice can be delivered automatically with the Skaginn system. The Skaginn system basically takes granular or flake ice from any type of existing ice making machine (Skaginn, of course, also produce ice making machines). The ice is delivered to a blender where it is broken down and mixed with a weak brine solution. The blender turns the ice to a slush which can then be pumped. The ice from the blender is pumped to a storage tank which is insulated and is fitted with an internal stirrer which keeps the ice in motion inside the tank. Ice can be stored in the tank for a week. The Skaginn system computer is linked to that of the Feltre system so that as a hide falls, a valve over the bin opens and delivers a short (again variable) burst of liquid ice onto the hide. The ice being in liquid form covers the whole of the hide. When the bin is full, a signal is sent to give a longer burst of liquid ice to cap the bin. The throughput of the automated hide grading and icing system is around 250 hides per hour. The normal manning would be one man to clamp hides, two trimmers and a fourth man on a fork lift to load the stock conveyor and move the bins of graded hides. Hides usually arrive from the abattoirs while they are still warm so the quicker they can be cooled the better in terms of grain quality. Liquid ice has proved to have eight to ten times shorter chilling time than conventional ice and the distribution over the hide is much better. For customers who don't want such a sophisticated system, Pelmac can supply fluid ice systems with a simple manual valve attached to a hose. The valve is opened by an operator who holds the hose and fluid ice is poured onto the hides. Fluid ice has been used for years to rapidly chill fish on trawlers and in fish processing plants, so its application in the hide industry makes sense. Steven Jones, managing director of Moclam Engineering Co Ltd, Bolton, set up the new limited company to deal exclusively with customers in the hide and leather industries. Pelmac will continue in the role in which Moclam have become well known, that of machinery and automation suppliers and tannery engineers. Moclam Engineering will work with their customers from outside the leather industry. The new company have taken over UK and Ireland agencies from Moclam Engineering for a number of leading machinery manufacturers as well as expanding their representation of certain companies and their products to areas outside the UK. The changes came into effect at the beginning of September and will enable Pelmac to concentrate their efforts in promoting their services to a wider customer base. Pelmac contact details are as follows: Pelmac Ltd, Spring Vale, Bury Road, Edgworth, Bolton BL7 0AR, United Kingdom. Tel: + 44 1204 852602; fax: + 44 1204 852704; email [email protected]; website: [http://www.pelmac.co.uk]

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