How a bearing upgrade saved valuable maintenance time for Tassal

When the operators at Tassal Group’s Huonville salmon processing facility in Tasmania were frustrated with having to replace their conveyor belt roller bearings every few weeks, it was WebsterBSC’s Sales Service Representative, Dean Nomikos who first suggested switching to the NSK Molded-Oil bearings.

The existing stainless steel bearings, as Dean explains, were failing frequently in the harsh working conditions, keeping the maintenance team busy with bearing replacements and frequent greasing.

“The processing facility uses lots of water and chemical cleaners to keep the conveyor systems sanitised. As a result, the bearings were in a very corrosive environment,” says Dean. “In addition to being highly resistant to corrosion, Molded-Oil roller bearings also eliminate the need for daily greasing, which makes them an environmentally-friendly bearing solution for the plant.”

Clinton O’Neil, a mechanical fitter who has been working with Tassal for nearly 20 years, says switching to Molded-Oil roller bearings has saved the maintenance team significant time in bearing replacement and lubrication.

“Before switching to Molded-Oil, we had to change out the bearings every 2-3 weeks. But not anymore. The new bearings easily last six months or more and the best thing is that they don’t need any lubrication. You just put them in and forget about them. Before switching to Molded-Oil, we had to grease the bearings daily,” he says.

Clinton says the Tassal maintenance team has since decided to replace most of the bearings used in conveyors at the Tassal Huonville facility and other processing facilities with Molded-Oil bearings.

“We prefer using high-quality bearings that last longer rather than using cheap bearings. We had already been using the NSK tapered roller bearings in our salmon smoker kilns successfully, therefore NSK was a preferred bearing brand for us,” he says.

“The Huonville facility receives fresh salmon from Tassal’s Dover processing facility. We process around 20 tonnes of fresh fish per day to produce approximately 5-6 tonnes of finished products. The conveyors take the fish through all stages of processing, from the raw fish to the finished product and we now use the NSK Molded-Oil in most of those conveyors.”

The secret behind the NSK Molded-Oil bearings’ resistance to corrosion can be found in their unique features.

Molded-Oil bearings are lubricated with NSK’s own oil-impregnated material – Molded-Oil – which consists of lubricating oil and polyolefin resin that has an affinity for oil. Lubricant slowly seeping from this material provides ample lubrication to the bearing for extended periods.

Because the bearings can be lubricated with minute quantities of oil that exudes from Molded-Oil, the bearings are able to minimise oil leakage. Packing with Molded-Oil after providing the bearing surface with special treatment realises smooth rotation of rolling elements.

As Dave Healey, NSK Australia Sales Engineer explains, Molded-Oil bearings are ideal for use in water or dust contaminated environments.

“In washdown applications in the food and beverage industry, it’s important to protect the rolling elements inside the bearing from getting corroded. That’s where the Molded-Oil bearing comes into the picture to provide a corrosion-free solution,” he says.

“There are other applications where we generally recommend Molded-Oil. For example, if you have an application that is difficult to grease, perhaps due to the remote location or any access restrictions, you might want to switch to a maintenance-free bearing. Another application is in vertical shafts. Because of the gravity, the lubricants tend to leak out of the bearing. That is where having solid lubricant eliminates any risk of oil leakage,” he explains.

As the largest producer of Tasmanian grown Atlantic salmon, Tassal has three direct hatcheries with capacity to produce over 10m smolts per year. The smolt are majority reared at the company’s land-based Rookwood Road RAS (Recirculating Aquaculture System) in Ranelagh, Tasmania. After eight to twelve months, the smolt are transferred to Tassal’s four marine zones in the sea, where our Sanctuary pens have a volume over 20,000 cubic metres and holds enough Salmon to produce at least 300 tonnes once harvested.

Processing the fish into final products ready to dispatch to the consumer market occurs at Tassal’s five processing facilities, of which three – Huonville, Dover and Margate – are in Tasmania. Dean says WebsterBSC has been working with all three facilities over the years as a trusted supplier.

“As a supplier of bearings and engineering supplies in Tasmania, we work closely with fisheries and marine farms to make sure they have access to the latest solutions and products. For the past 11-12 years, I’ve been personally checking on Tassal’s processing facilities, keeping in touch with the maintenance personnel every week to see if there’s anything I can help them with,” Dean says.

Clint says he is happy to be working with WebsterBSC, particularly praising the team’s knowledge of maintenance requirements.

“The team at WebsterBSC are very easy to work with. They all have very good maintenance knowledge and help us with any information we need. Even when we don’t exactly know what solution we are looking for, they go out and source something for us from their suppliers. So, the collaboration is an absolute win-win,” he concludes.

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