Waste No More; How a Pet Food Manufacturer Saves Product and Labor with Chain-Veys

Case Study Visual 1

Pet Food Co. is a multi-billion dollar pet food producer located in the US. One of their products is a kibble pet food for dogs, which involves extruding kibble meal into perfectly sized bits. At the beginning of each batch, plant operators must run some calibration tests to get the right product shape. This results in misshaped pieces that cannot be packaged for quality control reasons. Even after calibrating the machines, periodic misshaped pieces come out of the extrusion machine which must be caught by light sorters before they’re packaged. Because production managers do not want to waste any product, they return all misshaped pieces back with the kibble meal to go through the extrusion process again.

The old way of moving this misshaped product back to the extruder was challenging though.

Pet Food Co.’s Needs

Prior to Chain-Vey engineers stepping in, Pet Food Co.’s workflow was to collect the misshaped pieces into mobile totes. Workers then wheeled over the totes to a bucket elevator, which then fed into a screw auger conveyor for reentry into the kibble meal mixer. The entire process overall is labor inefficient and required cleaning of two separate conveyor systems and mobile totes. Plant operators wanted a turnkey conveyance solution that would be low-maintenance, easy to clean, and reliable.

MPE’s Solution

Chain-Vey engineers designed a system comprising:

  • (4) 3″ systems to replace the totes, freeing up labor and reducing production times
  • (1) 3″ system to replace a bucket elevator and screw auger which previously fed surge bins atop of a kibble meal regrind process

The Result

Pet Food Co.’s five Chain-Vey systems have delivered on great expectations. In the words of one plant manager, “the Chain-Veys are running so well and we haven’t experienced any issues 6 months in.” Plant operators are saving on labor not having to worry about moving large totes around the system. Chain-Veys are also easy to keep clean and this saves the headache of having to disassembly of screw auger conveyors for cleaning.

Talk to a Chain-Vey engineer to learn more about how Chain-Vey compares to other conveyance systems.

Caribou Jumps to Chain-Vey

Caribou press release 520px by 275pxCaribou Coffee, the well known Minnesota-based coffee chain, installed cable tube conveyors in their roastery several years ago. Their first cable system transported green coffee from an unloading point to their classification equipment. The cable conveyor manufacturer had promised longevity. However roastery managers became largely dissatisfied upon experiencing a much higher cost of ownership and maintenance than promised over time.

Caribou’s Needs

Green coffee is typically abrasive and for this reason wears conveyors more quickly than other applications. Roastery managers were replacing cable and pucks on a 18 to 24 month basis due to cable stretching. Cable fraying also meant having to splice sections of cable periodically. Plus, if the cable broke in the middle of production, managers did not want to splice cable with orders unfulfilled. They wanted to try a Chain-Vey system and see if it truly meant less maintenance and greater reliability.

MPE’s Solution

MPE engineers offered a cost effective Cable-to-Chain-Vey retrofit for their green coffee cable conveyor. It would capture nearly all of the benefits of Chain-Vey without needing to replace the entire conveyor. It could also be done in half the time it takes to install a new conveyor.

Cable to Chain-Vey Retrofit at Caribou Coffee Roastery
Caribou’s newly retrofitted green coffee Chain-Vey conveyor


The retrofit installation was a breeze and completed in half a day. Roastery managers were impressed on the first production run by reduced noise coming from the conveyor. As time went on though, the most important benefit has been the peace of mind in the system’s reliability. The chain will never fray and never break.

“Never have to worry about it. It’s quieter than the cable system. Pretty much a set it and go piece of equipment.”

-Adam Sislo, Engineering Supervisor, Caribou Coffee

Let a Chain-Vey Engineer work with you on capturing greater reliability and longevity through a Cable-to-Chain-Vey Retrofit.

SaltWorks Hits Accurate Particle Sizes, Reduces Production Cost

SaltWorks® is a sea and mineral salt company located in Woodinville, Washington producing a range of specialty salts for wholesale customers and consumers. In addition to their selection of popular salts, they also produce custom salts with customer-selected characteristics—not the least of which is grain size. SaltWorks is unique within its market because of its economies of scale in producing high quality salts.

SaltWorks’ Needs

SaltWorks reached out to MPE because their previous grinder was not doing a great job and translated to higher production costs for two reasons:

  • A high number of fines up to 25% meant more product was needed for yields of a desired grain size. While excess fines were still valuable for use in other products, processing them a second time required extra inventory and labor
  • Switching between Himalayan pink salts and white sea salts require cleanings to ensure purity and integrity. However manually cleaning their old grinder was a laborious and inefficient process

For these reasons, plant managers wanted to find a grinder that could reliably achieve a lower fines rate and integrate into SaltWorks’ existing environmentally conscious clean-in-place (CIP) system.

MPE’s Solution

MPE engineered a custom IMD 79 Gran-U-Lizer for SaltWorks (model IMD79) with two roller stages, affording an ideal amount of control and precision in the particle size reduction process. The programmable logic controller (PLC) allows operators to electronically set grind size and improve consistency across all products. Additionally the IMD79’s 4 rolls were made out of stainless steel and therefore can be wet washed as part of SaltWorks’ CIP system.


SaltWorks’ IMD79 grinder fully integrates within their automated process system by use of an MPE designed and programmed PLC

SaltWorks production managers are now experiencing a fines rate of only 2-3%. Their two-stage electronically controlled gap adjustment grinder allows for nimble transitioning between orders of varying grain sizes—with repeatable accuracy. Plant managers have never been happier when it comes to particle size reduction.

Reach out to a sales engineer to find the grinder that fits your needs.

Verena Street’s Showroom-Quality Process System

Verena Street Coffee is a specialty roaster in Dubuque, Iowa. They recently moved into a 34,000 square foot facility and needed help building three new post-roast processing systems.

Verena’s Needs:

Each system needed flexibility for employees handling multiple blends, batch sizes, grinds, flavors, etc. Additionally, Verena’s owners needed systems that could scale with projected growth without the need of replacing conveyors and equipment that had yet to make a return on investment. Verena took full advantage of its situation in building a new operation from scratch; consulting with MPE engineers in judiciously laying out each system to ensure ease of transport of totes, safe worker movement, and the facility’s overall aesthetic appeal to white-label customers. Additional engineering considerations like broad sweeps of the tubular conveyor elbows and extra outlets (for grinders and totes) ensured operational longevity of each system at full speed and capacity.

MPE’s Solution:

Flavoring system: Taking totes of roasted coffee, transferring to a blender for flavoring, then transferring back to totes

Grinding system: Transferring coffee from totes to a grinder and then back to totes

Blending system: Taking totes of fresh roasted coffee, batching specified quantities for blending, then moving blends to totes

Flavoring System

Tube conveyor system inside Verena's coffee facility
On the floor-level is a Chain-Vey tubular drag conveyor inlet where totes can be wheeled up to and emptied. The conveyor transports the coffee upwards to the mezzanine where the mixer is. After flavoring, the coffee will drop vertically through the mezzanine floor into another tote (yet to be installed in these photos)
Marion coffee mixer atop of mezzanine at Verena facility
The perspective atop of the mezzanine looking at the flavoring mixer. Note the Chain-Vey above has two outlets, yet only one mixer to empty into. Eventually Verena will add a second mixer without needing to modify the tubular conveyor system

Grinding System

Grinding system at Verena coffee facility
The grinding system begins with a floor-level tube conveyor inlet where totes of coffee are emptied. The coffee is conveyed upwards using a 4″ diameter Chain-Vey to a mezzanine where batch bins reside as intermediary storage to regulate the flow of coffee into the 600 FX grinder below. After the coffee is ground and densified, a 3″ Chain-Vey conveys the coffee upwards to another batch bin for intermediate storage until it’s ready for transport
600 FX grinder and Chain-Vey integration
For aesthetic and workflow reasons Verena wanted the grinder and Chain-Vey to sit in-line with each other. MPE placed the Chain-Vey’s turnaround inside the grinder’s footprint to achieve this
Grinding system at Verena facility engineered for scaling production in the future
In another example of planning ahead, a second batch bin located atop of the grinder system’s mezzanine is ready for eventual installation of a second grinder and Chain-Vey

Blending System

Coffee blending system at Verena facility
This is a wide shot of the blending system; on the left are three floor scales and unloading inlets for wheeling up and emptying totes of coffee; on the right is a blender and corresponding outlet for finished batches
Floor weight scales and load cells measure loss in weight of coffee from totes
The floor scales are robust enough to handle sizable steel totes but also precise enough to measure specific losses-in-weight consistently for desired coffee blends. The scales send these measurements to the fully programmable and automated PLC which starts and stops the feeders according to the program recipe
Mixer for blending coffee in processing system connected by tube conveyor
This blender sits on load cells to measure weights of incoming and outgoing coffee; data which is then transmitted to the PLC. This second weight measurement affords redundancy in the blending process and allows for easier process management


Verena Street Coffee now has a showroom-quality facility with three MPE-engineered systems. Together, Verena has the flexibility and operational efficiency that fits with their current business needs while fully prepared for future growth. Their white-label business is especially poised to benefit from this easily expandable capacity. The reliable conveyance Verena Street Coffee enjoys with their Chain-Veys, the unsurpassed grinding quality with their MPE grinder, and the expertise MPE engineers leveraged from hundreds of past systems integrations coalesce into Verena having one of the most prized roasteries in the Midwest.

Get in touch with our processing systems engineers to discuss the possibilities of your project.

Also check out other coffee processing systems like what we did for Philz Coffee and Keurig Green Mountain.

The Curious Case of the Breakfast Biscuit: A Case Study

Process System for Large Bakery

Bakery Co.* is a multi-billion dollar food processing company that produces a popular breakfast biscuit (and several variations) consisting of rolled oats, rye flakes, various flours and other ingredients. These recipes, while nothing too complicated, became difficult to scale with Bakery Co.’s existing process system and production managers were experiencing quality control issues prior to MPE’s involvement.

Bakery Co.’s needs

  1. The biggest issue was that after blending dry ingredients; flours, sweeteners, and additives would segregate during transport through a pneumatic tube system to a bulk bag filler. Needless to say, this issue created headaches for production managers
  2. Plant managers also wanted to find a replacement process system requiring less maintenance and reducing energy costs—as their pneumatic conveyors consumed a lot of electricity, were quite loud, and required frequent upkeep

MPE’s solution

MPE engineered an entirely new process system for Bakery Co. in the following order:

  1. Bulk pack (also known as supersac) unloaders feeding a tubular drag conveyor
  2. Transport to stationary surge bins on load cells (large scales) with active bin bottoms to ensure consistent subsequent outflow of dry ingredients to loss-in-weight feeders
  3. Loss-in-weight feeders ensure precise dispensation of ingredients in adherence to recipes
  4. Then feeding measured ingredients to a second tubular drag conveyor transporting to a ribbon blender
  5. After blending, the (still dry) mixture feeds into a third tubular drag conveyor for transport to a subsequent bulk bag filler for storage until baking production

A picture is worth a thousand words

Bulk bag unloaders for large quantity ingredients feature paddles and spout elongation devices for continuous flow of product exiting bulk bags. Spout seal plates securely fasten for no leakage. Also a dust collector and return line was installed with differential pressure switches that can be monitored from the transport control system (shown below)
MPE Batching Control System (1).png
MPE batching and transport control system sequences up to four separate batches with zero cross contamination. The conveyor runs automatically when each batch is ready for transport and turns off when not in use, thus saving energy
Storage Hoppers.png
3000 lb bulk ingredient storage hoppers are fed from a Chain-Vey above. They have high angle walls and vibrating bin bottoms to ensure consistent outflow of dry ingredients to loss-in-weight feeders with accuracy within 0.1%
Accurate ingredient amounts are discharged into a Chain-Vey without the need for air-locks
This second Chain-Vey system is 240 ft in length and carries measured amounts of ingredients to the mixer hopper. The importance here is that unlike many other conveyance systems, Chain-Vey ensures virtually zero product loss even in fine particle applications; an important consideration for adhering to recipes
Mixer Bathcing Hoppers2.png
The system above the dry mixer hopper utilizes minimal clearance of only 24 inches between the hopper and ceiling. A second scale system records the receipt of each ingredient which is reported to the batching and transport control system

The result

Bulk bag ingredients are quickly unloaded with no waste and efficiently transported to interim storage; ingredients are then accurately measured and transported to the mixing hoppers; product integrity is maintained during transport from mixers to the final bulk bags; all at a fraction of electricity usage and noise pollution. Meanwhile, Bakery Co.’s breakfast biscuits never tasted better.

*We substituted our customer’s real name with the fictitious name Bakery Co.

Talk to a sales engineer for custom ingredient management and automated process solutions.

Ballast Point Tubular Conveyor Case Study

Ballast Point Brewing Company is a craft brewer in San Diego. The brewery has enjoyed increasing demand since its founding in 1996; an interview with CEO Jim Buechler on their rapid growth was recently published. The task of scaling production at the brewery however fell to Bill Sherwood, director of facilities, and Brandon Green, director of brewing, who together run operations.

Ballast Point’s Needs:

Their rapid expansion meant moving to new facilities on a short time frame and upgrading output bottlenecks where needed until finally the conveyance system needed upgrading.

Brandon Green Director of Brewing
Brandon Green, Director of Brewing

“The pace that we have expanded has been our biggest challenge. We didn’t even own this building two and a half years ago,” says Brandon.

Additionally, total output wasn’t the only thing increasing but the number of varieties being brewed as well. This meant Bill and Brandon needed a tubular conveyor nimble enough to adjust for different recipes quickly.

“It can be hard for brewers who need to switch between malts with other traditional conveyor systems,” says John Eiting, MPE’s Director of Chain-Vey Sales. “Moving from an imperial stout to a delicate Kölsch requires a system that can transport precise amounts of malt for recipes and not leave residual grains in the system.” The worst case scenario being costly off-batches which don’t meet quality control standards.

By design the Chain-Vey’s durable wiper discs ensure virtually every grain of malt and flower of hops leaves the intended discharge points without chaff or residue left behind.

Wiper disc for tube conveyor
Chain-Vey’s durable wiper disc (installed in line with Quiet Pucks) ensures precise amounts of ingredients are conveyed without loss as was imperative for Ballast Point.
Bill Sherwood Director of Facilities
Bill Sherwood, Director of Facilities

In addition to the cleanliness and reliability of the system, the Ballast Point project needed to meet exceptional engineering specifications.

“We used a tubular cable system for a while and we reached the limit of that,” says Bill Sherwood.

Chain-Vey’s Solution:

Chain-Vey engineers visited Ballast Point’s brewery to see the building up close and the existing facility layout. They designed and delivered a 4” Chain-Vey system running 360 ft in length and delivering 650 ft3/hr in conveyance capacity. The result was just as hoped for.

“All in all, we are really pleased,” says Brandon. “Chain-Vey has really allowed us to set it and forget it,” he added.

For smaller brewers, there is even a special 3″ diameter tubular drag conveyor called the Mega 3, which may be an ideal fit for smaller scale craft production.

Talk with a qualified sales engineer to learn more about our superior tube conveyor.

Chain-Vey® Lets the Dogs Out

Ever since MPE introduced its Cable to Chain(-Vey) Retrofit program it has been as much a hit as Baha Men’s 2000 single Who Let the Dogs Out ever was—except Chain-Vey’s calming Quiet Puck design may actually be more pleasant to listen to. One pet food company had recently been experiencing a multitude of maintenance and productivity issues related to their cable conveying system, which frequently needed to replace broken cables and worn out pucks, creating down time and high maintenance costs. The original manufacturer of the cable system had attempted multiple design improvements for the pet food company, but were unable to produce a long-term successful solution.

MPE’s Chain-Vey engineers assessed the situation and recommended a cost-effective Chain-Vey® Retrofit System, which easily adapted the current cable conveying application to fully enclosed, FDA-approved food grade chain materials guaranteed to never break. The client experienced a complete turnaround in conveyor reliability. Their Chain-Vey has required zero maintenance, as well as having reduced energy consumption, and increased facility operations to allow for 24-hour production without the need for additional staff.

The client was so impressed with the retrofitted application that they decided to standardize their operations and utilize Chain-Vey for all of their production facilities.

“Retrofitting our system with Chain-Vey is the best investment we ever made” – Client Production Engineer

Ferris Coffee: Efficiency and Flexibility in a Complete Build-Out

Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. is a specialty roaster located in Grand Rapids, MI. They first reached out to MPE with the goal of modernizing their previous operations to achieve a higher level of food certification required by their wholesale customers as well as increase their capacity, efficiency, and beauty of their coffee operation.

Ferris’ needs

  1. A complete green coffee cleaning system with dust collection
  2. A green bean silo storage with recipe driven control system to automatically deliver batches to two 120 kg batch roasters
  3. Water-cooled grinders for increased ground coffee taste and aroma retention
  4. Tubular drag Chain-Vey conveyor implementation throughout the facility to move all coffee (green, whole bean, and ground) while keeping the coffee enclosed
  5. A Plant Control System to coordinate all coffee movement—from unloading green coffee to final packaging

 MPE’s solution

  1. An unloading mezzanine and bean cleaner
  2. Four 7500 lb capacity storage silos
  3. A 700FX grinder
  4. A 600FX grinder
  5. Packaging surge hoppers with dust collector
  6. Six 4” tubular drag Chain-Vey conveyors.
  7. Implementing PLC controls that allowed the system to be as automated or manual as desired
Chain-Vey tube chain conveyors feeding green coffee into a bean cleaner, then followed by conveying into four 7500 lb capacity silos. Each 4″ tube conveyor can move around 23,000 lbs/hour of green coffee
MPE’s 700 F grinders are some of the most popular in the world. For Ferris, the water-cooling implementation on the rollers ensures consistent grind and grounds integrity. The 600 F grinders are the world’s smallest, true industrial roller-style coffee grinders, while still achieving an unparalleled rage of grind sizes (200 µm – 1000 µm)

The value for Ferris utilizing MPE’s grinders, Chain-Veys, and process systems integration has been tremendous in terms of efficiency and flexibility.

“With the installation of the new system, we’ve managed to meet all the needs that drove the project in the first place,” noted Sam Mirto, Director of Coffee at Ferris.

Sam Mirto standing in front of Ferris' new roasting system with MPE's grinders and Chain-Vey tube conveyors installed.
Sam Mirto, Director of Coffee at Ferris Coffee & Nuts Co., standing in front of Ferris’ new roasting system with MPE’s grinders and Chain-Vey tube conveyor systems installed

The original goal of meeting a customer’s auditors’ exceptional food safety standards was achieved. Other savings have resulted from more efficient use of labor. With the implementation of advanced process automation, one person can be grinding coffee and packing thousands of pounds of coffee seamlessly, whereas previously these were separate tasks that required multiple employees before the renovation. This efficiency also positions Ferris to accommodate increasingly large customers with ease.

Another benefit of the beautiful open layout and design of Ferris’ build-out is the pride of touring the facility to potential customers. With the implementation of Chain-Vey’s clear tubing, people can follow the coffee along the production process and walk away with a deeper understanding of the operation.