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From farm to fork: The role of bearings in the food and beverage supply chain

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Aug 18,2022


From the London Beer Flood of 1814 to the Tapioca Tanker Disaster of 1972, there has been a host of high-profile food and beverage disasters at all stages of the food processing chain. While innovative new technologies have been vital in continuing to improve the safety of modern operations, one small mechanical component is indispensable across the whole food and beverage supply chain. Here Chris Johnson, managing director at food grade bearing supplier, SMB Bearings investigates the role that bearings play in the food and beverage industry.

Despite consistent challenges over the past two years, the food processing industry is projected to reach USD 235.67 billion by 2028, demonstrating healthy growth from its USD 143.51 billion market size in 2020.

Ball bearings are used in countless precision agriculture applications, as well as in conveyors, mixers, and picking and weighing machinery. In fact, if any piece of food processing machinery rotates, it will use bearings to ensure smooth travel. So, let’s take a closer look at the importance of choosing the right bearings at three key stages of the food processing supply chain.

Bearings in agriculture
The food cycle begins at the production stage. In the face of greater demand, farmers are increasingly employing automation to augment their operations. In this setting, bearings are used in a range of machinery such as agricultural scanners, combine harvesters, balers, and seeders. Due to the severe mechanical strain and abrasive particles in this environment, bearings for agriculture must be durable and reliable, with a long service life.

Heavy duty bearings are a popular choice when choosing bearings for precision farming technology as they are often subjected to heavy loads in addition to shock loads and vibration. Due to the high risk of contamination, bearings fitted with labyrinth contact seals are often specified along with extreme pressure (EP) greases. Many agricultural bearings have a “hex bore” and are designed to fit onto a hexagonal shaft for easy assembly.

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