Efficiency is the name of the game in cannabis processing. To be competitive with other growers, you need to reduce your labor costs and increase production speed. And you need to maintain or improve your product’s quality too.
Cutting costs while increasing quality is no easy task. But a good hemp and cannabis conveyor can help. Conveyors work with your trimmer to boost your speed and reduce labor.
If you’re considering purchasing a conveyor or looking to get the best results from one you already own, here’s what your need to know:
Conveyors for Hemp and Cannabis: How Do They Work?
Conveyors work with continuously-operated trimmers. This style of trimmer passes the flowers through a bladed tumbler and out the other side. Unlike batch trimmers, these trimmers run continuously until they require cleaning. The Mobius M108S is a good example. It’s designed for speed but naturally requires attentive technicians to feed the material into the machine.
An infeed conveyor automates the process. With an infeed conveyor, the material moves into the tumbler along a trough, which makes loading the trimmer easier and more predictable. The technician does not need to be as attentive.
An outfeed conveyor serves the purpose you might expect: it moves material away from the trimmer. This gives you the opportunity for inspection and hand-polishing. Without the outfeed conveyor, trimmed flowers drop into a tote for processing later.
Benefits of Conveyor-Fed Trimmers
The number of employees operating the trimming station may not change when you implement a conveyor. Instead, your existing team will get faster and do better work. An infeed conveyor frees up your infeed technician to multitask more effectively, and an outfeed conveyor makes inspection quicker and easier.
A More Consistent Trim
All throughput trimmers are tilted at an angle to move the flowers through the tumbler and out the other side. But that’s not the only thing moving material through. The material at the top of the tumbler helps push the rest of the material further through the tumbler.
When there’s a break in the feed of material — a pause between handfuls fed by the operator — the trim becomes inconsistent. Without the upstream material moving the downstream material through, some of the flower stays in the tumbler longer, causing a too-close trim.
A clump of material can do the same thing. If your operator stuffs large handfuls into the machine, it can change the amount of time the flowers stay in the machine, thus changing the closeness of the trim.
The truth is all operators fatigue eventually. And to get perfect results, they have to pay close attention to how much material they’re feeding into the machine. After a few hours, even the most detail-oriented employees become less consistent. Yet a conveyor solves the problem, making it easy to see — and control — what’s entering the tumbler.
Better Trichome Preservation
An outfeed conveyor changes how operators post-process the trimmed material. Before, without the outfeed conveyor, material dropped into a tote for later inspection.
This method has two drawbacks. First, it creates an extra task to be performed at a different time at an additional workspace. It’s an extra step that delays the entry of the product into the drying room. Fresh product would ideally enter the drying room as quickly as possible for maximum quality control at the perfect temperature.
Secondly, dumping product into a tote may degrade the product. Every time a flower is handled, trichomes rupture and quality is lost. With the dump-it-in-tote method, the product must be dumped out again and spread evenly again for inspection. An outfeed conveyor enables a gentler, trichome friendly process.
An inclined system, such as the Mobius Inclined Outfeed Conveyor, sets up the next step in your automation process. It elevates the material using a gentle escalator system. At the increased height, the material is ready for a sorter.
A sorter moves trimmed flower across a series of grading slots. The small flowers fall through first. As the slots widen, larger flowers drop through later, allowing the material to be collected by size.
An incline conveyor pairs well with a flat, outfeed conveyor. Operators can inspect for quality control on the outfeed, and collect finished product at the output of the sorter.
How Hemp and Cannabis Conveyors Increase Quality Control
Other industries use conveyors for quality control with good reason: moving the product past the inspection technicians is a natural way to pace their work. It brings the material to them for ergonomic motions while controlling the rate of their activity.
An outfeed conveyor for cannabis and hemp presents the perfect opportunity for inspection and a quick hand trim. It spreads the flowers evenly across a moving work surface (a la I Love Lucy). With two or three technicians at the outfeed, you can complete all your processing in one workflow.
Ultimately, the infeed conveyor makes your quality control easier at the outset. Because the material enters the trimmer at an even rate, the trim is more consistent. Not only do they have less work to do, your overall product quality is higher and more consistent.
Get GMP Compliant
The future of cannabis looks more and more like Big Pharma all the time. Automation equipment such as conveyors will become the new normal — and so too will Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
When cannabis is legalized on a federal level, GMP regulations will suddenly apply to all cultivators and manufacturers. That means your equipment will need to be GMP compliant.
The new Mobius conveyors are GMP-compliant with stainless steel surfaces and quick cleanability. The belts are easily removed for sanitation and internal inspection. Per GMP requirements, Mobius conveyors discourage microbe growth; they do not have crevices or cracks where material can become trapped and decay.
Are you prepared for the future? If not, now’s the time. Contact a Mobius representative today. They can suggest the best ways to configure your current equipment with a conveyor — if a conveyor is right for you.