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How Much Does a Super Sack Unloader Cost?

Gus Carrington

Gus Carrington About The Author

Oct 14, 2020

“How much does a bulk bag unloader cost?”

This is a question asked in the ingredient automation world quite often, but answers vary and differ in range a great deal. The simple answer is that options for unloaders often range from $20 up to $40K USD.

This is a wide variety of prices, but one part of the reasoning behind these prices is based on what accessories you need equipped to your unloader (in order to handle specific ingredients). Another may have to do with the overall cost of the conveying system (since bulk unloaders are sub-components of that overall system cost).

While these figures also don’t include a necessary means of feed control (dosing screw, rotary valve, etc.), we would be remiss not to mention the many hidden costs that are not often considered on the front end of purchasing a bulk bag unloader. 

From how much time and money is lost after a break in production to every time a worker has to clean out a machine that is difficult to clean, these add up. Before you know it, you could have lost more in product waste or time waste that you would have used to buy a quality bulk bag unloader. There are also safety and efficiency benefits worth considering in this light. 

We’ve already explained what justifies the cost of a quality-manufactured cyclone screener, so we thought we’d continue this similar train of thought while focusing on bulk bag, or “big bag,” or “super sack” unloading systems. We’ll do our best in the following article not to unload on you too much about why we think our own specific bulk bag unloaders are the best at what they do. Instead, we’ll zero in on what justifies the cost of any quality unloader and the features or accessories that help such a system reach these price ranges:

A variety of unloader options suit separate operations

No two bag fillers are the same. This is an idea we’ve discussed on our blog before, but to recap: essentially there are costs associated with additions (or additional accessories) paired with unloaders. These can include: 

  • Bag dump stations
  • Electric hoists
  • Dosing and feeding components 
  • Processing equipment 

….and more. Some ingredient handlers might opt for a more expensive hoist (one that meets Classification I, Division 1 one specifications set forth by the NFPA) and that will result in different amounts to the overall price of the unloader. Stainless steel options and deciding between a cable or chain also affect price in this regard. 

Even within these options, there are other small details that can make a significant difference in the upfront price of an unloader. For example, perhaps your perfect bulk unloader unit doesn’t use a hoist to lift bags at all. One particular model we’ve worked on at AZO uses a spring-loaded station that draws up the bag as the bag becomes emptier and lighter. 

This kind of option can cost a bit more upfront, but such an investment represents what it takes to get the job done when height restrictions are an issue. In our experience, the machine that is perfectly fit for a plant’s specific requirements is the one that becomes a priceless tool in meeting production deadlines for decades. Speaking of accomplishing critical deadlines...

How unloaders' operational efficiency affects cost over time

“If you miss the beat, you lose the rhythm, and nothing falls into place.”

Sammy Hagar sings this line in Van Halen’s 1991 track “Right Now,” and this sentiment applies to a manufacturing setting exponentially. It’s critical that bulk ingredients are conveyed to mixers or other downstream equipment in the precise amount that they are projected to, and at the right time. If they don’t, the manufacturer potentially “loses the rhythm” and “nothing falls into place.” 

One mistake, or inefficiency, can essentially cause a traffic jam that backs up the rest of the process. With this in mind, here are a few questions any manufacturer should ask before investing in a particular bulk bag unloader:

  • “How long realistically will the bulk bag unloader last without requiring replacement?”
  • “Does this bulk bag unloader discharge product well?”
  • “Will we need to spend extra time securing the bag on this bulk unloader?”
  • “Will We spend extra time cleaning up a mess below the unloader because of its less-than-intuitive connection?”

Any of these represent money and extra labor required to “fix” a less-than-perfect piece of equipment. Many manufacturers aren’t even aware that there are key bulk bag unloading models designed to mitigate these costly and time-consuming hiccups.

Whether workers are expending time and energy to get material out of a bag that didn’t discharge effectively, or they aren’t confident in the bag’s connection to the conveying system to avoid spilling product and dust, even a quality unloader’s small “quality-of-life” improvements add up monetarily for a business over time. Actions that are simple and repeatable will save time -- time that absolutely represents pertinent profits in the ingredient handling field.

At AZO, we understand that different innovations will suit different manufacturers at different times in their journey to becoming as efficient and profitable as possible. We’d like to think that our legacy and history lend us unique credibility in the field of ingredient handling, and at the very least, would love to know that our expertise is being shared. Feel free to subscribe to the AZO blog for frequent conveying tips and updates, contact our sales representatives with any questions you might have, or even configure your own bulk discharge system on our site to get your own quote now. 

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