How do Locker Group's conveyor belts help the food industry?

How Locker Group is helping support Australian food production

We've previously looked at the role conveyor belts play in food production, but we thought it was worth taking a closer look at this industry and Locker Group's involvement supplying metal conveyor belts and assistance. The Australian government has identified food production and agribusiness as an area of competitive strength for the country, and Locker Group is proud to be a part of it.

The food industry's rise to prominence

In terms of the conveyor belt market, the food industry makes up a large part of our customer base. Previously the automotive industry was a big consumer of conveyor belts as part of its manufacturing process, particularly for heat treatment. Michael Willmott, Locker Group's National Product Manager, says that the automotive industry has been decimated in Australia, but this has led to food producers stepping in as the main consumer of conveyor belts.

"We still support the other parts of the industry and there's still sales in that part, but it's certainly nowhere near as large as the food industry," he says.

Locker Group has been making metal conveyor belts for decades, and has cemented its position as a go-to provider in the industry.

According to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS), employment figures in the automotive industry dropped by more than 6,000 in the period between 2012 and 2015. Ford, Holden and Toyota will all have ceased manufacturing in Australia by the end of 2017.

Food processing, by contrast, made up almost a third of Australia's manufacturing industry in 2015, according to the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC). Statistics from the DIIS say that in 2015 there were 206,700 Australians employed in food product manufacturing, compared with just 40,642 in automotive manufacturing, and there were more than 14,000 actively trading businesses in the food manufacturing sector.

Locker Group's conveyor belt production

Locker Group has been making metal conveyor belts for decades, and has cemented its position as a go-to provider in the industry. We've built this reputation through several factors: Firstly, Locker's large geographic footprint means that we can supply products to businesses across the country. It also means we can provide a level of customer service – including face to face assistance – that smaller suppliers can't.

In addition to the wide range of products that we manufacture in-house, Locker is also an agent for several major overseas manufacturers, so we can help when customers need specific products that are not made here in Australia.

Locker has a long history of serving the food production industry.Locker has a long history of serving the food production industry.

Our long-standing relationship with the food industry

A significant reason we've been able to build this customer base is that we've been making quality conveyor belts for a long time. Quite simply it's been a case of doing the same thing, and doing it well.

Metal conveyor belts are by their nature labour-intensive products to make, but Michael points out that Locker has been able to automate the process to a certain extent. Most of the conveyor belts Locker sells are made specifically to order. Michael says this is due to the huge variety of different configurations a customer could possibly need.

"We don't keep belts in stock because there's such a variety of materials, dimensions and other factors within the Australian market," he says. "So typically everything that we do is manufactured to order."

Most of Locker Group's conveyor belts are made to order so they fit the customer's exact specifications.Most of Locker Group's conveyor belts are made to order so they fit the customer's exact specifications.

Who are the customers that come to Locker Group for support?

The businesses that come to Locker for conveyor belts generally fall into three categories. Our primary market is repeat customers that are already using Locker's conveyor belts, and either need replacement parts or want to upgrade or expand their set-up. 

"The majority of our sales is repeat business," Michael says. "We're supplying within the industry, and we've been within that industry for a long time. Because of this long history we've managed to build up ongoing relationships with many local food manufacturers."

Because of our long history Locker has ongoing relationships with many local food manufacturers.

The next group we supply to is businesses with installed conveyor belts from other providers. In this case we would look at and advise on what's needed, and either provide our own products or, if necessary, import the required parts from our overseas suppliers.

Thirdly, we supply conveyor belts for brand new applications. "We're probably dealing with original equipment manufacturers who are designing a conveyor," Michael says, "So, once again we'd assist them with what is correct for that application."

If you're already a customer then you know you can rely on Locker Group for quality conveyor belts and attentive, expert service. For businesses who need support for their existing food production machinery, or who are in the process of setting up a new facility, Locker Group can offer a varied range of conveyor belts and parts to suit all applications. Get in touch today to discuss how we can help.

How can architects help improve Australian housing affordability?

How can Locker Group contribute to affordable housing?

The price of living and owning property in Australia's urban centres has become increasingly challenging for the average home buyer. As Business Insider reports, the most recent International Housing Affordability Survey rates Sydney second on its list of least-affordable cities to buy a house this year, with Melbourne coming in at number six. 

Affordable housing is a complex issue with many contributing factors. But one of the industries that can have an impact on the situation is architecture. By addressing some of the challenges of housing our growing urban population at the design stage, we can make things easier and more affordable for consumers further down the line. But how can architects go about this, and what part can Locker Group play?

Architects have an opportunity to make living in Australia's cities more affordable and more environmentally friendly.

An opportunity for architects

National president of the Australian Institute of Architects, Ken Maher, recently spoke at Parliament House in Canberra about housing affordability. As part of his address he argued for medium-density housing, including multiresidential buildings, as a way to address the issue of housing affordability in our main centres. He believes that architects have an opportunity to help make living in Australia's cities more affordable, as well as more environmentally friendly.

"As a key player in the development of the built environment, the architecture profession has the skills to deliver housing that addresses crucial issues, such as affordable living, sustainable design and flexible housing, providing savings in both upfront costs and the ongoing cost of occupation," he said.

We believe that Locker Group's architectural products can be part of this affordable, sustainable design. Our metal facade products, in particular, are ideally suited to be incorporated into buildings that are cheaper to make and cheaper to maintain, while still providing a comfortable environment for their tenants.

By reducing construction costs you can make residential apartments more affordable.By reducing construction costs you can make residential apartments more affordable.

Reduced construction and maintenance costs

Designing and building with locally-sourced materials saves the costs of importing and expensive long-distance shipping. Locker Group's extensive footprint and ability to produce on a large scale means we're able to provide quality products for competitive prices.

Once construction is finished, there are other ways to save with Locker Group. Many of our products, particularly our perforated and expanded metal facades, can be treated as individual components – if there is a piece that needs repairing or replacing, this can be done without having to pull down the entire facade. By incorporating more of a modular attitude to design, architects reduce the ongoing maintenance costs of their buildings, which means there are fewer costs to be passed on down the line to tenants.

Incorporating sustainability into a building's design benefits its occupants the environment.Incorporating sustainability into a building's design benefits its occupants the environment.

Sustainable apartment buildings have lower running costs

Beyond the cost of buying and maintaining a home, ongoing living costs in a city are high. Making buildings that are sustainable and designed for low energy use are not only good for the environment, but they cost less to live in.

Australia's climate poses a challenge for architects who want to make buildings that don't rely too heavily on artificial air-conditioning. Using shading facades reduces the impact of sun and cools the interior of a building naturally, without interfering with views or airflow, meaning electricity bills come down.

The ecological benefits shouldn't be disregarded, though, as long-term design needs to be sustainable in every sense. As Maher puts it:

"Good design can't be seen as a luxury or an optional extra; rather, it is essential to delivering a built environment that can sustain Australia's diverse communities into the future."

Affordable and green urban housing comes down to consciously designed architecture. This, in part, comes down to using quality products that are made to be low-maintenance and promote sustainability. Get in touch with Locker Group today to find out how our architectural products can be used in innovative urban design.

The sun's heat is a challenge and an opportunity for architects.

Australian sunlight: The gift and the curse for sustainable architecture

One of the primary challenges we face here in Australia is the sun. According to SunSmart Victoria, Australia's UV levels are some of the highest in the world. This is such an issue that some Australian wine makers even have to put sunblock on their grapes to prevent them from being charred by the sun, CNN Money reports.

For architects, the sun presents both a problem and an opportunity. Harsh light and heat can ruin the comfort of a building's occupants, but this intense sunlight offers potential benefits for buildings that aim to be more sustainable and energy-conscious.

Taking advantage of the sun as a power source doesn't mean you can ignore the problems it causes.

The powerful benefits of Australia's sunlight

A good example of this is the proposed Sol Invictus Tower in Melbourne, which was announced last year by Peddle Thorp Architects. The 60-storey apartment building will wear a skin of more than 35,000 solar panels that, along with roof-mounted wind turbines, will provide more than half of the tower's energy needs, Architectural Digest reports. The building's shape is designed to make the most of the sun throughout the day.

Buildings like Sol Invictus are part of a growing movement in architecture that recognises what the Australian climate has to offer, and runs with it rather than fights against it. But taking advantage of the sun as a power source doesn't mean you can ignore the problems it causes.

The sun is great for solar panels, but can be harsh on a building's occupants.The sun is great for solar panels, but can be harsh on a building's occupants.

Balancing sustainability with comfort

The flip side to this natural heat source is that it doesn't discriminate – the strong sunlight that hits solar panels and powers a building also heats the interior and casts glare. For a building to be comfortably liveable it needs to moderate the effect of the sun's heat and glare while still making the most of it as an energy and light source. Solar panels are a great way to take on that second challenge, but what about the first?

Locker Group has a range of products that can be used to minimise the unpleasant effects of the sun on a building's occupants. Woven wire, perforated and expanded metal facades can all be used to provide shade without limiting view or air flow. Check out our case studies for some examples of how LG's architectural products have been used to moderate the effects of the sun.

Harnessing the sun's power while protecting ourselves from its heat are not mutually exclusive goals. Locker Group's products provide ways to design buildings that make the most of what the sun has to offer without subjecting the interior to its harsh effects. Get in touch today to discuss how we can be involved in your next sustainable design project.

How can metal facades help protect your building from graffiti?

How can your architectural design choices guard against graffiti?

Graffiti is a continuing problem in Australia's urban centres. During the five year period between July 2011 and June 2016, NSW police received an average of 8,063 reports of incidence of graffiti a year. And there's a financial side to it as well – according to the Keep Australia Beautiful association, graffiti and other vandalism costs the Australian community an estimated $2.7 billion per year. 

Deterring vandals is a more effective use of resources than repairing property afterwards.

With this in mind, many businesses and councils are working on the understanding that prevention is better than a cure. Deterring vandals is a more effective use of money and resources than cleaning up and repairing property afterwards. This is one of the reasons that a perforated or expanded metal facade can be a good choice for architectural projects in public spaces.

Facades present vandals with an unappealing canvas

The Victoria State Government recommends applying anti-graffiti coatings to walls to make them easier to clean and make the wall less appealing to graffiti in the first place. We think it's possible to go a step further than a coating, though – what if the very wall was anti-graffiti?

A non-solid facade like perforated or expanded metal presents vandals with a surface that is more difficult to paint, and makes the resulting graffiti harder to see. This removes the appeal for the vandal.

However, when our Pic-Perf technique is involved there's another way that our facades can help deter graffiti. Pic-Perf is Locker's unique method of recreating images and designs with perforated metal. By varying the size and placement of the perforations, we can create an image without relying on paint or other coatings that can be damaged or destroyed by graffiti.

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We've talked before about how using Pic-Perf for designs and murals means that cleaning off graffiti is easier than if the art was painted on the wall. But there's an added anti-graffiti benefit to using Pic-Perf, which is that an illustrated facade may help to reduce graffiti in the first place.

Walls with murals or public art suffer less graffiti than plain walls.

Public art discourages graffiti

As InformeDesign reports, a 2006 study in New Zealand found that walls with murals or public art suffered less graffiti than plain walls. The Project for Public Spaces in the United States also recommends murals as a way of discouraging graffiti, especially when local artists and the community are involved in the project. Not only is it more difficult to see graffiti on the illustrated surface, but locals are less likely to deface a piece of art they connect with.

By adorning your building with a design rendered in Pic-Perf, you not only make it more pleasing to look at; you may also be reducing its risk as a target of graffiti. To stop people putting their pictures on your walls, it seems the answer may be to put some pictures on them yourself.

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However, as Myra Taylor and Ida Marais of The University of Western Australia say in their 2009 paper 'Does Urban Art Deter Graffiti Proliferation?', public artwork is more effective at discouraging graffiti in the short term than it is over a longer period. This is where the durable, easy-clean nature of Pic-Perf still offers benefits: Even the best preventative design decisions may not completely prevent graffiti, so having a metal facade that can be cleaned with solvents or water blasting without risk of damage is a cost-effective choice.

Locker Group provides a range of architectural products that can be incorporated into public works. In addition to the aesthetic and comfort benefits these give to a building, these can also play a role in making spaces safer, cleaner and less prone to vandalism. To find out more about how we can help with your next project, please get in touch today.

How does perforated metal help with honey production?

Architecture on an insect scale: Using perforated metal in beehives

Perforated metal has uses in a wide range of industries, and some of them aren't all that obvious. Here at Locker Group a great deal of our work is providing materials for architectural designs, but we're often asked to help out with other projects. We thought we'd take a look at one of the less conventional applications of perforated metal, one that nevertheless bears a little resemblance to architecture: beehives.

Beekeepers' divisive use of perforated metal

Beekeepers primarily use perforated metal for a product called a queen excluder. As the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium (MAAREC) explains, this is a thin sheet of perforated metal with holes punched through that are small enough to prevent the queen bee getting past, but large enough to let worker bees go through freely.

Queen excluders are used to keep the queen, and her eggs, separate from the honey stores.

Queen excluders are used to keep the queen, and her eggs, separate from the honey stores. This stops her from laying eggs in the area where the beekeeper will eventually harvest honey from, meaning the next generation of bees is allowed to grow undisturbed, and the beekeeper can collect honey that isn't contaminated with eggs. They can also be used in hives that have been set up in a two-queen system.

As with larger human spaces, we can see perforated metal being used as a way to divide a space and selectively limit what can cross the barrier. In the case of the beehive, it's dividing worker bees from the queen; in architectural uses, it might be dampening sound without preventing light from passing through.

Perforated metal has a small but important role in the beekeeping industry.Perforated metal has a small but important role in the beekeeping industry.

Locker Group's comprehensive range of perforated architectural products

Locker Group produces a wide range of perforated metal architectural products. We understand the importance of completing large and small projects to high standard; while a small sheet of metal in a beehive may not seem all that grand, it serves an important purpose to the industry.

Perforated metal has so many applications partly because it can be made in so many ways. Here at Locker we can punch sheets with holes in a variety of different shapes and patterns, and cut or fold the sheets to fit whatever customised shape the project needs. We can also supply perforated sheets in several different materials including stainless steel, aluminium and polypropylene. Whatever you need to finish your project, large or small, Locker Group can work with you to provide a solution.

Check out our case studies for some examples of full-scale architectural applications of Locker Group's products, or get in touch today to find out more.

Conveyor belts can be made from a range of materials.

Conveyor belts and their role in the food industry

The conveyor belt has come a long way since its first inception.

Transport of bulk materials via conveyor belts dates back to around 1795, according to the Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA). Originally used in the agriculture industry to transport grain over short distances, these conveyor systems were very primitive and often made of leather belts travelling over flat wooden beds. 

Fast forward over 200 years, conveyor systems have become a lot more sophisticated and are an integral part of a diverse range of industries. Not only are they an efficient and cost-effective way of transporting goods, conveyor belts can be integrated into the manufacturing process, dramatically improving their throughput.

Conveyor belts have revolutionised the food industry.Conveyor belts have revolutionised the food industry.

Conveyor belts in the food industry

The food industry has been revolutionised by the application of conveyor systems. With the right belting material, food processing (such as cooking, freezing) can be facilitated almost entirely without human intervention. 

Take the baking industry, for example. Conveyor belts are able to follow the goods from raw to cooked product through ovens on a single line, cutting production time and increasing throughput.

Choosing the right material in a conveyor system is key in determining its applicable functions. Below, we've outlined several products and their use in the food industry:

1. Spiral wire: This versatile product can be used for many applications, from heat treatment to food processing, thanks to the wide range of metal wire types the belts can be manufactured from. 

2. Plastic hybrid: With the versatility of plastic and strength of stainless steel, plastic hybrid is particularly useful in cooler environments, such the transportation of seafood or frozen goods.

3. Rolmat: Airflow is important in the transportation of food, whether cooling a product down or preventing moisture buildup. Rolmat belts are flat with a maximum open area to facilitate the flow of air around a product.

4. Uniflex: This highly flexible belt is made made up of interlocking strands of high-tensile wire. Widely used in the confectionery and snack food industries, Uniflex is used in drying, washing, coating, cooking and cooling applications.

Part of what makes a conveyor system such a vital part of industry, not just food manufacturing, is the versatility it brings. With metal belts, Locker Group can manufacture systems to any width or length, withstanding temperatures as low as -250°C and as high as 1200°C.

To find out more about our range of products, get in touch with the team at Locker Group today. 

What makes metal the ideal material to use?

Transforming interior spaces with Locker Group’s architectural products

Beauty isn't skin deep. While Locker Group has a long history of exterior application with architectural fixtures, their products hold just as much potential for using interior design to transform a building.

When making the most of an internal space, it can be hard to find a single material that can be used in multiple settings and carry out multiple functions. Not only are internal environments different than exterior ones, there is an endless variety of purposes a room can have that designers must take into account. 

As Locker Group's architectural and commercial representative, Joe Berkelmans knows what he's talking about when he says that metal products can be used in any architectural setting.

"The ability to roll, shape, adjust colour and size – gives our products both interior and exterior superiority over more inflexible products."

In this article, we'll be going through some examples where Locker Group's products are among the most practical and versatile materials to work with in interior features.

Why use metal in interior design?

In a word, Versatility. While other products such as wood, plastic or glass may have their time and place, none is as diverse as metal according to Mr Berkelmans.

"A versatile product goes beyond simple application such as ceilings, balustrades and screens," says Joe. "When using metal in interior design, the ability to roll, shape, and adjust colour and size gives our products both interior and exterior superiority over more inflexible options."

"On top of this, the durability of metal means that in whatever application it's designed for, it'll stand the test of time, long outlasting the likes of timber." 

Because no two metal installations look alike, in order to gain a better understanding of the capabilities of metal, it's best to see it in action. Below are some prime examples where Locker Group's architectural products have transformed an interior space:

1. Perforated metal

Perforated metal can help diffuse noise.Perforated metal can help diffuse noise.

In large open spaces where a lot of people congregate, excess noise can be an issue. In this application, the use of perforated metal acts as an acoustic dampener. According to Joe, the perforated holes disperse sound, slowing it as it travels through, to scatter and reduce the overall amount of noise. While the above picture shows perforated metal at Perth Arena, this application is more commonly used in industry.

"Perforated metal is often used in manufacturing, on the walls of factory floors," says Joe, as a way to protect workers' health and prevent hearing damage, blending form and function into a single product.

2. Wire curtains

Wire curtains can partition areas without losing space.Wire curtains can partition areas without losing space.

When internal separation is needed without compromising on space, such as in an office or restaurant, choosing the right dividing material can be hard. How do interior architects design a space that at the same time partitions areas and keep them from feeling cramped or closed off? The answer: wire curtains.

Wire curtains offer the practical solution as in the above picture of separating, not subtracting, space.

"The moveable curtains let the owners adjust the interior space to open up the restaurant and meet whatever requirements on the night, without compromising on space," says Joe.

In a business setting, wire curtains can also help achieve the desired balance between open and private office environment to create a more productive workspace.

3. Pic Perf

vvvThe historic image ties the futuristic building to the past.

While metal may carry the perception of befitting a modern, industrial style, in the right application it can also serve as a link to the past.

"In designing the renovations for the old Tip Top factory in Brunswick, they needed a way to tie the heritage of the building with the modern design, as a way to keep the history of the place alive," says Mr Berkelmans.

Pic Perf was the natural choice, combining both the perforated metal medium with an original image of the old factory. 

Where is the future of metal design?

Perhaps one of the most exciting frontiers of interior application of Locker Group's products is the growing interest in using them in support of green walls and spaces. In this application, wire mesh or a similar product is used as a scaffold for plants and vegetation, turning bare spaces into lush green features. Not only does having more green spaces make an interior (or exterior) space look more inviting and unique, it also helps improve the air quality for the people working in and around these green walls as the vegetation acts as air purifiers.

At the moment, green walls are constrained to small-scale projects such as rooftop terraces, says Mr Berkelmans, but he's seen a huge amount of interest in it recently as building design becomes more environmentally focused.

No matter the application, there's something to be gained from using one of Locker Group's many architectural products. The versatility, durability and style of metal can not only make a modern building look cutting-edge, but it can also serve as a vital link to the past.

To find out more about Locker Group's range, get in touch with the team today.

Facades achieve a balance of form and function.

Not just a pretty face: facades do more than look good

Finding a balance between form and function is essential when designing the facade of a building.

Facades do more than act as a visual marker. Part of achieving this form/function balance is to give it more than a single use. While retrofitting a facade can dramatically reduce a building's energy expenditure, there's much more they can do. 

The only limit to a facade's function is imagination. In this article, we'll look at some innovative facade designs that have fully embraced multi-functionality.

Facades that adjust to temperature

In the sweltering climate of Abu Dhabi, buildings with glass exteriors act as gigantic magnifying glasses for the sun's intense rays. 

This was the situation faced by the Al Bahar towers, designed by Aedas Architects. The solution? Sunscreens that change in response to heat. According to Abu Dhabi Media, the exterior modules are controlled by computers that react to the sun and change configuration to better shade the buildings' residents, protecting them from the harsh temperatures. 

"The way you're seeing it now, it will probably never look like that again, in that the mashrabiya – as we call it – on the building will actually open and close as the sun moves round the building throughout the day," said deputy chairman of architectural firm Aedas Peter Oborn, speaking to Abu Dhabi Media. 'Mashrabiya' is the Arabic name given to the particular style of wooden lattice screening the modules take inspiration from.

In a similar vein, Locker Group's Atmosphere facade reduces the amount of solar radiation hitting a building's windows while retaining air flow and vision out.  

Facades that pluck pollution from the atmosphere

A hospital in Mexico City does more than heal patients inside its four walls. Outside, it improves the health of nearby residents, thanks to its unique facade that scrubs pollutants from the surrounding air. The facade is coated in a titanium dioxide layer, which when exposed to UV radiation, converts common car exhaust pollutants (such as nitrous oxides, volatile organic compounds and sulfur dioxide), into harmless products, according to German architectural firm Elegant Embellishments.

This single facade has the ability to remove 1,000 cars' worth of pollution per day. According to Gizmodo, the unique shape of the facade also helps to slow down the flow of air around the building, to further heighten its efficiency at removing toxins.

Not every facade needs to employ cutting technology to improve functionality. To find out how Locker Group's range of architectural products can help improve the energy efficiency of your building, get in touch with the team today.

How can wire mesh reduce risk in industry?

3 applications of wire mesh in risk management

Wire mesh serves many functions across different industries, thanks to its versatility and ability to custom fit any application.

Depending on the type of material used, the size of aperture or the use of woven or welded wire mesh, this product has an exhaustive range of uses, including risk management.

Below are three applications where Locker Group's wire mesh helps reduce the risk to both businesses and employees.

Wire mesh can help make work environments safer.Wire mesh can help make work environments safer.

1. Bushfire mesh

Preventing embers from gaining access to the interior of a building is an essential fire-prevention tactic. Installing a bushfire mesh over windows, air vents or other openings can help guard a building against errant embers and radiant heat.

Regulation bushfire mesh must have a maximum aperture of 2 mm and be made from corrosion-resistant steel, according to Standards Australia. Locker Group's stainless steel mesh can be tailored to your building's specifications and at-risk areas.

2. Rodent mesh

In grain-growing regions of Australia, the prevention of rodents from accessing food is an ongoing battle with serious consequences. In 1993/94, a mouse plague caused a loss of $100 million in the agricultural industry through the consumption, contamination of foods and other downstream effects, according to Dr Peter Brown of Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Ecosystem Sciences.

Locker Group's custom fit wire mesh is well suited to preventing rodents and other pest species from infiltrating valuable food reserves. 

3. Guard mesh

Preventing accidents in the workplace comes down to identifying risks and ongoing upkeep in order to minimise them.

Preventing accidents in the workplace comes down to identifying risks and ongoing upkeep in order to minimise them. In 2015, there were over 500,000 workplace injury or disease reports according to Safe Work Australia, with over 100,000 serious claims. Among the most common workplace injuries were falls and getting trapped between stationary and moving objects.

For preventing workers falling through holes or openings, Safe Work Australia's code of practise recommends using a strong material, such as wire mesh, to prevent people or objects from falling through. Locker Group's wire mesh range can go a long way to preventing such injuries from occurring.

Safe Work Australia also advises that manufacturers should consider the working environment and implement guards to impose a physical barrier between moving parts and human contact. It also recommends that these barriers be securely fixed but also easy to remove if necessary, something that is achievable using Locker Group's guard mesh.

To find out more about other applications of Locker Group's wire mesh products in industry, get in touch with the team today.