Founded in 1898, Van Holten's Pickles has been making individually wrapped Pickle-in-a-Pouch products since 1939. Originally located in Milwaukee, in 1956 the company expanded to a larger plant in Waterloo, Wis., where it recently opened a new 53,000-sq-ft facility. The company now produces 18 million individually pouched pickles every year.

With the vast production quantity, working conveyors and pumps are key to keeping pickle production up and running. For years, the company connected its equipment using twist type or pin-and-sleeve connectors partnered with separate disconnect switches. However, the combination of salt, moisture, acid, and heat used in the pickling process caused the switches and plugs to fail regularly. Safety was also an issue, as workers could easily insert or remove a plug without first verifying de-energization at the local disconnect switch.

During their search for an easier and safer way to connect and disconnect equipment, Van Holten's engineers learned of Decontactor switch-rated plugs and receptacles from Meltric Corp., Franklin, Wis. The plugs allow workers to safely make and break electrical equipment connections, even under full load. Because they are UL switch and horsepower rated, the Decontactors meet NEC requirements for a motor “line of sight” disconnect. What's more, the devices also cost less than conventional connectors over the long run.

Project engineer Arland Wingate says that the company does not hardwire most conveyors because being able to quickly disconnect and reconnect equipment for repair or replacement helps minimize downtime. Electrical safety during equipment change-outs, once a concern, is less so now because the Decontactors' safety shutter and internal arc chambers prevent exposure to live parts and arc flash.

According to Wingate, the heat and harsh atmosphere ruined previous plugs because the brass contacts often corroded together. That long-term operating cost was a big factor in selecting the Decontactors, which feature solid silver-nickel contacts with better corrosion resistance.

In addition to production equipment, the company has installed several Decontactors along one exterior wall, where they provide power to a large cucumber-loading machine when it needs to be moved along the back of the building. Future expansion is focused on the tank yard where plans call for an additional 150 tanks. Power pedestals with four Decontactor receptacles each are used throughout the existing tank yard for quick connection and disconnection of portable conveyors that move pickles from the trucks and load them into tanks.

For more information, visit meltric.com or call (800) 824-4031.