Potatoes are received daily from the farmer's fields or storage tanks. During each spring, the majority of the potatoes come from the Florida area. From Florida, we then use potatoes from North Carolina, Missouri and Indiana. Around August 1st we move into Michigan and Wisconsin. Field Potatoes are used from May 1st through October. From November through April we use storage potatoes.
Potatoes that are freshly dug from the ground are placed in trucks and transported to a building for grading.
During the grading process, potatoes are inspected for rot, green heads, double growth, or all other types of defects or disease. After the potatoes are graded and inspected, they are loaded loose into a trailer for delivery to the manufacturer.
Potatoes are unloaded at the plant by a truck that backs onto a lift which elevates the truck trailer into the air at an angle that allows the potatoes to roll off into a metal base conveyor. The potatoes then proceed to a cleated conveyor belt where they are fed into storage tanks which hold approximately 50,000 lbs. of potatoes.
In the initial processing phase, the potatoes flow from storage tanks into a large hopper that slowly feeds them into a destoner. This piece of equipment is full of water and has a spiral lift auger that takes the potatoes into the peeler. The destoner will remove all stones, wood, or any other foreign matter that may have been dug when harvesting the potatoes.
The peeler consists of 23 abrasive rollers that revolve at a given speed to insure that the potato is peeled properly. Upon completion of removing the skins, the potatoes are processed on an inspection line where employees inspect them again. Potatoes that do not pass inspection are removed prior to processing.
Upon completion of inspection, the potatoes proceed on the conveyor belt to a lift where they are dropped into a holding hopper that feeds the two slicers. The potatoes are lifted from the holding hopper to the slicer by metal buckets or rubber cleats.
The potatoes are then sliced very thinly after they fall into a revolving slicer that has 8 cutting blades that are set by a gauge. The potato slices then proceed into a rotating mesh drum that is constantly running in water. As the potato slices tumble in the drum, they are washed and most of the starch removed from them.
From the drum, the potato slices proceed up a mesh conveyor where they are washed and dried upon entering the frying kettle.
The frying kettle is filled with cottonseed oil which is heated to a temperature of between 330 to 350 degrees. The slices fry for approximately 4 minutes. There are paddle wheels that move the slices forward to the front of the machine. As the potato slices leave the paddle wheel area, they are submerged into the cooking oil by a mesh conveyor which is approximately 6 feet long. This conveyor finishes cooking the slices. The operator of the cooker inspects the chips to insure they are completely cooked and also to insure the temperature of the machine is proper at all times. This plant operates four fryers. One which produces approximately 3,400 lbs. per hour, one at 3,000 lbs. per hour and two cookers at 2,000 lbs. per hour.
As the chips proceed past the fryer's inspection point, they fall onto a small mesh stainless steel conveyor and then pass under the salter. As the salt is dispensed, it falls onto a spinner type bracket that spreads the salt evenly on the chips.
After the chips are salted, they fall onto a vibrating conveyor where normally two employees inspect the product. Chips that do not meet the required standards are removed from the line and disposed of into plastic containers. This inspection line is always manned with two employees per machine and sometimes more depending on the condition of the product.
From the inspection conveyor, the chips are dropped into a bucket lift which elevates the chips onto the overhead vibrating conveyors that process the finished product into the automatic packaging machines. There are two bucket lifts that take the chips up to the overhead conveyor so that we can run different products at the same time. As the chips vibrate down the conveyor to the packaging machine, a trap door opens up when the packaging machine needs chips and then closes when the machine is satisfied. The chips fall into a receiving hopper that feeds the product into numbers scales that are on top of the machine.
The chips are then weighed and deposited into a former which releases the chips into the bag. The bag is then processed on an inclined cleated belt conveyor to the package stand where they are packed into boxes by employees or automatic packers. Packers inspect baggage for proper weight and sealing of the bag.
Bags are packed in corrugated boxes and are placed on conveyors to the warehouse.
The warehouse personnel stacks the cartons and issues them to the driver salesman for redistribution to selling outlets. All cases that go into the warehouse are rotated on a daily basis so that first in and first out concept is established.
Since a potato is approximately 80% water, one will get approximately 20 lbs. of chips for every 100 lbs. of potatoes processed. That is the magic of potato chips.