Updated: May 18, 2021
By Noah Fisher
Follow him on LinkedIn
Three areas come up frequently when customers come to us with requests for fabricated componentry, safety guarding and repairs for conveyance systems. Many times, our customers struggle with these areas as they get deeper into the projects and we begin scoping. Keep them in mind as you consider your scoping, budgeting and decision on whether to fix, refurbish or go new.
1. Jams & stack issues
25% of all fatalities and 60% of all safety incidents occur during maintenance with bulk material handling by conveyor belts, according to the Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association.
“Providing adequate access for maintenance and easy to service components cuts maintenance time and reduces exposure, and therefore improves safety,” according to the Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association.
They go on to make a great point, “If production is increased by speeding up the conveyor, wear is proportional to the square of the belt speed. How many locations add maintenance personnel and wear parts budget under this common practice? Few if any.”
Tolerances also play a large part in both the prototyping and refurbishing of conveyance lines, especially as factories try to squeeze faster speeds and more productivity out of lines. It’s important because if you request replacement parts with too high of a tolerance error while having a chain of buckets moving at a high speed, it leads to stack issues.
Many of our customers refurbish constantly because of extremely hot temperatures and rough environmental factors. International Crankshaft Inc., for instance, refurbishes end of arm robotic grippers that move materials from one conveyance line to the next under lava hot-like temperature conditions. We often need to analyze whether it is possible to refurbish or rework them by looking at tolerances, corrosion, and seals (see the full case study).
When considering new equipment, particularly when some portions of the system already exist, always be sure to consider the following, according to Processing Magazine:
What will feed the new equipment and what is the discharge elevation of the upstream equipment?
What will the new equipment discharge into and what is the inlet elevation of the downstream equipment?
What is the centerline distance between the proposed inlet and discharge?
Is the proposed route in a straight line or must it turn a corner or change elevation more than once to avoid an existing structure?
How much width/depth is available to accommodate the new device or equipment?
What is the ceiling height?
Are there any other layout considerations, such as the need to temporarily locate pallets of material, or allow maneuvering room, for a fork truck?
3. High cost for ongoing maintenance
"Maintenance personnel spend, on average, 20% of their time just gaining access to the equipment to be serviced," according to the Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association.
As conveyance lines begin to age, vendors can require new lines to be built rather than repairing rollers or componentry.
In one case, Schneider Electric’s OEM would not take an order for a smaller batch of rollers—but instead, would only send an entirely new conveyor line system. Schneider Electric saved money by asking that we reverse engineer the urethane coated rollers (see the full case study).
Another example would be guarding to protect workers while doing quality checks on the conveyance line. When a safety guard needed to be replaced on the conveyance line for the Honda Anna Engine Plant, we did field measurements in order to not stop the line more than a few minutes (see the full case study).