Conveyors are used in factories to transport products from one point to another. They are incredibly beneficial in eliminating manual labor, reducing time and speed for moving material, and boosting workflow.
However, conveyors, at the same time, are also a heavy investment. The ultimate goal should be to create an ideal conveyor system design that fits right with work demands, product specifications, and space available.
However, various factors impact the durability and longevity of a conveyor system, and ignoring them can cost businesses a heavy revenue.
An ideal conveyor design meets all material, production line, and transportation process requirements. A few of the mistakes that can negatively impact the working of a conveyor in a factory are failure to estimate the exact bulk load, overlooking equipment safety, and not paying attention to system code.
Furthermore, neglect towards upgrading equipment, putting off necessary maintenance, not keeping commonly required parts on hand, and giving minimum access/room for conveyor parts are also majorly responsible for a failed conveyor system.
Thus, knowing how to tackle a problem is the first step to getting the right conveyor design for your business. The following guide covers the top 7 conveyor system design mistakes that cost businesses revenue in the long turn. We'll also learn how to address each individual problem in the best possible way.
So, without further ado, let's start!
Conveyor System Design Mistakes - How to Avoid/Solve Them
The following are some of the most common mistakes in a conveyor design system and solutions to tackle each of them.
Mistake 1: Not Measuring the Exact Bulk Load
Conveyor systems have various types, each beneficial for different materials. However, when selecting the conveyor design, proper measurement of the bulk material is often neglected.
The operation of a conveyor is to move material, and typically, general bulk density and angle of repose are the only factors considered in a conveyor system design . However, such an approach leaves out other important factors that directly impact the working of a conveyor.
For example, if a conveyor has to move x amount of boxes or x tons per hour from one point to another, all other factories' work is dependent on that. And if the goal is not achieved, the result is idle workers, late shipments, terrible client relationships, and bad reviews.
Along with the speed of the conveyor, the weight/density of the material also matters in deciding the estimated material flow. The delicacy of the material also plays its role since the goal is to move products safely.
As for the angle of repose, slope inclination is important since any neglect would result in a blocked flow. On the other hand, an inaccurate angle can also lead to a highly free flow of material unable to control, resulting in material loss, damage to the equipment, and loss to the overall company profits.
To avoid future complications in the conveyor design, it is essential to measure your material correctly and design a conveyor system according to that.
If the material to be transported is solid (such as boxes), you need to consider the average box height per square foot and the maximum weight of packages (along with the number of boxes moving on the conveyor belt per session).
The average box dimension (length, width, and height) would also help determine how spacious or wider the conveyor should be. In the case of liquid/semi-solid materials, you should focus on density and average volume passing through the conveyor in one session.
If packaging and assembling are also required, you should note the desired movement orientation as per the material type. If these are boxes, what orientation is expected, and how to design the conveyor according to that.
Furthermore, you should consider the transportation space; the conveyor is to move products, but how the goal will be achieved. Does the material need to be lifted/unlifted between transportation, and does the activity require the employer's help, given the material is fragile/strong/sticky/liquidy?
All of these factors play their role in deciding the average bulk load the conveyor has to bear. It is always recommended to develop the approximate bulk solid to be transported.
The conveyor movement should then be tested while considering the expected factors (external contaminants, moisture content, consolidating pressures, etc.).
The good thing is that modern-day technology allows for a 3D machinery design which lets users get a fair idea of where major or minor tweaks are needed. Thus, the results after proper testing should be used to design the conveyor system.
Mistake 2: Overlooked Equipment Safety
It is common for companies to ignore the maintenance required due to heavy work pressure. Also, only the OSHA safety standards are followed most of the time, leaving equipment entirely out of attention.
Even a small chain or bolt out of its place can lead to significant disasters. Workers' fingers, hands, arms, and other limbs are in the red zone when working near or with defective/maintenance requiring conveyors.
As for material being moved, a faulty conveyor can mess up the products resulting in huge loss. When the proper security protocols are not followed, and equipment's safety is overlooked, the machinery's durability is impacted too.
Conveyors are a heavy investment, and one way to decrease their longevity is to ignore the equipment's safety. A designed conveyor system should be a part of your factory for at least a decade. Yet with minor faults making a home in the conveyor system, it is difficult to fix them at once later, and business is likely to face a severe breakdown.
The key to a lasting and effective conveyor system is daily inspection and timely maintenance. Pinch points, assembly areas, sliding parts, electrical outlets, and other conveyor parts should be regularly checked.
Typically, the management team checks every major and minor aspect of a conveyor, including system code and physical machinery. The conveyor should be completely shut off before checking since a moving conveyor can drag in, crush, or shear workers' body parts.
Also, if the conveyor deals with chemicals or harmful substances, proper safety measures should be followed before an inspection. Otherwise, the mishandling may lead to burns, skin damage, bruises, property damage, or harm to materials near the conveyor system.
Lastly, as far as regular inspection is concerned, it should be done after every operational interval.
Mistake 3: Not Paying Attention to System Code
Every conveyor is machinery that needs to be operated carefully. And one of the primary reasons behind a conveyor system failure is unauthorized access to machine controls.
System code is an essential part of a conveyor system design and should not be ignored since it can directly impact the security of employees and the machinery itself. In a terrible situation, it is likely that the Lock-out/Tag-out Protocols are not followed correctly.
If conveyors' system code has errors or is operated by an unauthorized worker, the result is disoriented conveyor movement, damage to products, and endangered employees' safety.
A faulty conveyor system can also explode or catch fire because of bad management/operation of electrical outlets. Similarly, errors in system code can cause the conveyor to move incorrectly, which (especially in the case of harmful substances) can lead to burnout, limb traumas, and lost lives.
Safety is the first step to ensuring a good conveyor design, and safety includes precautions for machinery, goods, and employees. An authorized worker should only operate the system code for a conveyor.
Training is essential in this regard and should be done timely to stay aware of the recent updates and how things have been going with old operation methods.
Another thing to consider is the defect in machine operation. If there is any fault reported in the system, the conveyor should not be used unless the fault is removed. Also, the repairing/updating should be done by certified staff only.
Lastly, conveyor machinery should NOT be used before it is appropriately tested, and workers should stay aware of a faulty conveyor. Though fixing the error may seem like a break in the flow, it can be life-saving in the long term for both employees, goods, and machinery.
Mistake 4: Lack of Access
While working in industries, the technical staff knows where and how to repair/maintain a machine. However, not having proper access to the equipment hinders the process of required maintenance.
Often than not, various parts in a conveyor system are inaccessible due to their placement in some enclosures or shafts blocking the passage to the conveyor.
Because they are installed in such places, there is no adequate room available for a person to get along the passage of the system or even shuffle to reach what needs to be checked upon or what part requires a repair in the system.
Having little or no room under the system or being close to the floor makes cleaning almost impossible. And in the long run, the odd location of access doors providing an unclear view of defects that cannot be thoroughly supervised or observed leads to labor injuries.
To avoid having a lack of access to the conveyor system, it should be built on such an architectural design that a proper room would be available for the technician or maintenance staff to reach and thoroughly check every part of the system.
Even if there is a smaller room available, designers should devise a systematic plan to clean both above and underneath the system.
Plus, it is preferable to build conveyor systems design in such a way that proper space is available for regular checking and shuffling inside the system so every nick and corner would be carefully supervised.
It is essential because some minor parts like nuts and bolts might get rusty if proper cleaning is not done. They can slow down or even stop the system at some point.
Assemblies, slide-out cradle frames, sealed heavy-duty inspection doors, and idler assemblies are examples of innovative equipment designs that provide better access for safer and more efficient maintenance, reduced labor time, and a lower total cost of operation with fewer injuries.
Mistake 5: Not Upgrading Equipment
If the machinery's equipment, labor, and software are not upgraded with time, problems with meeting the deadlines, production, and delivery of the products will follow.
In a conveyor system, often, the upgrade is linked to just changing of belt and speed. But there might be packaging issues and flexibility problems too.
Furthermore, if there is just an upgrade in chute speed generating a flow restriction, it will result in a complete stop of the process rather than an enhancement of flow.
Both equipment and software are vital parts of a system and need timely updates. The defective or damaged parts of the conveyor should be replaced right away, the ones with new counterparts available should be used instead of the old ones.
Moreover, new softwares is readily available now and then, thanks to advanced technology. It is recommended to replace the old code with the recent operating system as per the requirements in the factory.
To reach budget objectives, standard component usage should bring into work. However, at the same time, it is equally important to provide room in the design for problem-solving improvements to meet production/cost targets.
Also last but not least, human labor is another chief component of any business. So, when employing an upgrade in the system parts, the training of employees should be upgraded too.
The technical/management staff and workers should be informed and know the latest features. Because new parts would be different or a better version of old gear, mishandling might cause trouble on a large scale and engenders workers' safety while working with the latest technology.
Mistake 6: Putting Off Maintenance
As with any industrial machine, if you put off maintenance of a conveyor system design , it can lead to severe trauma or injury to your working staff and production line. Maintenance includes regular checkups of the system and upgraded system parts with proper cleaning daily.
The dangers of late maintenance can be as minor as cuts or as significant as direct injuries, damage to limbs, fingers, and hands resulting in amputation, bone breakage, or even death in severe cases.
Fallen materials in conveyors are also a risk, significantly if the products fell off a wrong trail or even on a worker, causing injury or hampering work.
The system should be checked and inspected daily to avoid the issues mentioned above. If workers are present near the machines and they notice an error, it should be reported immediately to the management staff for a quick examination.
Even if there is a defect in a minor part of the system, it shouldn't be used as long as it isn't correctly repaired and tested.
Mistake 7: Not Keeping Common Parts on Hand
The conveyor system should be regularly inspected to keep the production line working. Yet most maintenance is put to hold due to the absence of common working parts of the machine.
While maintaining a system, the technician/management staff knows which parts might need repair, cleaning, or upgrading after a set time. However, one mistake that many don't pay attention to is not keeping those important spare parts of machinery on hand.
Some common problems that might arise are material spillage, conveyor belt mistracking, seized rollers, blockages, and belt slip. So, repairing or changing the parts as quickly as possible when there is an error; it will keep the workflow balanced instead of hindering the process.
One way to avoid runout time on maintenance is to order the needed parts beforehand and in the right quantity. It is not recommended to order in bulk due to frequent system upgrades, so you might need to install those.
In a conveyor for liquid/semi-products, proper cleaning for material spillage will be needed to avoid damage to machinery. For example, a simple belt conveyor would require a regular checkup to evade the wear and tear of belt parts.
Similarly, rollers made from steel and other metallic materials might develop sharp edges after usage. Checking those rollers regularly and ordering on time will help prevent this issue.
Camps, plows, spare motors, coupling for line shafts, bearings, sprockets, belts, and photo eyes are some of the materials that should be available by the side of machines to be used in times of need.
Conveyor systems are the demand of the modern world and are widely used in food, cosmetics, automotive, and various other industries. However, frequent downtimes are likely to happen if proper maintenance and upgrade are neglected.
Keeping frequently required parts at hand is also essential to avoid delays in repairing defects in a conveyor. The designed conveyor system should be installed in a spacious place where even the minor parts are easily accessible for daily inspection, repair, or replacement.
The bulk load of products to be moved should also be considered while considering all the possible internal and external factoring interacting with the transportation process.
Lastly, both the machinery and system code play their role in the effective working of a conveyor. Only authorized staff should be allowed for sensitive tasks (repair/upgrade).