Choosing the Right Conveyor System

Choosing an efficient and safe transportation system may seem like an overwhelming task. As a manager or planner you’ll have to identify, develop and purchase the correct conveyor system, so that it suits your needs and requirements.

Conventional wisdom and a traditional mind-set has devalued the conveyor, viewing it as a low value item that only moves product throughout your facility or distribution centre. Due to their perceived poor value, conveyors are (typically) one of the last elements deliberated upon in the planning cycle.

Choosing your transportation system based on its initial acquisition cost is a risky strategy. The wrong conveyor type or right type wrong application, can undermine your operating efficiency – reducing profitability and stripping you of your competitive advantage. Instead of choosing something “cheap and good enough”, base your decision on the long-term value it provides.

Man power is expensive. Apart from repair costs, machinery is cheap. Your conveyor can safely, reliably and efficiently transport labour intensive, or unsafe (to move through human labour) materials.

Common Conveyor Systems

Belt

The most commonly used system due to their versatility and low cost, the belt can transport regular or irregular, large or small, heavy or light objects. When combined with computer controlled pallet handling equipment it allows for a more efficient distribution structure – rapidly moving large volumes through a process.

Roller

Easy to use, quiet and simple to install and maintain, the rotating rollers push the products along. Relatively inexpensive, a key disadvantage of the roller system is that it can only transport certain objects – they have to be of adequate size and shape so as not to fall between the rollers. If your do vary the conveyor belt would be a better option.

Vibrating

Trough shaped, they are used extensively in food grade applications where sanitation and washdown are essential. Vibrating systems are also used in harsh, very hot, dirty or corrosive environments. Using special pan shapes, you can convey materials at angles exceeding 45° from horizontal.

Facilities

Your facility is integral in choosing your conveyor system. Determine the areas where your conveyor will need to stop, turn or has a gradient – then design a system that makes use of that. A good design will account for all loading, unloading and processing areas.

Have you considered portability? If you think you may move, a modular design will make your life far easier. Enabling you to transport the system to your new facility and customize it to the new location.

Maintenance

With many mechanical parts and long run-times, maintenance will be near the top of the list of your concerns. Some important questions to ask are:

  • What’s the operational record? Have other users found it un/reliable?
  • Are parts easily available? How much do they cost?
  • How hard is it to repair? Can my maintenance staff easily access the internals?

By looking beyond the short term, you can ensure the investment required for a conveyor system doesn’t go to waste. Do you think you’ll expand or change product? If so, choose a system that helps rather than hinders. With some careful planning, design and implementation, you can get the most out of your system – making your facility more efficient, safer and more profitable.

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