A conveyor system is a group of conveyors linked together to provide movement for goods and objects. There will often be a requirement to convey an object or products in a different manner during different stages of an objects production. For example the object may be hot when first produced which may require a high temperature conveyor belt and then, the next stage may require a coating applied which will require a conveyor that allows liquids to drain.
A good practical example of a conveyor system would be, for instance, in a biscuit plant where the raw dough has to travel on a conveyor that has a belt with non-stick qualities. It is then transferred to a conveyor through an oven that may have a steel belt fitted. It then transfers onto a cooling belt which needs to allow the biscuit to cool, then onto an enrobing conveyor which will need good drainage properties. Finally the biscuit will travel on to a number of different conveyors that package the biscuits ready for dispatch.
When a system is conceived, careful consideration needs to be given to the following;
- Throughput required (speed, volume, efficiency) – The conveyor system has to satisfy the volume or quantity requirements of the application. The elimination of bottle-necks in the system is important. It is always sensible to build in an over-capacity factor.
- The nature of the product (Temperature, fragility, dimensions, weight etc.) – The conveyor system has to be fit for purpose and exactly suited to the application for which it’s designed. The enormous number of different objects in the world that need to be conveyed requires many different types of conveyor. Some objects need to be carefully handled such as chicks in hatcheries and then to the opposite extreme, gravel in quarries need huge quantities moved. It’s vital that, before any metal is cut, that the application is fully understood and agreed with the client.
- Space available – It may seem an obvious statement but, the conveyor needs to fit inside the plant! Consideration needs to be given to other processes and activities that are in operation. It’s no good designing a fantastic conveyor system that doesn’t allow room for people or movement of goods to or from the conveyor system. Access for maintenance is another consideration. For example, placing conveyors tight against walls or at difficult heights that prevent access for cleaning or removal of stoppages should always be avoided.
- Budget – If a user is serious about peak performance in processing, it’s rarely a good idea to try to adapt existing systems to do a different job to that for which it was originally intended. A poorly specified or adapted conveyor system will always lead to problems in production, stoppages, downtime and impeded production. Saving money in the short-term frequently leads to losing money in the long-term. Priority should always be given to fitness for purpose and then afterwards, consideration can be given to other minor issues that don’t directly impact upon performance or efficiency. The lifespan of the conveyor also needs to be carefully thought about. A system that is made of heavier, more durable materials with the best quality components will always last longer than a flimsy budget system. If long life is a requirement, build to the best quality.
- Environmental factors (noise, fumes, comfort, safety etc) – These days, and rightly so, careful consideration is given to the well-being of people and animals in proximity to a conveyor system. Health issues such as exposure to injury, noise and fumes are all factors that can lead to future legal action on any business. There is a duty of care that needs to be exercised when considering a conveyor design. Careful thought needs to be given to access to ventilation, seating or standing comfort and the exposure to noise leading to hearing damage. A conveyor system operator will neglect these issues at their peril.
- Ease of maintenance – Like any mechanical device, a conveyor system needs to be maintained throughout its life. Thought needs to be given to ease of disassembly, access to maintenance points for both inspection and work. Something as simple as moving a conveyor away from a wall or dropping the height by a small amount may save maintenance headaches in the future. Other considerations can be given to uniformity of parts to save on maintenance stores budgets. If budget allows, higher quality components are another good idea.
The above reflections are only a very basic overview of the important thought that needs to go into creating a great conveyor system. The old adage will always apply in conveyor system design…measure twice and cut once.