Managers and factory planners often face a conveyor system dilemma when attempting to identify and purchase the ideal storage and material handling system. Systems can be simple or extremely complex depending on the products or materials
being handled and therefore, selecting the appropriate system can be a difficult and demanding responsibility. A practical view of conveyors would be to state that they should be flexible to future requirements, reliable and safe, clean, require minimum maintenance and most of all, provide an efficient and cost effective operation.
With over 50 years combined experience and engineering skills in providing logistics efficiencies and factory automation solutions CSL have been able to evaluate the mechanical aspects of products enabling them to compile a simple-to-follow guide for conveyor selection. Their experience in supplying conveyors to a wide range of assembly, food processing/ packing, and warehousing applications has further provided them with an appreciation of the various working environments, which also must be considered in specifying conveyors.
The result is a top ten checklist to assist managers in making the best material handling equipment and system selection. Whilst individual users will have different requirements, these steps are suggested as the basis for forming practical guidelines. Preliminary investigation
The conveyed product should be clearly identified and described by size, shape, weight, special configurations, volume and peculiarities.
Next, record any existing space limitations and note possible electrical, pneumatic and mechanical needs or restrictions. The nature of the product and the traffic density in the space available will determine placement of conveyor components and size of the system.
Also evaluate the various types of conveyors available (belt, roller, wheel, powered, gravity, and so on). Form a planning committee with members from the various operating departments and assign responsibility for system design.
Finally set up a timetable or a list of deadlines for developing and installing the conveyor system so that all persons involved are working from the same schedule.
Now you are in a position to proceed to the ‘Ten Step Plan’.Ten step plan
Consult a number of engineers who work for reputable conveyor system design and/or manufacturing companies to evaluate their capabilities. Some more progressive companies have state-of-the-art computer-aided systems to help design and manufacture a cost effective conveyor system.2 -
After assessing the design and manufacturing capabilities of suppliers, prepare a criteria and rough working layout of the system, highlighting end results you wish to achieve. Set ‘ball-park’ budgetary constraints for the project, allowing financial flexibility to ensure cost effective designs are proposed. Often conveyor manufacturers and system integrators can suggest special conveyor modules such as turntables, transfers, channelisers and vertical escalators that cost more, but result in a more economical and efficient operation.3 -
Prepare a plan of ‘available power services’. Knowing the location of electrical outlets and air pressure lines may have bearing on the system layout and help to simplify the power system design.4 -
Invite at least three companies to bid on a conveyor project. Their bids should include preliminary design drawings that are detailed to allow comparative analysis. Poor design capabilities at this stage can result in a conveyor system being totally ineffective at a later stage, therefore it is essential that each project tender is carefully considered.
Quotations should contain product description, size and weight; flow throughput; roller centres and type; belt finishes; materials of construction; proposed system layout and necessary customer service agreements.
When evaluating bids, review all aspects of the system - including design, quality, materials and installation support services. The location and financial stability of the supplier should also be considered, as 21this can affect continuity and availability of product, along with future servicing.
You are now in a position to select your chosen supplier.5 -
Schedule a timetable for installation of the system with critical deadlines, one that a supplier can realistically meet. Avoid procrastination, as this will only delay the project commencing.6 -
Examine the proposed drawings carefully for any design defect and question the supplier for clarification on throughputs speeds. You need to be clear in your mind of the anticipated end results. Any modifications should be discussed and agreed at this stage to avoid delays on installation and escalating costs; do not always leave it to the supplier to confirm any agreement in writing.7 -
Approximately two weeks prior to the negotiated delivery date, re-examine the proposed conveyor site checking the necessary power and service connections and making sure the areas is cleared of debris with free access. Loading dock areas should be cleared to receive conveyors and security personnel notified of arrival times and dates; particularly if installation is to take place after working hours. This is where you can refer to the agreed scheduled timetable.
One caution: Use of any part of the system should not be planned until the entire system is installed, unless this has been specifically agreed in the sales contract.8 -
Once all the components are in place perform a final test of the entire system and produce a detailed, but fair ‘snag list’, recording all existing or potential problems.
Where a system is involved, form an inspection committee if possible to include sales engineers, company production manager, electrician, IT or programmer and installation/ maintenance foreman. The committee should perform a one/two day start up inspection and be specific when identifying problems. All timing, operating speeds, workmanship and other associated problems should be listed and presented to the supplier with an agreed time frame for the supplier to correct
The warranty clock starts now, so be aware that all undetected problems could result in more expenditure later on. Additional details or system refinements not previously considered during the original design stage can be added at this time. However, costs for such additions are the purchaser’s responsibility.
Plan a comprehensive training programme for all personnel involved in the system operation. An in-service system demonstration should be performed, noting emergency procedures and function improving adjustments that must be followed. ‘Do not touch’ restrictions should also be highlighted at this time.
The maintenance supervisor should receive all structural and electrical drawings, along with service telephone numbers for assistance or spares.10 -
Soon after the system is in service, report back to the supplier to advise on results - positive or negative. Such a report should be constructive, as this will enable the supplier to provide a better service for all customers.
What may appear to be a major customised conveying system can often be resolved utilising cost effective standard conveyor modules. This can avoid the expense involved in one-off designs and manufacturing tooling, plus assures the customer of compatibility, flexibility and continuity of supply for many years to come.
This above facts can hopefully provide a structured approach to placing an order for a conveyor or integrated system and one should consider the basic ten-step plan to choosing a conveyor.
Steve Graham is a director at Conveyor Systems. Conveyor Systems can provide technical assistance in selection of simple, cost effective modular conveying units to be interfaced and integrated with other OEM equipment. Alternatively, it can provide customised 3D design to accurately model any proposed conveyor system, prior to supplying, installation and commissioning of complete turnkey materials handling systems.
For further information, visit: www.conveyorsystemsltd.com
Conveyor Systems Limited (CSL) will also be exhibiting a range of bespoke conveying solutions to provide successful handling and logistic solutions to meet client’s unique requirements at IMHX: Stand 19H 123