09 February 2020
HOW TO MAINTAIN A CONVEYOR SYSTEM
Conveyor maintenance is an integral part in getting the most out of any conveyor system operation and is why most users take up a service/spare parts and maintenance contract to ensure they get the best out of their investment by avoiding unnecessary stoppages.
The consequences of unplanned conveyor system breakdowns due to lack of maintenance can be very costly in terms of both reduced output volumes and subsequent unexpected call-out/new parts costs, as is the case when it comes to vehicles, and should be treated the same.
Lack of conveyor system maintenance inevitably leads to equipment becoming inefficient, unreliable, and a potential safety hazard.
To alleviate the problems that come with infrequently maintained equipment, it is important to follow the manufacturers standard maintenance checklist for each of the conveyor types in the system regardless of complexity from basic gravity roller conveyors, spirals, through to high-speed powered conveyors with integral sortation system.
CONVEYOR SYSTEM MAINTENANCE OVERVIEW
To avoid safety issues, only qualified maintenance personnel should perform repairs and service work on a conveyor system as they will have been trained to ensure the correct procedures are maintained to avoid unnecessary risks both to personnel and the conveyor system.
A defined procedure should be introduced whereby conveyor system operators should be trained on who to call should they become aware of anything out of the ordinary occurring with the conveyor system operation be it visual or audible or if the conveyor needs to be cleaned from any debris that needs removing.
It is important to know that cleaning a conveyor system is a maintenance function requiring correct procedures to be carried out as per the conveyor manufacturers recommendations.
Regular planned maintenance on your conveyor system keeps your line running at peak performance while avoiding safety concerns and emergency callouts from the manufacturers.
IN-HOUSE INSPECTION INTERVALS
The following inspection intervals are a guide for most types of conveyor in a typical system:
The operators who use the conveyor system should be performing visual and audible inspections each day to check that in the event of any obvious wear or out of the ordinary sounds coming from the conveyors that a maintenance engineer needs to be notified.
Some areas to check on a conveyor system to avoid issues include a build-up of small piles of plastic or steel dust indicating wear. Even the most well looked after conveyor systems need to be cleaned of debris or spillage.
Should the conveyor system include belt conveyors, they should be checked to ensure the belts are tracking properly and do not have any signs of problems indicated by squeaking, grinding, or other unusual noises.
Confirm all safety guards and devices are secure and functioning properly.
As well as the above weekly checks, a suitably trained maintenance engineer should check all photocell sensors on the conveyor system to make sure they are correctly aligned and working as intended by sensing products to initiate various functions around the conveyor system.
Motor/gearboxes around the conveyor system should be checked for higher temperature and noise as should any other moving parts around the drive assembly which should be visually checked for any obvious issues.
Monthly inspections of the conveyor system should include checking the condition of guiderails for alignment and overall functionality as well as moving parts such as belts and their joints, and if rollers are turning properly, and any other similar components that may cause the conveyor to malfunction.
As mentioned previously the conveyor system operation should be checked both visually or audibly or if the conveyor needs to be cleaned from any debris that needs removing and to determine what may need looking into by a maintenance engineer.
Each quarter, the maintenance team should perform checks on the conveyor system that have to be carried out to an agreed plan in advance as it may be more difficult to accomplish when the conveyor is in full operation.
They have to make sure that a secure lock-out procedure is in place, which prevents the conveyor system from being started by anyone other than the maintenance engineer(s) when performing any tasks near potentially moving parts.
Some moving parts that need checking whilst the conveyor system is stationary include checking oil levels in gearboxes (subject to manufacturers recommendations), chain tensions on drive/chain transfers, drive sprocket alignment/sprocket set screw tightness and mounting bolts/set screws on bearings.
Every conveyor system is unique in how it functions, the environment it runs in and the hours of operation i.e., 5 single shifts per week or 24/7. Depending upon these factors, and the customers growing familiarity with their own specific conveyor system, they may add any items or adjust the frequency of checks in their particular maintenance schedule.
Most reputable conveyor system suppliers can offer a yearly contract to supply both spare parts and to provide maintenance visits for both their own and indeed other makes as they generally have very similar components. This guarantees the conveyor system functions to its design requirements whilst ensuring up-to-date information by way of an inspection report on how the material handling system is performing.