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6 tips for better conveyor maintenance

6 tips for better conveyor maintenance

In the midst of a challenging economy and shrinking capital budgets, many companies are faced with the daunting challenge of keeping ageing conveyor systems up and running well past when they’d ordinarily be heading to the scrap yard.  Unlike a fine wine, mechanical equipment doesn’t usually get better with age.

However, there is hope for those who don’t have the luxury of upgrading to a brand new, state-of-the-art conveyor system anytime soon, and hopefully this article will help.

Here are a few conveyor maintenance tips to keep those belts moving...

1. Maintenance technician

The most commonly underappreciated heroes of every facility are the men and women wearing tool belts. One of the biggest mistakes we see companies do is either not hire a maintenance technician or underpay one. Think about it, would you go to the cheapest doctor in town if you were sick? A good technician will correct small problems before they become big ones. In life, it all comes down to how you want to spend your money. Would you rather spend money on lost sales and unhappy customers when your system goes down and you can’t get the product out the door, or on a great maintenance technician?

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A good technician will correct small problems before they become big ones.
 

2. Spare parts

Despite manufacturer’s promises finding a mechanical part that never needs to be replaced is probably rarer than finding a set of ‘hen’s teeth’! There are only few things in life you can pretty much bank on like the sun coming up again tomorrow... However, mechanical parts are eventually going to fail (most likely at the worst possible time) and depending upon which part fails, a breakdown can halt production for a long time. Go for prolonged periods without replacing a failed part and serious damage could be inflicted on other parts of the system. It’s highly recommend that you keep a safety stock of all critical and long lead time conveyor parts on hand. If this is not in the budget, then work with a supplier who will ensure that your critical parts are kept in stock at all times.

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Mechanical parts are eventually going to fail!

3. Preventive maintenance

If you only plan to fix stuff when it breaks, you’re going to be very busy fixing stuff. Mechanical equipment–including conveyors–must be maintained. Different parts of your system require different levels of preventive care. It’s no different than your car. Follow the recommended service schedule, and it will run a very long time. Don’t perform service on the car, and you’ll constantly be sitting on the side of the road. A competent supplier should be able to work with you to develop a comprehensive preventive maintenance plan. By following this, you will ensure yourself maximum system uptime.

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Develop a comprehensive preventive maintenance plan.

 

4. System audit and documentation

It’s important to continually inspect your conveyor system to ensure it’s running smoothly. A lot of times you can hear and smell a small problem long before it becomes a big one. Unfortunately, those who are around the system every day have a hard time telling when something fails slowly over time. Get your supplier to help you by coming in and performing a complete system audit. By periodic inspection of your entire system from infeed to discharge using competent personnel, it will help ensure your conveyor is not heading toward catastrophic failure.

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Help ensure your conveyor is not heading toward catastophic failure!

5. Obsolete equipment and parts

Sometimes money prohibits replacing entire systems. However, it’s important to stay current on what conveyor and parts within your system are obsolete and no longer being manufactured. Knowing this can help you and your company make wise business decisions. For example, if we know a particular type of conveyor is no longer being manufactured, we may determine it would be more financially prudent to stock additional spare parts for this piece of equipment than replace it in its entirety.

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It's important to stay current on what parts are obsolete.

6. Repair wisely

Maintaining a large material handling system can be overwhelming. It’s important that we think of needed repairs in terms of time. For example, if a bearing goes out in a critical drive, the cost effective thing to do would be to replace the bearing only. However, the intelligent thing to do might be to replace both bearings and possibly the pulley. Taking the drive section apart takes time, usually a lot more time than actually changing out the components. It’s important to fix things intelligently.

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Maintaining conveyors can be a daunting job. However, with a little bit of organisation and thought, you can extend the life of a conveyor system well beyond what the manufacturer claims.
 

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