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Timely Maintenance Key to Extending Life of Flexible Conveyor System

Wed, 01/09/2008 - 6:24am
Timely Maintenance Key to Extending Life of Flexible Conveyor System By Paul Zielbauer, Technical Service Supervisor, Bosch Rexroth Corporation, Linear Motion and Assembly Technologies

Pallet-based flexible conveyor systems can provide a wealth of benefits in just about any assembly operation.

Making maintenance of material handling systems and components a priority can extend the life of expensive equipment such as conveyors and fork trucks.

Pallet-based flexible conveyor systems can provide a wealth of benefits in just about any assembly operation. Suitable for applications ranging from small electronic parts assembly to appliance manufacturing, automotive drive train, and even medical device assembly, these conveyors can help improve production, achieve higher product quality and enhance manufacturing flexibility. With different choices for conveying media including belt, flat-top chain or roller chain, there are plenty of configurations available depending on the specific application.

While most OEMs and end-users expect their pallet-based conveyor systems to be durably designed and destined for a lengthy service life, longevity and superior efficiency can only be achieved through proper conveyor maintenance. Failure to properly maintain industrial conveyors can greatly reduce the system’s life and produce unexpected and costly downtime. Although it may seem inconvenient to regularly check for potential problems, it’s better to schedule limited downtime for routine maintenance, rather than face an untimely and catastrophic problem.

Manufacturers must also utilize maintenance training, as well as tune-up and consultation services available from most reputable conveyor manufacturers.

Check for missing chain caps that could allow fasteners into the system.

While maintenance schedules can certainly vary according to the complexity of the conveyor system, there are several things that can, and should, be done on a regular basis to ensure proper functionality of flexible assembly conveyor systems.

Daily Maintenance Checks

It may sound like common sense, but these checks are oftentimes overlooked: on a daily basis, inspect and remove any small parts and debris that may accumulate on conveyor belts and chains. Examine belts for any visible wear, damage or separation. If there are any visibly damaged belts, replace them immediately.

Weekly Maintenance Checks

Another factor contributing to the performance and longevity of the conveyor system is the system’s overall cleanliness. As a result, conveyor systems should be wiped down once a week and all grease and dirt should be removed from the conveyor and corresponding modules.

Next, inspect the bottom of the pallets for debris that may become embedded. Fasteners from the product you’re assembling have a nasty way of sticking where they’re not supposed to. Also, check T-bolts on the pallet stop gates and re-tighten them if they are loose. A skewed stop gate could indicate a loose fastener.

Make sure to lubricate power transfer chains, sprockets and flange bearings to be certain the chain tensioners are in the acceptable tension range, since chains will stretch over time.

Monthly Maintenance Checks

Ultimately, by taking a few minutes regularly and keeping your conveyor system in pristine condition, you can save a lot of time and money in the future.

Despite the durability of these conveyors, proper maintenance checks are critical for equipment longevity.

In addition to daily and weekly maintenance procedures, there are several monthly actions you can implement to extend the life of the conveyors.

  • Lubricate toothed belts on conveyors with light-grade oil. Also, check for loose or missing fasteners and tighten or replace them as needed.
  • Side guards on drive and return units are also locations where debris can accumulate, so it’s imperative that these components be removed once a month and cleaned. Small parts can fall and get caught between the belt and guide profile and these falling parts can do tremendous damage to the belt, guide profiles, drives or returns.
  • Make certain all cooling components are running efficiently because heat leads to increased wear, poor system performance and premature belt failure. To ensure the best possible performance, wipe any dirt or grime from the fan shrouds of all motors to maintain proper motor cooling.
  • Through heavy use, fasteners from the conveyor can also become loose in other key areas, such as on the conveyor’s foundation. Check for any loose or missing fasteners on the structure itself, once a month.

Quarterly Maintenance Checks

Taking the time to perform several routine maintenance procedures on assembly conveyors can significantly add to the efficiency and longevity of the system.
On a quarterly basis, maintenance technicians should inspect the conveyor chain for stretching and wear. As a chain expands, the chain and corresponding drive sprockets wear in unison. But since the sprockets will reach the end of their life cycle and be replaced before the chain, the new sprockets will stretch the chain at a faster pace due to the disagreement in pitch length.

Know Your Stuff

ProFleet™, allows users to capture parts and labor costs by truck, and generates information on truck utilization, cost-per-hour, and scheduled maintenance reports.

Maintaining A Fork FleetAccording to Charles Dowdell and Joe Lafergola of The Raymond Corporation, one big material handling “buzz” relates to an increasing focus on lift truck fleet management.

Raymond’s product offering in this niche, ProFleet™, allows users to capture parts and labor costs by truck, and generates information on truck utilization, cost-per-hour, and scheduled maintenance reports.

“This can reduce downtime, by giving information to the people who need it,” says Dowdell, Raymond’s Manager, Technical Publications.

This can have a major effect of maintenance as well. “In the past, you might schedule maintenance every 60 days,” suggests Lafergola, Raymond’s Manager, Fleet Operations. “Now you can determine, not days, but hours of usage. With hours of usage, you could reduce PMs from six to four times per year, and still be running by OEM spec.”

Manufacturers must also utilize maintenance training, as well as tune-up and consultation services available from most reputable conveyor manufacturers. Some companies offer a conveyor service where they will visit your facility, inspect the conveyor while in motion, and provide recommendations and solutions to keep the conveyor running efficiently. Ultimately, by taking a few minutes regularly and keeping your conveyor system in pristine condition, you can save a lot of time and money in the future.

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