Selecting the right conveyor system for your warehouse or assembly operation can be both difficult and, if you make the wrong choices, costly. To save you both time and money we have listed the key considerations to keep in mind when making these critical decisions.
1. Defining Your Materials Handling Objectives
Before you begin your journey to find the right conveyor system for your facility it’s important to be clear about your materials handling objectives.
Assess your current warehouse conveyor system, why is it unsatisfactory? What are the limiting factors; speed, capacity, size of items that can be conveyed or routing of the system? Once you’ve considered the issues, you will need to discuss the steps required to get the conveyor performance from where it is now to where you want it to be in the future.
As well as defining your short term materials handling objectives, for example, improving the throughput and efficiency of your facility, think about your longer-term goals? Are you intending to expand the business over the next few years? If so, this will affect the size and potential scope of a new warehouse conveyor system.
2. Choose quality conveyor equipment from a company you can trust
Strike up a partnership in the early stages of your quest with a conveyor supplier you can trust. They will be able to guide you through the conveyor selection process and the evaluation metrics used to calculate the best option for your particular requirements.
Talk to other similar organisations in your industry – who would they recommend? Once you’ve made your short list, ask to view conveyor systems they have designed and installed. Any reputable company will arrange for you to visit other similar installations so that you can see for yourself their equipment in action. You may also be given the opportunity to talk to staff about the supplier’s performance, the reliability of its equipment and ease of operation.
Using a British manufacturer as your conveyor partner is a real bonus. They will not only be able to quote shorter lead-times from design through to manufacture and installation, but also be able to provide a maintenance service with fast follow-up once the equipment is up and running.
Axiom GB is a family-owned and run business operating from Tamworth in Staffordshire. The company specialises in the design, manufacture, assembly and installation of bespoke material handling systems including conveyors and sortation solutions.
3. Product Specifications – product to be conveyed
One of the most important considerations is the type of product you are going to be transporting. Although it is possible to transport almost any type of product on a conveyor, the product type, weight, centre of gravity and dimensions will all play a significant role in the selection of the most suitable conveying equipment.
Chain driven roller conveyors tend to be used for transporting stable larger items and palletised product. Individual products may be transported by belted, belt driven roller or modular slat chain conveyors.
What size, style and number of guide rails will be required? Does the conveyed product need to be safety guarded to prevent uncontrolled operator access? For example if the product could cause injury due to its weight, temperature or material content sufficient safety guards will be necessary.
All these different characteristics will affect the type of conveyor which will perform efficiently with a specific set of products.
4. Production rate or warehouse throughput
The production rate or throughput refers to the volume of product you need to process and move around the warehouse or facility each day. Knowing how much material has to be conveyed from a pick-up point to a drop-off point, often via processing stations, will determine the speed of the conveyor.
It is also important to think about the projected product transfers. How will products get onto the conveyor and be taken off at the end or at intermediate points along the way? Will an accumulation facility be required to allow products to queue up or buffer on a conveyor in-between processes such as before entering a sortation system? Certainly, many conveyor solutions have a zero-pressure accumulation system to avoid back pressure on a build-up of products on the conveyor line.
5. Cost of conveyor equipment
Set a realistic budget and get it approved at the very beginning of the project. Check the potential costs of different conveyor solutions as early as possible in your discussions with a supplier. Assessing the financial feasibility of the solution early on will save time and embarrassment if you end up pursuing a system that you can’t afford.
Check out the ROI (return on investment) timeline – your supplier will help you determine exactly how long it is likely to take for the equipment to pay back your investment in the system.
Selecting the most appropriate technology for your conveying requirements will enable your facility to run at the highest efficiency as well as giving you the greatest return on your investment.
6. Layout – space availability for a conveyor system
It goes without saying that it is important to design and build a conveyor system to fit the operating space you have available. Floor space and ceiling constraints can greatly impact the design of a materials handling system.
It is necessary to take into account the way your production flows around the warehouse, whether there will be incline or decline requirements as well as product transfers.
Where to place a conveyor in a warehouse
Conveyors don’t have to be floor mounted; to save space and maximise the footprint of your facility it may be possible to hang conveyors from the ceiling or on walls at various heights.
Always remember, however, health and safety, and maintenance issues. Sufficient space has to be left around the conveyor system to keep workers safe as well as allowing access for cleaning and maintenance of the equipment. Also be aware that access to a piece of production equipment or to fire exit routes cannot be blocked off by the conveyor system.
7. Type of warehouse operation
Define the type of operation you are running to determine the style of conveyor that will work best for you. What volume of products needs to be moved and what is the window of time to move them? What is the demand at the drop off or processing points? How much product needs to be on the conveyor to avoid starving processing points down the line?
Is your facility the type that requires a constant flow of products going onto the conveyor or are products fed into the system in batches? Whatever your type of operation, your supplier will recommend the most effective conveyor system for your facility.
8. Environmental influences within the warehouse
Are there any environmental influences in your facility that will affect the design of your conveyor system? Is the temperature inside very hot with high humidity or cold and damp? Are there any vibrations from nearby machinery that could affect the conveyor system?
Is the area a food or pharma processing area, will it be subject to wash-down requirements? Is the installation in a controlled area, such as explosive risk (ATEX rating) or a certified cleanroom (to what level)? Does the equipment require a specific IP (Ingress Protection) rating?
These influences will have a direct impact on the way your conveyor system will be designed for maximum operational efficiency.
9. Is your conveyor energy efficient?
Checking that your new materials handling system is energy efficient is a priority, especially today as energy costs continue to rise at an exponential rate.
Modern equipment is designed to run extremely efficiently with reduced energy consumption and a ‘sleep’ mode which enables the conveyor to shut down automatically when there are no products on the system.
10. Maintenance and support of your conveyors
If your conveyor system goes down, potentially it can be very costly. It is vital, therefore, to get it up and running as quickly as possible.
Purchasing reliable, quality equipment in the first place will, of course, help minimise downtime. Additionally, regular cleaning and preventative maintenance of the conveyor system is the best way to minimise downtime. Putting in place a regular maintenance schedule, supported by a dependable engineering team who can rectify any problems swiftly, either offsite or onsite, is an absolutely vital part of your conveyor solution.
If you take the time to select the right conveyor solution for your operation there is no doubt that you will realise the benefits in terms of increased throughput and efficiency. Partnering with a reliable supplier who is on your wavelength is essential and will make all the difference. If you would like more information or have a project to discuss contact Axiom GB on 01827 61212.