What is a Conveyor System? Definition and More

A conveyor system is an efficient and fast mechanical handling device that automatically transports loads and materials within a given area. This system reduces errors, minimizes risks in the workplace and lowers labor costs. These devices are used to transport heavy or bulky items from one place to the next. To transport objects, a conveyor system can use a belt or wheels, rollers, or chain.

How do conveyor systems work?

Conveyor systems typically consist of a belt that is stretched across multiple pulleys. To allow it to rotate continuously, the belt wraps around the pulleys. The drive pulley is the pulley that drives the belt and moves items from one place to the next.

Most conveyor systems use a rotor as the power source for the belt and drive pulley. Through friction between the surfaces, the belt stays attached to the rotating rotor. The belt must move in the same direction as the idler and drive pulley to be effective.

Although conventional conveyor systems like moving walkways or grocery store conveyors are straight, it is sometimes necessary for the unit to turn in order to deliver the items. The unique cone-shaped wheels and rotors allow the belt to bend or twist while not getting tangled.

Conveyor systems have many benefits
A conveyor system’s main function is to move objects from one place to the next. This design allows the movement of heavy and bulky objects that are too large or awkward to be carried by humans.

Conveyor systems make it easier to transport items from one place to the next. Conveyor systems can be bent to allow items to be moved up and down floors. This is a benefit over manual lifting. Inlined belts can unload material automatically, eliminating the need to have someone on the other end to receive it.

Examples and types of conveyor systems

Imagine a warehouse full of conveyors that use belts and rollers for moving heavy equipment. But this is only one type of conveyor system. Conveyor systems are also found in airports where they are used to transport luggage. Ski lifts and escalators are two other examples. To move heavy objects from one place to the next, these apparatuses still require a belt or chain with pulleys.

There are many types and styles of conveyor systems.

Transfer of balls
Walking beam
Each type of conveyor has a particular purpose. A slat conveyor is made of slats, plates, or a belt and is intended for heavy material. A slat system is able to move materials that are too heavy or large for traditional belt movements.

An example of a chain-driven conveyor is the escalator. The chain conveyor does not use a pulley system to pull items along. Instead, it uses a towing system that pulls steps in either an upward or downward motion.

An overhead conveyor is used in ski lifts. These machines use an electric track that pulls the chairs up and down the mountainside. These systems are similar to an escalator and use a chain-driven, towing system.

Important parts of a conveyor network

The main components of a conveyor system are the belt support, pulley and drive unit. Each component plays an important role in the operation of the conveyor unit. These conveyor parts are found in all conveyor systems, but designs differ in terms of the materials used and where they are located.

The belt support is what makes sure the belt moves smoothly. The support unit must be firm to prevent the belt from sagging when workers place heavy objects on it. This causes the belt to not move as smoothly and swiftly as it should. A firm support unit helps keep the belt taut and keeps it running smoothly.

The belt movement is controlled by the pulley system, an external component. Each unit must have at least two pulleys: one that is powered and one that is inactive. Additional rotors may be required for more complex conveyor systems.

The drive unit allows the system’s movement. The counter bearing in the unit keeps the parts moving smoothly. This unit allows the belt to be moved in reverse and can manage repeated changes in direction for certain systems. Manually operated conveyor systems may be available. These conveyor systems are still operated by a drive unit, but they are not motorized.

How to choose the best conveyor system
A conveyor acts more or less as a central nervous network for all operations that handle, store, distribute or manufacture products. Warehouse managers and other stakeholders may find it difficult to select the right conveyor system due to the many conveyor types available and the hundreds of configurations that are possible.

There are many factors you should consider when choosing the right conveyor system for your warehouse or distribution center. Both product and process requirements should be considered simultaneously.

An ideal conveyor system must first be:

Operationally safe
Energy efficient
Reliable parts and components that are built to last
Flexible to changing needs
It is cost-effective in terms of TCO or total cost of ownership
The wrong conveyor system can quickly cause warehouse operations to be less efficient, which will lead to lower costs and customer satisfaction. This could eventually make the company lose its competitive edge.

Let’s now discuss factors to consider when selecting and evaluating the right conveyor system.

Requirements for product
A conveyor system is basically used to transport items between different functional areas in a distribution center. The type of item to be moved will dictate the design, dimensions, and type of conveyor system that is to be used.

The following questions can help you determine the design and configuration requirements for the right conveyor system for you. They also help you calculate horsepower and belt pull for each conveyor.

What product type is being carried?
How heavy is your product per foot?
What is the maximum product weight?
What are the minimum, maximum, and average dimensions of the product? (i.e. length, width, and height)
What are the dimensions of each product?
What orientation and how are the products conveyed?
Your decision-making process will be greatly affected by factors such as product dimensions, weight, and fragility. Your facility’s dimensions will affect the conveyor width, guide rail specifications, and roller centers. The product weight will also determine the roller gauge, roller diameter, and motor sizing requirements.

Process requirements
These requirements include factors that determine how the conveyor should move, and the specific operating conditions. These factors include:

Distance items must be moved between functional areas
Its path — Are there stops, elevation changes or curves?
Product orientation — items must be placed in a specific way to allow for easy scanning of barcodes and transfer. )?
What is the speed of transfer? Is it short, fast, or slow, steady?
Ambient environment
Space available
Flow rate
Your facility’s average transfer speed should be sufficient to move the maximum amount of products. It also needs to be capable of handling peak periods due to seasonal fluctuations. Conveyor length and speed will be determined by how many products you need to transport in an hour or per minute.

Certain types of conveyors work best with certain products. For wooden pallets, a large-sized plastic conveyor can be used to transfer them. A chain-driven roller conveyor can do the same. The former can be used to move smaller boxes and tetras than the latter.

Transfer requirements
It is crucial to determine where the items are transferred from and to the conveyor. Many conveyors employ side-to-side transfers, powered transfers and dead plates. Gravity rollers are also used. This is done to make it easier. For products with smaller footprints, a powered transfer may be required. However, larger or longer products may require gravity rollers.

What is the cost of conveyor systems?
Modern warehouses are incapable of handling the high throughput required to ensure efficient order fulfillment. Conveyor systems increase productivity, improve ergonomics, and reduce product damage. They also make it easier to access materials and create fewer hazards at work.

For small and medium-sized businesses, however, it can be costly to purchase, install, and maintain such systems over the life of the business. The cost can vary from hundreds of thousands to millions depending on many factors, including:

Types of conveyor systems
Overall length
Needed speed
Curve and transfer method
According to the following assumptions, current estimates of a Belt Curve AC or Roller Curve AC conveyor will cost you approximately $5,243 and $2.686, respectively.

Curves — 90 degrees
Speeds — 65-90 feet per minute
9-inch rollers for 3-inch centers
Overall width — 24 in
Not all costs are upfront for conveyor equipment. You will also need to consider the cost of reorganizing your warehouse to accommodate the conveyor system. Installation can take time and could impact order fulfillment and other warehouse activities. Finally, annual operating and maintenance costs would likely outweigh the initial purchase and installation cost.

Consider your budget, speed of work, space, constraints and your loading and unloading requirements when considering a conveyor system. Conveyor systems, for example, are not portable and require significant changes to your infrastructure. There are other options that can automate and improve your warehouse operations, which are more cost-effective and affordable.


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