Conveyors are a critical part of the processing lines in many operations, moving material within or between process steps. Because conveyors are so integral to the production process, unplanned downtime has significant consequences for the entire operation: an unplanned downtime event can bring an entire line down, robbing throughput and revenue while driving costs. In this blog, we present four tips for keeping your line moving with a conveyor parts plan.
Tip #1: Know the critical parts
Critical parts are those whose failure halts the operation of a conveyor and/or endangers the safety of personnel. Critical parts can also include those that are in short supply or difficult to obtain, have a long lead time, are expensive to buy, have high maintenance requirements, or require special handling. Critical conveyor parts often include the following components:
- Drive Motors
- Reducers and gears
- Drive belts and chains
Conveyor manufacturers often include a list of recommended spare parts which should be kept on hand as a bench stock at all times. Trying to save costs by relying on the OEM to expedite these parts in the event of an unplanned failure may be false economy: many hours of costly downtime may still be incurred before the parts arrive, even if the OEM is very responsive.
Following an OEM’s recommendations for which spare parts to keep on hand does not eliminate the need to keep a parts failure history to identify parts which have a higher frequency of failure. This point is addressed in Tip #3.
Tip #2: Keep a bench stock of critical parts
As noted above, some companies, in an attempt to save costs, do not maintain bench stocks of critical parts on hand. Knowing the parts that are critical for the operation of a conveyor is only one piece of the puzzle; having these parts on hand at all times is another.
Ensuring the ready availability of critical parts means maintaining a bench stock of parts in adequate quantities. This requires knowing several things, including the rate of consumption of the part and the replenishment lead time from the OEM, and then using this information to establish appropriate trigger points for reordering replenishment stock from the OEM. Failure to control the inventories of bench stocks can result in parts stockouts which can be disastrous should an unplanned downtime event occur.
Tip #3: Establish and maintain a database of parts history usage
Analysis of a conveyor’s parts usage history can reveal the components and parts which are consumed and replaced most frequently. Parts with high usage rate may represent a real downtime risk, even if they do not appear on an OEM’s list of recommended spare parts to keep on hand. Parts usage history can be monitored by maintaining a parts database for each conveyor and tracking the failure occurrences of each part. Parts which show a high failure rate, and which are essential for the operation of the conveyor, should be included in the bench stock of spare parts. Including these items in bench stocks will increase the probability that you can get a conveyor back online quickly should an unplanned downtime event occur.
Tip #4: Implement Predictive Maintenance practices and routines
Preventive Maintenance (PM) practices and routines are aimed at preventing problems before they occur. Regular equipment inspections, an important component of Preventive Maintenance, can identify problems before they become a downtime event. Operators should be trained in Autonomous Maintenance practices, and equipment inspections should occur within the time intervals recommended by the manufacturer. Frequent inspections have been shown to reduce the incidence of downtime – performing daily, weekly, monthly, and semi-annual inspections can identify worn or broken parts sooner, helping to prevent downtime events. If your facility does not have the resources to perform frequent inspections, consider outsourcing this function to an external maintenance service.
A weakness of many Preventive Maintenance programs is that they are time- or calendar-based, rather than being designed around the actual usage and condition of the equipment. As opposed to Preventive Maintenance, Predictive Maintenance (PdM) is a condition-based maintenance strategy that is designed around the actual condition of a conveyor. Under a Predictive Maintenance approach, maintenance activities are triggered by checking key indicators of equipment health for signs of deteriorating performance or possible failure. Indicators that may be checked include performing non-invasive measurements, conducting visual inspections, or reviewing performance data and the results of scheduled tests.
Implementing the above tips can help to formulate a robust conveyor parts plan that will help keep your conveyors and lines moving. At UniTrak, we help our customers to protect their throughput with offerings that deliver industry-leading reliability and responsive service and support. All UniTrak equipment lines, including TipTrak™ bucket elevators, Powderflight aeromechanicals, UniFlex flexible screws, KleanTrak sanitary conveyors, and Bagstander bulk bag fillers/unloaders, are purpose-built for each application using the highest quality designs, materials, and workmanship. To find out more about how UniTrak conveyors can help keep your throughput moving, please contact our sales team.