Breathing Life Back into an Aging Conveyor System
In many operations an aging sortation system represents the single point of failure, if it goes down it will bring an entire operation to its knees. As equipment ages and changes occur in the facility’s operations, many systems no longer meet the current needs of the operation or still do not meet the factory stated mean time between failure (MTBF) levels as they did when the system was first installed.
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Where do I start? Maintenance audits!
An operational and/or facility audit can be an excellent place to start in order to gain insight into the condition of your system. It is often helpful to have an independent 3rd party provide a summary report of either the physical wear or operational performance of an aging system.
Maintenance audits analyze the current condition of the hardware in a facility and assess many factors:
- Historical maintenance record
- Condition of wear items in the system
- Downtime logs to assess root cause
- Meet with both operational and maintenance stakeholders
- And other critical factors
In addition to evaluating the physical state of the system many times an operational audit can uncover that the use of the system or the requirements of the system has changed. For example, when materials to be handled or rate changes on a system does the system still meet the needs?
For Example: if the weighted average of cartons handled on the system increase from a length perspective, can the system achieve the rate being asked of it? Many times, changes upstream in the system to controls systems, merges, and possibly induction methodology needs to be changed to meet the new requirements of the operation.
Q. Are maintenance and performance audits mutually exclusive?
A. The answer is no, but they are critically linked to one another.
Proper maintenance can increase the uptime of a system that can impact a system both positively and negatively, on overall operational efficiency and throughput. For instance, operational drivers can cause excessive wear and also impact a systems ability to meet the new needs of a business, ultimately resulting in unplanned downtime and increased operational expense.
On a recent Sorter Audit we found that as a system aged and its wear components like chain, track, and tubes neared the end of their lives, the overall operational requirements of the system also changed. When evaluating the replacement of sorter tubes a recommendation was made to change the carrier to slat type carriers that can more reliably handle smaller cartons. This enhancement prevented spin outs and jams on the system dramatically. At the same time by installing heavy duty slats to the machine rather than the original tube based design thus increasing the overall life expectancy and reliability of this system.
After rebuilding the sorter chain and replacing the tubes with a slat based design significant improvements were seen immediately. After testing and calibration by a controls engineer on the sorter’s PLC the customer was seeing the highest efficiency levels with zero mis diverts or jams. The ultimate result was that over an hour was saved each day compared to prior to the audit and rebuild.