Maximize your conveyor design, operation

Keep safety and reliability at the top of the list when putting a new system in place.


A worker writes down identification information from a conveyor. This is helpful when establishing a preventive maintenance program and bench stock for your conveyor systems.Quick—name the manufacturers of the conveyors in your plant. How about the specific series, or types of styles—can you name those as well? Most people can’t.

Often, conveyors are an afterthought to finishing a project. After all, they just move things from Point A to Point B, right? That depends on what engineering has in mind for them. While some conveyors simply move product from one point to the next, other conveyors are outfitted to handle much more complex processing. 

Getting the most from your conveyor system is one way to help improve your company’s bottom line. A few things to consider in maximizing conveyor output are selecting the proper conveyors for the application and making sure they are properly maintained to avoid downtime. 

Selecting your conveyors

Although your new piece of equipment or machinery may still only exist on the drawing board, you should consider early on in the designing phase the performance specifications of all supporting conveyors, as well as any features and benefits the conveyor system ought to have. 

After you have a fairly good idea of what kind of performance you’ll need from your conveyors, the next step is to decide whether or not to build the conveyors in-house or purchase them from a supplier. 

Many plant operators, integrators, and OEMs choose to build their own conveyors. Although traveling this route may seem to be a money-saving idea, the cons outweigh the pros of building conveyors in-house. Here’s why.

It takes time to build conveyors from scratch. When all the resources are added up—time to design, locate, and purchase needed parts, and finally spending the man-hours to build the conveyor system—the savings isn’t much of a savings at all. And once the system is completed, just how reliable is it? Remember, all components of the equipment or machinery that bears your company’s name are a direct reflection on your company. If something rather small like the supporting conveyor system continually fails, what kind of impression is that piece of equipment or machinery with your company’s name on it going to leave?   

How about replacement parts? If the bearings on the conveyor you built are shot, how quickly will you be able to obtain replacement parts and make the repair? Conveyors made in-house most likely will have parts purchased from various suppliers. If those suppliers discontinue making the parts you need as replacements, or even go out of business, you could be left scrambling to get the conveyors back in action. 

Another area to consider when building conveyors in-house is the employee who builds them. What happens if that person quits or retires? Will someone else be able to step in with the required knowledge to properly service the conveyors if maintenance is required? There are a lot of unknown factors that can creep up when building conveyors in-house.

Supplier benefits

Conveyor systems built professionally by a reputable supplier, on the other hand, come with benefits unseen with in-house built conveyors. For starters, conveyor manufacturers typically do only one thing—build conveyors. So features such as quality and dependability are more likely to shine through than for in-house built conveyors. 

A second benefit is speed. How long will it take an employee at your company to design and build a conveyor system, in addition to doing other assigned tasks? Lead times for professionally built conveyors with some companies have steadily decreased to only a few days. Why spend the time and resources to task your employee to design and build the conveyors when you can have them built specifically for your application, and have them up and running in a week? Your employee’s time can be better spent doing something else. 

A third benefit is the assurance that you'll get a properly built conveyor for your exact application. Many conveyor manufacturers design and build a conveyor system to fit precisely into your application. For example, if you need a conveyor that's 11 ft by 3 1/2 in. by 15 in., no problem. Conveyors built to precise specifications will not only work better in your machinery, they'll probably also look better, too. Again, the supporting conveyor system is a reflection on your equipment or machinery. If it looks sloppy or poorly built, your company’s name can suffer.  &

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