Conveyor systems are at the heart of any automatic packaging system. Without the conveyor system, the individual packaging machines may still work, but they will lose an incredible amount of efficiency in the transfer from one machine to the next. So what do most packagers and manufacturers consider when planning and designing a new conveyor system? Of course size and space come into consideration, but there are other factors as well.
Probably the first thing that popped into everyone\'s mind was speed. The conveyors have to be fast in order to get out as much product as possible right? All that matters is they move the bottles fast enough to meet production demands! While speed is obviously a factor that almost all packagers will take into account, there are alternatives to moving as fast as possible at all times, just as there are benefits to not moving as fast as possible at all times. Too much speed can lead to bottle jams, crashes or less than reliable packaging, all of which can affect the bottom line. A packager has alternatives such as adding a second shift to a production line, that will also complete the task without sacrificing in other areas. While speed is undoubtedly important, it is not the only factor that will be considered by most packagers.
SAFETY - WORKERS
Not all power conveyors are manufactured equally. Experienced packagers will look at the frame, design and material used for the conveyor system. Moving belts can always be a danger to workers, and conveyors can produce a number of different pinch points. Many packagers will inspect a design or a conveyor to ensure that these pinch points are well protected and guarded, so as to avoid employee injury on the line. Conveyors will also run under packaging machines such as container cleaning equipment, liquid fillers and capping machines. The combination of conveyor and packaging machine can create additional danger areas and pinch points. The safety precautions taken by the manufacturer will be passed on to, and appreciated by, the packager.
SAFETY - MATERIALS
Conveyors will use rails to stabilize and guide bottles through the system. The conveyor must be designed and built so that the rails can perform their job without damaging product, container, cap, label or other packaging material. While this seems like common sense, conveyor systems should be tested prior to installation with the actual materials that will be used for production runs. This will help to ensure transfer without scratching, marring or crushing of any of the packaging materials or spilling of the product.
EASE OF CHANGEOVER
Related to both the safety of the materials and the speed is the ease with which the conveyor system can be changed over to handle different containers. Normally, simple hand knob type adjustments can be made to widen or narrow the conveyor lane. The same type of adjustments can be made to raise or lower guide rails to stabilize taller or shorter containers. Quick, easy changeover leads to more time producing ready for the shelf products and less time working on the conveyor system.
Each and every conveyor system should be hand tailored to the project for which it is being manufactured. In this sense, all conveyor systems are custom conveyor systems. But from time to time automatic conveyors will require something more than an extra set of guide rails for tall bottles. Special belting may be required for high heat applications or anti-static needs. Special materials for the conveyors themselves may also be required for corrosive products such as acid or bleach.
The key to choosing the ideal automatic conveyors for your packaging system is to know your product and needs well, before beginning the search for the conveyor system. Understand that the considerations go beyond speed and that the conveyor system will contribute to the overall efficiency and reliability of the packaging line as a whole. Protect your products, protect your employees and protect your investments.