How a Collaborative Experience Among Partners, Manufacturers and End Users Creates a Culture of Best Practice in Conveyor Relationships — published in Business Excellence May 2014
The historical perspective is easy to grasp. Automated product movement is a well-established, easily understood concept. It is so familiar and normative that many in the material handling sector consider conveyance technology little more than a commodity. That is a wild oversimplification. Conveyor solutions are developed from dynamic and complex challenges which require safe, ergonomic, tested and proven products, developed by creative people with a focus on lean manufacturing continuous process improvement.
According to Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA), the only trade association dedicated solely to improving the proficiency of the independent material handling equipment distributor, conveyor systems have been an integral part of material handling for more than a century, and transport of bulk materials by conveyor belts dates back to around 1795; the vast majority of these early iterations were used to move grains over very short distances. The first conveyor belt systems were very primitive and consisted of a leather, canvas or rubber belt traveling over a flat wooden bed. This rudimentary system was successful enough to provide incentive for engineers to consider conveyors as an economical and efficient way to haul large quantities of bulk material from one location to another.
By the turn of the 20th century, conveyors were being used in the Minneapolis – St. Paul area to unload wooden shingles from railcars. Conveyors are now used for thousands of additional applications, particularly moving items in manufacturing plants and distribution centers.
Hytrol Conveyor Company’s first conveyor, designed by founder Tom Loberg in 1947, moved bags of seed in preparation for stacking, and folded when not in use. Loberg discovered that the right angle reducer he had designed for a rotary lawn mower was just the right size to make a belt run at the proper speed on a conveyor.