Conveyors are the backbone of effective material handling systems. In fact, conveyor systems in manufacturing and warehouse operations can significantly reduce costs, increase productivity, drive throughput, align with lean principles, and create a safer, more ergonomic production environment.
Short delays can occur on just about any type of conveying equipment. But what happens when bottlenecks form along your conveyor line? How do you determine the root of the problem in order to keep the product flowing to machines and maximize throughput?
Here are 5 best practices for preventing conveyor bottlenecks from occurring and keeping your operation running smoothly:
- Robotic palletizing: Picture what it’s like to have a minimum of three workers lug a heavy 5-gallon pail off a conveyor, over to a pallet, and into stacked position – in 3 minutes time. Even the most efficient of workers can’t possibly match the speed and precision of a robotic palletizing system. Since robots work tirelessly and perform consistently, automation frees up expensive manpower for more valuable work requiring the human touch (and it helps avoid inefficiencies and ergonomic issues workers may face along the conveyor line).
- Packing stations: The packing area is a common conveyor bottleneck, especially in distribution applications. When workers spend more time packing orders (as opposed to trying to locate product, supplies, or tools), the packing area becomes exponentially more efficient. Packing stations can be custom-designed and integrated into a company’s order fulfillment and material handling systems.
- Regular conveyor inspections: Because conveyor maintenance tends to focus on end-of-line areas where the conveyor interfaces with packing stations or palletizers, it’s all the more important to pay attention to hard-to-reach areas, where people are more likely to ignore or skip maintenance. Inspecting a conveyor at regular intervals can both help avoid expensive and time-consuming repairs and ensure it runs at all times (including when you need it most, such as rush times).
- Common fixes to problems: Conveyor service is expensive and you can often avoid it by knowing the fixes to common issues. If, for instance, packages are accumulating in one area of the conveyor, it could be because the photo eye is dirty, obstructed, or offset. If load will not accumulate on one or more zones, on the other hand, check the air lines for kinks. For more common fixes to problems, check out 10 ways to optimize conveyor operations and productivity.
- Facility upgrades: Many companies find themselves facing capacity constraints due to high growth in product volume. This was the case with Mouser Electronics’ distribution center in Mansfield, Texas. The company worked with Cisco-Eagle to design and implement a new material handling system featuring Hytrol conveyors that would help alleviate bottlenecks caused by increasing volumes in Mouser’s consolidation, packing, and shipping areas.
Operations that ship, receive, store, handle, manufacture, or distribute as a core part of their mission know that a conveyor system functions as their operation’s physical nervous system. In other words, it’s one thing that must operate for everything else to function.
Do you agree with the above best practices for preventing conveyor bottlenecks from occurring? How does your organization optimize conveyor operations and productivity?