While conveyor systems can help you create warehouse efficiency and optimize operations, they are both a major investment and a serious decision. You want the best equipment you can buy for your money, so it’s important to factor in considerations such as the Total Cost of Ownership to determine how you can maximize the investment over the long term.
To ensure you get the most out of your conveyor system now and in the future, it’s also important to allow adequate time for testing prior to getting the new system up and running. There could be hidden mechanical issues that would delay production, or any number of other problems that may need to be adjusted so the conveyor system can perform at peak efficiency.
So how do you test your conveyor for performance? Follow this 5-step checklist.
Don’t take warehouse safety lightly. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show there were 3 million nonfatal and more than 4,000 fatal workplace injuries reported in 2013 alone. Companies need to be prioritizing workplace safety.
Conveyor safety begins with a visual safety inspection. Are all the guards in place? Are the emergency pull-stops accessible at any point along the line? Are the safety stickers easy to locate and read? It’s also important to ensure the mechanical and junction boxes are closed.
2) Function Testing
After completing the safety inspection, proceed to function testing. To allow for a controlled evaluation process, place a small number of items on the conveyor from various in-feed points.
At this point, look for obvious flaws: Are all the belts functioning properly? Are the diverters and merges working as they should be? Are cartons hanging up anywhere in the system? If so, where? Why?
3) Load Testing
Function testing is effective at identifying any major system flaws, but it’s also important to fully load the system to see how it performs at full capacity.
During load testing, examine the system under high volume. Is load spacing correct? Do any cartons (or other load types if you’re using those) bunch up? To check how the system handles massive throughput and detect where conveyor bottlenecks might occur, try deliberately overloading areas.
4) Error Recovery
Error recovery tests primarily check system controls and recovery procedures. Examples of system errors could include barcode or RFID misreads, as well as products improperly inducted or removed from the system mid-stream.
It’s important to run “operator error” as well as conveyor system error checks. For example, operators could stop and start sections of the system to see how it would handle these power shifts.
5) “What If” Scenarios
In addition to error recovery tests, you should also consider running “what if” scenarios to see how the conveyor system reacts to unplanned events, operator misuse, or worst-case scenarios. An example “what if” scenario might involve an operator pushing two buttons at once or pushing one button by mistake and then pushing the correct button a moment or two later.
Get creative here. You should create as many “what if” scenarios as you can imagine, so you can see first-hand how the system responds to operator errors.
Specifying the right conveyor system to suit your needs is a big decision. So why wouldn’t you want to get the most out of your investment?
With proper performance testing, you can ensure that your conveyor system works at peak efficiency today and in the future. After all, it’s easier to make modifications during testing than after you’ve already gotten the system into production.
What steps is your organization taking to perform proper conveyor performance testing? Do you agree with our 5-step testing checklist?