By John Peter Koss
In the USA alone, there are hundreds of conveyor and conveyor accessory manufacturers. Materials, drives and types comprise the vast array of attributes that must be analyzed to choose the “best conveyor” for an intended beverage packaged production application. In this selection process, the conveyor role becomes a significant factor and is driven by constant changes in production line speeds, container configurations and specifications, input and output equipment, downtime experiences and cost containment.
Conveyor manufacturers are being challenged to meet the changing conditions with hi-tech flexible products at a competitive cost and in a timely manner. The challenge is accentuated by the fact that several types of conveyors are usually required on a beverage production line which may involve several manufacturers requiring an integrated design approach. In most beverage production line design projects, more time is spent on conveyor segments than individual machinery components. This is true because machine components usually perform one major function on the package. For example: Rinsing, filling, closing, labeling, wrapping, casing and palletizing operations are performed on individual machines—all connected with a variety of conveyors to handle containers, packages and cases. And, because there are high-frequency variable conditions, conveyors are subjected to mandatory adaptability. Conveyors throughout the packaging process are a critical ingredient that must be contained.
Observations, even in a high tech sophisticated line with touch screens, automated downtime recording and controlled lubrication, have revealed the need for better maintenance and containment for conveyor investments. Inadvertently, machine components seem to get more PM (preventive maintenance) attention than the input-output conveyors at each operation station. Several factors may have contributed to lesser attention such as: 1) improved side guide bars to cope with container changes; 2) non-lubricated chain to eliminate difficult-to-control lubricants; 3) increased use of air conveying to reduce line friction and 4) improved conveyor drives to reduce jams, malfunctions and other downtime.
Further analysis of bottle and can lines shows conveyors continue to be a source of line stoppage with varied reasons ranging from inadequate daily cleaning to omission of scheduled maintenance and required adjustments. The critical nature of conveyors cannot be over-emphasized. They are the back bone of package creation on all beverage lines regardless of speed or technological improvement. For this reason, conveyor containment from functional and productive perspectives should be a high priority management objective (initiative). All type conveyors, throughout the packaging process, represent considerable investment and a containment program affords protection and productivity for that investment. Such a program should involve 1) initial design selection, 2) productive and preventive maintenance and 3) utilization efficiency. This would be the “best practice” to follow, rather than no practice at all.
John Peter Koss, a beverage operations advisor, is a licensed registered professional engineer and has 50-plus years of beverage business experience. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.