Column Insights: Keep Your Conveyors Running Smoothly by Creating a Bench Stock of Common Replacement Parts

By Steve Stuff, Director of Parts & Service, Dorner Mfg. Corp.

When it comes to manufacturing – conveyors are just as critical as the machinery slicing product or equipment packaging items. That’s because if the conveyor system goes down for maintenance, the entire line goes with it.

Conveyors generally don’t require a lot of maintenance to keep them running. But when they do need your attention, having a bench stock with the right parts on hand can go a long way toward keeping the packaging line operating smoothly. Without a bench stock, it may take two or more days to receive a replacement part – and that delay affects production. Here are a few steps to get you started in creating a bench stock of parts for your conveyors.

Get a parts audit – Any reputable conveyor supplier knows there is no one-size-fits-all maintenance solution, and will be happy to help with a parts audit, free of charge. Parts specialists may be able to visit your facility to evaluate your conveyor systems, then prepare a recommended parts list and a report of any pending maintenance concerns. Essentially, a parts audit helps you develop a parts plan by streamlining the inspection, repair, and maintenance process for your conveyor system.

Check the list – With the audit recommendations in hand for your conveyors, order specified parts such as pulleys, belts, drive belts and other common replacement items. Having these parts readily available reduces conveyor downtime. And after operating your conveyors for a while, you’ll know which parts may require additional maintenance, so keep an extra stock of those items. With belts, a general rule is to keep at least two replacement belts for each style of conveyor operating in a plant. That way, if two belts are damaged in a matter of days, the belts can be quickly replaced with minimal downtime to the overall operation it supports. Often, conveyor suppliers will help you save time by bundling parts for pulleys and other assemblies together for ordering.

Create an inventory database – As a way to manage conveyor equipment, consider creating an inventory database for your conveyors. Your database can be as simple or extensive as you want it to be, but should list key information such as:

  • Conveyor make and model
  • Conveyor length and belt width dimensions
  • Type of motor
  • Type of belt
  • Serial numbers
  • Date of last maintenance check
  • Date of next inspection
  • Type of maintenance performed
  • Contact information of the conveyor manufacturer

Educate your staff – While frontline workers don’t need to know the intricacies of conveyor design and operation, they should be aware of the warning signs of a looming problem, such as recognizing a frayed belt, belt slippage or hearing unfamiliar noises. This is another area where your conveyor supplier can help. Along with a parts audit, they can offer you preventative or predictive maintenance training for your staff.

From an operational standpoint, belt tracking is the biggest problem that can shut down a conveyor. If a belt isn’t tracking properly, it will run along the edge of the conveyor frame and become frayed. Inspect the edges of the belt for fraying or signs of wear; these symptoms are a sign that the belt isn’t tracked properly. If possible, carefully touch the tail plate to check for warmth; heat is often a symptom of bearing wear/failure or a belt tracking issue. Some conveyors today come with V-guide tracking to help ensure true belt flow over the bed plate. As implied by its name, V-guide tracking has a V-shaped grove manufactured into the bed plate, with a polyurethane strip attached to the underside of the belt to provide consistent tracking.

Conclusion

Conveyors are often overlooked when it comes to maintenance of equipment out on the shop floor. That’s because they’ve built up a good reputation through the years for plugging them in and forgetting about them. But by establishing a working bench stock of parts, and being observant to their performance, conveyors will keep product moving for years to come. If you have further questions about creating a bench stock for your conveyor system, visit Dorner (dornerconveyors.com) in booth 924 at PACK EXPO East, April 16-18, in Philadelphia.

Steve Stuff has been the Director of Parts & Service for Dorner Mfg Corp. since 2011. Steve has also held the titles of director of web applications, director of sales support, manager of marketing and international sales, and international sales manager during his 31-year career at Dorner. He can be reached at 800.397.8664 or steve.stuff@dorner.com.