Quantum strides have been made in the development of synthetic conveyor belts over the last sixty years and the variety of belt types available allows manufacturers to finely tune their processes for efficiency, safety and practicality.
The belt is arguably the most visible component on a conveyor but there are other factors to ponder in a search for the optimum conveyor. Here are five important aspects to consider when specifying your next conveyor or conveyor system:
Will it comply with hygienic and safety design standards?
Safety is a priority in food manufacturing. Guidance relating to food conveyors for example are provided by the FDA, USDA, EHEDG, HACCP, ISO22000:2005 and the EU regulations. Each one publishes a document that specifies best practice on their specific area of interest. In addition, food approved belts are issued with compliance certificates. Ensure compliance.
Will it fulfil the specification?
A defined performance requirement is essential. The belt is the interface between the product and the plant. The conveyor should be built around the belt and not the other way around. The application parameters of the belt should dictate the mechanical specification of the conveyor. If the product, for example, needs a small transfer point, the belt should be capable of negotiating small roller diameters. It’s not unheard of for a conveyor to be built for a belt that doesn’t exist! Conveyor capacity (plus a margin), protection against product wastage, interoperability with existing machinery and footprint availability are all essential.
Will it be futureproof?
Sometimes, with a requirement for a change of production within a food plant, perfectly serviceable machinery is often discarded. Consideration should be given to the adaptability and potential multi-use of a conveyor. Features such as modularity, mobility and adjustability can bring value and longevity to an otherwise single-use item and save future expenditure. Good quality conveyors are rarely cheap but extra features can save money in the long-term.
Will it be easily maintained?
Over time, a conveyor will wear and drift out of adjustment. The item most prone to this is the belt. Maintenance-free belts such as positively driven monolithic types are worth considering. The need for tension adjustment is eliminated and there’s even a belt from
From some manufacturers which track themselves because there is no tension, the conveyor frame isn’t stressed, which lengthens the lifespan of the unit. A design that allows endless belts to be fitted is also a feature with big benefits. Easy access to all wear parts such as quick release rollers, panels and guards are should-have features.
Will it be easily maintained and cleaned?
Features that assist easy maintenance as previously described, are often the same features that contribute to achieving best-practice in terms of cleaning. Following USDA, EU and FDA standards will ensure compliance but there are features that aren’t mandated, yet certainly speed up and improve cleaning and hygiene performance. Features such as quickly detachable guards, easily removable rollers, belt de-tensioners and removable belts all provide easy access to the inner workings of the conveyor but also add cost. The higher initial investment, however, is recouped through reduced labour costs and lower water consumption which are two considerable overheads in a food plant. A conveyor built to this standard and fitted with a removable monolithic belt, only uses twenty-per cent of the water and labour used to clean a conveyor fitted with a modular belt and, as a bonus, the belt will be far cleaner as a result of its smooth surfaces and lack of connecting pins.
When specifying a conveyor, belt choice is critical and should be the first consideration in terms of operational application. The clever money is spent on well-constructed and carefully thought-out equipment. A conveyor that is flexible enough to accommodate several different roles in its life will be less expensive in the long run. Ease of maintenance reduces labour and downtime which, can be easily quantified.