Choosing the Right Conveyor – Part 3

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Industrial Duty Conveyors vs. Light Duty Conveyors

This is Part 3 of a five-part series on choosing conveyors. For the previous article, which compares types of conveyors, click here.

Suppliers employ a variety of terms when categorizing drag conveyors. “Light duty,” “agricultural grade,” “commercial duty,” “heavy-duty,” “ultra-heavy duty,” “mill duty,” “industrial duty,” “super duty,” and “super heavy duty” are all terms suppliers use. The terminology can get confusing. But should you really care how something is labeled? You want a machine that will perform well whether it’s “heavy duty” or “mill duty.”

We’ve done our best to cut through the jargon to help you decide which “duty” conveyor you’ll need for your application.

Usage Argument

Generally speaking, lighter-duty and agricultural-grade conveyors are meant for infrequent use or lighter workloads, while heavier-duty conveyors are designed for heavy workloads, frequent use, and harsher materials. The categories imply that end users should first consider the application when selecting a “duty” of the conveyor.

Weight is one such consideration. Conveying empty boxes doesn’t require much power. Nor will it induce much wear. Conveying ground MSW does.

Operational hours is another consideration. Plant managers and mill operators often get into trouble by opting for a light-duty conveyor for an application that calls for many working hours per year. They’ll install an agricultural-grade conveyor for their 24/7 operation, for example, and have to rebuild it every six months. (This is precisely what happened at a client’s plant before they installed our SMART Conveyor™.) Farmers can get by with agricultural-grade conveyors because they only use them once a year, and if the machines last ten years, they’ve had a good return on their investment. But count the hours those machines are used, and you can understand why they’re poor choices for industrial applications—their working life quickly passes when they’re constantly running.

The material being conveyed is the third consideration. Hot, caustic materials will require heavy-duty material handling systems simply because these conveyors are built to withstand these types of conditions. Light-duty conveyors are not. They’re built using thinner components that will not withstand the stress of a harsh environment. They’ll quickly wear out, and you’ll have to order another.

The conveyed material should also inform which finish you apply to your conveyor. Wet, hot, acidic, and salty materials require stainless steel or a galvanized coating.

SMART Conveyors™ and Usage

SMART Conveyors™ from BE&E fall under the “heavy duty” or “ultra-heavy duty” categories and are the right conveyor for transferring bulk materials in medium- to ultra-heavy-duty situations. Our conveyors will handle volumes from a few tons an hour to hundreds of tons an hour. We make our sidewalls thick to strengthen our conveyors, and we design to keep the working load low for each application to ensure the components have a long life.

As a note, we do not offer stainless steel chains. Although stainless steel will ensure the chain is shiny when it comes time to replace it, in our experience, it will not perform better than mild steel chains. Therefore, they aren’t worth the expense.

Value Argument

There’s another way of considering conveyor duties, too: value. Heavier-duty equipment is going to last longer compared to lighter-duty equipment. More robust construction and materials mean you’ll spend more money upfront, but companies can rely on them to perform well. Compare that with the cost of repairs, downtime, and lost production with a lighter-duty machine, and it’s easy to understand why getting something more robust saves money in the long run.

The value argument is commonly understood but too often set aside for immediate savings. As a result, companies will spend hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars annually on repairs and unscheduled downtime related to unreliable conveyors. The issue of reliability compounds when a company uses multiple conveyors. A one-conveyor operation may be able to stay on top of maintenance and repair to keep things running smoothly, but this becomes more difficult when more conveyors are installed. Although inspections and routine maintenance do not take much time per conveyor, few can really expect their maintenance crew to stay on top of this. Neglected equipment wears out much faster than equipment that is properly maintained, and wear runs through lighter-duty machinery faster than heavier-duty machines. Companies that opt for lighter-duty conveyors must therefore consider whether they’ll have to interrupt production to repair the machines constantly.

Another point to consider on this point is that maintenance workers routinely see how far they can go with the equipment before it breaks. It’s like playing the “I can go a few more miles” game when the gas tank gets low in the truck. Personnel wants to go “a little further” before they replace parts. For instance, they’ll stretch out the chain (literally) as far as it’ll go before replacing it. Of course, this is too often disastrous. Rather than replacing it when it needs to be replaced, they wait until it fails, which results in unplanned downtime, a more difficult replacement, the possibility of other broken components, the possibility of metal being mixed with the material, and a difficult restart.

SMART Conveyors™ and Value

Because of this tendency, it’s a good idea to purchase conveyors where routine maintenance is easier to accomplish, which is how our conveyors are designed. Curve wear strips that personnel can change without opening up the conveyor make maintenance for our S-Series SMART Conveyors™ faster to accomplish. Three-piece split sprockets in our conveyors and split heads in M- and T-Series conveyors also make accessing and changing sprockets easier (there’s no need to break the chain).

The possibility of failure when this occurs increases when your operation relies on lighter-duty equipment. Don’t let this occur at your operation. Get the equipment that is suited for your application and which will provide you with the highest value. BE&E’s SMART Conveyors™ are suited for many applications transferring and feeding bulk materials. They’re designed for low operational costs with greater efficiency, less frequent maintenance, and less costly maintenance than competitive systems.

Contact us today to discuss your next material handling project.

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