Choosing the Right Conveyor – Part 1

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Choosing a Supplier

Industries are rife with examples of drag chain conveyors that failed to live up to their manufacturers’ promises. The truth is there are many cheap conveyors on the market, machines that are poorly designed and equipped with low-quality. These proprietary components tie you to the manufacturer for replacement parts. There are also plenty of others that, in the right application, will work well but for another will not (e.g. a grain conveyor being used to convey wood chips).

So, before you tie your system with a bulk material handling system that doesn’t work well or that doesn’t work at all, it’s important you educate yourself about what to look for in a conveyor, how to find the best conveyor for your application, and how to find a good supplier.

Choosing the Type of Conveyor System

There is much to consider when choosing a bulk material handling system. Suffice it to say, there is no conveyor that fits all applications. A pneumatic conveyance system, for example, is not right for green wood chips: pneumatic systems work best for dry powders of consistent particle size. Drag conveyors are better for this application.

A good supplier will educate you about which system will work best for your application. Make sure to share with your supplier accurate information about the material, infeed and outfeed processes, any plans for expansion or changes to the material, and other relevant data. This will enable him to make informed suggestions regarding your system.

Finding a Supplier

A bad supplier, on the other hand, will just try to convince you that their system is right for the job even when it isn’t. To find a good supplier, you must first do your research. This advice may sound overly simplistic, but we’ve heard too many stories from and about companies that hire engineering firms to take on projects in industries with which the firms are unfamiliar. This results in stalled projects when the firms cannot complete the work or systems that perform terribly.

So, find out whether a supplier has experience in your industry, the process for which your application applies, and the material involved. Be sure, too, that the supplier has experience designing good material handling systems. And get references even when a supplier claims knowledge and success. You must ensure you’re not working with a novice or a crook.

There is a caveat to this, of course. You may want to consider a supplier without experience in your industry if they can provide better systems than the go-to industry suppliers. And remember that a supplier may possess knowledge that crosses industry lines. BE&E, for example, cut its teeth handling wood waste for forest product companies. Still, our advanced SMART Conveyors™ are suitable for many other bulk materials, and our experience with material handling systems is applicable in many sectors. Our knowledge, combined with superior equipment, has enabled us to do well as we’ve ventured outside the world of wood. To date, our conveyors have been used to convey miscanthus grass, alfalfa, bagasse, processed tires, and DDGS (ethanol byproduct), among other materials.

Requesting Quotes

In light of this, we suggest you choose suppliers based on experience and quality first rather than price. If you keep the price as the No. 1 deciding factor, it can turn out very expensive: a cheap conveyor isn’t such a good deal when it needs constant repair or causes unplanned downtime. It’s important you keep cost in perspective, especially when you receive quotes for conveyors that are priced significantly less than others. You won’t get everything you want when you buy a cheap machine. Worse, it may be junk. It certainly won’t be “cheap” if you have to replace it a few months after installation.

One way to avoid buying a lemon is to look at the warranty. Generally speaking, the longer the warranty, the more confident the company is in its equipment. And the less likely it is that the machine will fail prematurely. Also, ask which parts most commonly need to be replaced. If the list is long, it indicates the machines frequently require repair. Ask, too, which parts aren’t OEM standard. If all the parts are custom-made, it may be difficult—and expensive—to obtain replacements.

Our suggestion regarding quotes is that you seek the conveyor with the best value: the conveyor that costs the least over its life. To do this, you must take into account not only the cost of the conveyor but support, shipping, and installation costs, power requirements, maintenance, repairs, and potential downtime.

This will take more digging on your part. Suppliers, for instance, typically price support separately from the conveyor quote. So, while they may price the conveyor lower than a competitor, they may actually require a higher overall cost. If their system needs an extensive support structure, they will charge you for it. How a company ships its conveyors also affects the overall cost. The less that manufacturers assemble in the factory, the more you need to assemble on-site. This means additional costs in labor.


This isn’t what you’ll get with BE&E. We build our conveyors with strong sidewalls, so the conveyors require minimal support structures. And we ship our conveyors with chains preinstalled after modeling shipment configurations. This saves time on the field when crews assemble the conveyors. It also reduces the number of loads for which our clients must pay.

We at Biomass Engineering & Equipment strive to provide conveyors with the highest-possible value. Through innovative engineering, efficient design, and solid quality, we aim to keep your operational costs low and profits high. Contact us today for a quote on your next capital project.

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