Improving Conveyor Performance: The Value of Condition Monitoring

In the realm of industrial operations, even the smallest improvements can yield substantial gains. This rings especially true when considering the often overlooked yet indispensable component of many manufacturing operations: conveyors. While these mechanical workhorses silently go about their tasks, incorporating a touch of innovation in the form of condition monitoring sensors can yield significant payoffs. In this blog, I delve into why integrating condition monitoring into your conveyance systems isn’t just a good idea – it’s a savvy investment in efficiency, reliability, and overall peace of mind.

The case for condition monitoring

Here are five compelling reasons why condition monitoring is an essential addition to your conveyor systems:

    1. Reducing unplanned downtime: The ability to keep an eye on the health and performance of critical conveyor components empowers you to detect potential issues before they snowball into disruptive downtime events. Proactive, even predictive, maintenance becomes the name of the game, minimizing the risk of unscheduled stoppages.
    2. Enhancing reliability: Early issue identification leads to fewer instances of system failures and breakdowns. By fostering a proactive maintenance approach, condition monitoring bolsters the overall reliability of your conveyor system, offering a buffer against unexpected interruptions.
    3. Elevating safety standards: Safety should never be an afterthought. Condition monitoring serves as a vigilant sentinel, flagging potential safety concerns within the conveyor system. For instance, it can detect abnormal vibrations in motors or gearboxes, thereby averting catastrophic failures that might jeopardize personnel safety or equipment integrity.
    4. Trimming maintenance costs: The ability to time maintenance activities optimally, thanks to condition monitoring, can translate into substantial cost savings. Instead of waiting for a failure to necessitate urgent fixes, you can schedule maintenance when it’s most cost-effective, avoiding pricier last-minute solutions and expedited freight expenses.
    5. Prolonging equipment lifespan: Condition monitoring, by tracking the condition of vital components, helps you pinpoint or predict exactly when maintenance or repairs are due. This precision not only extends the lifespan of your equipment but also curbs the need for costly replacements or frantic damage control.

Adding condition monitoring to your conveyor systems isn’t just about immediate gains in efficiency and reliability – it’s an investment that can significantly reduce maintenance costs and stretch the lifespan of your equipment. Why wait? Make the investment today and unlock the financial benefits and peace of mind that come with the utilization of condition monitoring across your conveyor systems.

Click here to learn more about condition monitoring.

Improving Overall Equipment Effectiveness

Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) is a critical metric for measuring the efficiency of manufacturing operations. It considers three factors – availability, performance, and quality – to determine the effective use of equipment.

Where do we focus to win the biggest improvements?

To improve OEE, it’s important to focus on these five key areas:

    1. Equipment maintenance: Ensuring equipment is well-maintained is critical to achieving high OEE. Regular inspections, preventive maintenance or, even better, “predictive maintenance,” and prompt repairs can help minimize downtime from unexpected breakdowns. Condition monitoring sensors and the data they generate can predict where failures may to occur so action can be taken to avoid such downtimes.
    2. Production planning: Effective production planning can help optimize production schedules, minimize set-up time, and reduce changeover time, as well as help increase equipment utilization and reduce downtime. Software solutions are available that provide operators with guidance and optimize changeovers between different set-ups or formats.
    3. Process optimization: Analyzing and optimizing production processes can help identify bottlenecks, reduce waste, and improve overall efficiency. This can involve implementing process improvements, such as reducing cycle times or optimizing material flow.
    4. Workforce training: A well-trained workforce can help minimize errors, reduce downtime, and improve overall quality. Providing employees with the necessary skills and training can also help increase productivity and equipment utilization. Operator guidance, including digital work instruction, which is available in a digital format, is increasingly familiar to the newer members of the workforce.
    5. Data analysis: Collecting and analyzing OEE and downtime data, and other key metrics can help identify areas for improvement and guide decision-making on where to focus. Implementing real-time monitoring and analysis can help detect issues early, well before a failure, and thus, minimize the impact on production.

By focusing on and ranking the areas outlined above, manufacturers can improve overall equipment effectiveness and achieve greater efficiency, productivity, and, most importantly, profitability.

On the Level: Selecting the Right Sensor for Level Detection

We’ve probably all experienced having the “pot boil over” or “run dry” at one time or another. The same is frequently true on a much larger scale with many industrial processes. These large events can prove costly whether running dry or overflowing, resulting in lost product, lost production time, damage to the tank, or even operator injury. And then there is the cleanup!

The fact is, many procedures require the operator to monitor the bin or tank level – especially on older equipment. This human factor is prone to fail due to inattention, distractions, and lack of proper training. With today’s employee turnover and the brain drain of retirements, we need to help the operators out.

Multiple solutions exist that can provide operators with sufficient warning of the tank and bin levels being either too low or too high. This article provides a framework and checklist to guide the selection of the best technology for a specific application.

What type of monitoring is necessary?

First, consider whether the application requires or would benefit from continuous monitoring, or is point-level monitoring all that is needed?

    • Point-level monitoring is the simplest. It is essentially sensing whether the product is present at specific detection point(s) in the tank or bin. If the goal is to avoid running dry or overflowing, monitoring the bin or tank point level may be all that is required. Point-level sensors typically are best if the product levels can be detected through the wall or inside the tank or bin itself. A number of sensors can prevent false readings with products that are viscous, leaving residue on the sensor, and even ignore foam.
    • Continuous-level monitoring detects levels along a range – from full to empty. This is required when the exact level of the product must be known, such as for batch mixing.

Checklist for sensor selection

The checklist below can help guide you to what should be the appropriate technologies to consider for your particular application. Frequently, more than one type of technology may work, given the media (or product) you’re detecting, so it may make sense to test more than one.

Checklist for sensor selection

Ultimately, the sensor(s) you select must reliably sense/detect the presence of the subject product (or media). Which solution is least costly is frequently a big consideration, but remember there can be a hefty cost associated with a sensor that gives a false reading to the operator or control system.

Choosing sensors for washdown or clean-in-place environments

For products that will be consumed or entered into the human body, further selection considerations may include sensors that must survive in washdown or clean-in-place environments without contaminating the product.

The encouraging news is that sensors exist for most applications to detect product levels reliably. The finesse is in selecting the best for a given application when multiple technologies can do the job.

Again, there may be some trial and error at play but this checklist should at least narrow the field and pointed you to the better solution/technology.