Do you perform planned maintenance on your conveyor belt system?
Of course, yes!
In modern times, most of the movement of goods happens through automatic conveyor systems. Conveyor belts are one of the most vital parts in any manufacturer’s production line.
There is no question about performing it or not, it is a must!
Most of the companies invest enormously in installing the top-performing conveyor belt systems. They directly contribute to the company’s success.
Unfortunately, if only one single conveyor belt goes out of order, it ruins the whole production chain as the work will not proceed as planned.
Any fault or damage caused by a conveyor roller or belt result in many difficulties for planning and production managers.
Yes, you cannot take a risk on a conveyor break down. In fact, most of the conveyor belts (especially the long ones) are difficult to replace, even if there is a splicing or joining option in the belt.
Moreover, it is critical and time-consuming in another way too.
In the case of a breakdown, we need to isolate the real cause of the breakdown too, before actually replacing the conveyor belt.
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Here we will see a five step actionable methodology to protect and maintain your conveyor belt in the perfect condition.
If you do not have one already, you should have a maintenance checklist for the conveyor belt system. The maintenance checklist should have a check for all major components:
- The conveyor belt
- The conveyor rollers
- Support brackets.
- Oil and Lubrication levels
IMPORTANT: DO NOT PERFORM ANY MAINTENANCE ACTIVITIES ON RUNNING CONVEYORS. IN A 2005 US DEPARTMENT OF LABOR REPORT, 21 MINERS DIED IN CONVEYOR BELT ACCIDENTS IN A 6 YEAR PERIOD. MAKE SURE THE CONTROL IS ELECTRICALLY ISOLATED BEFORE MAINTENANCE JOB.
A list of fatal accidents could be found in this West Virginia fatal mining accidents and investigative report 1997-2015.
Step 1: Inspect the complete conveyor belt system regularly
Scheduled inspections of conveyor systems are the best preventative maintenance possible. Inspection helps the detection of areas that have any issue at an early stage.
In this way, the evaluation and repair of the wearing or defective components are possible before damage occurs to the belt or equipment.
- During operation, walk around both sides of the whole conveyor to check if there is anything unusual in the moving components.
If you hear any area that makes any different noise, simply memo the condition. Note all the observations.
2. During maintenance, shut down the conveyor belt system and perform the inspection. Besides, when the system is electrically isolated, check if the rolls are stuck or not orbiting smoothly.
Many a time, mostly in long conveyor systems, it is observed that some of the rollers will be stuck up due to the accumulation of the product or dirt. Simple cleaning will bring them back to life.
3. The belt movement control equipment also requires testing. On the joints and edges, examine the belt wear. Look for any patterns.
Look at destination or loading points if there are damages caused due to improper or careless handling. If there are any spills alongside the system or material buildup on any components, clean them.
Adjust or replace the belt scrapers, if needed. Test the working condition and functioning of scrappers and sprays.
Step 2: Proper Lubrication of the conveyor belt drive and components
Lubrication is the one of the most critical maintenance activity for any machine!
Proper and ample lubrication of all units in a conveyor system is an essential task to keep the conveyor in its perfect state. Operating a conveyor system without proper lubricating results in damage and increased cost. Insufficient oil and lubrication can kill almost any mechanical device or system.
In fact, the estimated compound downtime costs due to poor lubrication are as high as 30% of a plant’s total maintenance costs each year!
Maintenance personnel should make sure that:
All the bearings are sufficiently lubricated
The mechanical pull on conveyor belt drive would be approximately double if the bearings do not have enough lubrication. Checks at a regular interval are essential in maintaining the bearings.
Over lubrication causes over temperature in the bearing elements. It is a good idea to have a chart with appropriate grease quantities for each machine parts recorded.
Formula for appropriate grease quantity is:
G = .114 x D x B
G = Amount of grease in ounces
D = Outside diameter of the bearing
B = Bearing width
All the gear motors should be monitored for proper oil level and quality:
The gear oil should be visible through the sight glass at the level recommended in that motor mounting position. It is normally half-way of the sight glass).
If the level is less or if there is water mixture with the gear oil, the temperature inside the gearbox would rise above optimum levels during operation.
It could cause the expansion of gear wheels and in the worst case jamming of gear wheels. This would lead to unforeseen downtime.
It is difficult to maintain spares for all gear motors in stock due to the cost factor.
Schedule the service of the gearbox at the earliest, if there is a mixture of water. Isolate the cause of water or dirt in the gearbox and repair it. In most cases, the cause would be the worn out oil seals of the gear box.
Then refill the gear oil with the correct type recommended by the manufacturer.
The gear oil should be replaced as per the interval recommended by the gearbox manufacturer. A period of 6 to 9 months is an accepted standard interval in continuous operating gear motors.
The drive chain and sprockets are well lubricated:
Regular lubrication of the chain with chain lubricants will extend the lifetime of the chain by three times. It is also essential to check the condition of sprockets and chain tension at the time of lubrication.
Step 3: Adjust conveyor belt tracking & prevent belt misalignment
If there is any inappropriate belt tracking or misalignment, it will cause huge harm to the whole system. The most important components of the conveyor belt that need proper and regular maintenance are the idlers and pulleys.
Conveyor belt tracking will cause wear at the end of the belt and also product spill.
How to adjust conveyor belt tracking?
Conveyor belt tracking could occur due to a number of reasons.
The tracking could be adjusted using take-up pulleys or the adjustable idlers. Go through first 4 steps. If the tracking still persists, you will need to adjust one of them.
- Observe the condition of the belt from edges, front, and back of belt for excessive wear, breaks, and damages. Note the kind of misalignment or tracking of belt observed during running in the checklist with the details of alignment.
- Once the conveyor belt has stopped, check if there are any dirt or dust particles accumulated; clean the belt with water and a detergent solution. It is good to use the type of detergent or cleaning agent recommended by the manufacturer.
- The tension rollers, if accumulated with excess dirt or the conveyed product, could also cause slight belt tracking. Clean all the rollers using the detergent solution.
- Inspect the belt tension, adjust it moderately and observe. An overly tightened conveyor belt causes excessive motor draw or breakage under load. A looser belt results in bumpy load movement. Check lacing and remove any broken staples as too much staple breaks often demonstrate too much belt tension.
- There are regulating take-ups on the conveyor pulley to adjust the belt tension. Examine the direction of the misalignment. Adjust the pulley take-up to increase tension on the side where the belt needs to travel. Adjust slightly and then run the conveyor. Observe the position of conveyor belt after 3 to 4 rounds. If needed, adjust slightly again, until the belt is properly aligned.
The following video by Lewco Conveyors illustrates the adjustment of take-up pulleys.
If adjustable idlers are available, you will need to play around with its position to adjust the conveyor belt tracking. The belt will automatically move in the direction of the side of roller it gets in contact first.
The following video from Superior Industries gives an excellent demonstration of adjusting tracking using the idlers.
After making all these adjustments, the belt should run smoothly. The conveyor belt tracking is one of the most frustrating and damage causing issue for the system.
Step 4: Maintain Idlers during belt scheduled maintenance
Longer life span of idlers and proper maintenance of belt are totally dependent upon the regular care taken. Check all idlers and lubricate properly. Remove any excessive build up on idler rolls as they can cause massive damage to the belt if exposed to prolonged period.
Check the loading area, where the product enters the conveyor, to examine that the loading system delivers the product to the belt in an even and centered manner. Any belt conveyor is prone to more wear and tear if the product that it conveys does not stay in the center or if the not distributed evenly.
Next, test and run the belt conveyor by placing an item over it, if the movement of items is not centralized, use a chute to achieve properly centralized movement of items on the belt.
Step 5: Cleaning the Conveyor belt
Last but not the least, this step is very significant for the performance of the conveyor. Proper removal of dust, dirt, and debris from the conveying particles is the most underrated maintenance activity for the conveyor belt.
Wipe and clean any dust particles or debris accumulated on the surface of the conveyor. Use pure water to clean the conveyor belt during running.
Perform cleaning in depth only when the conveyor is not in working condition. This will allow you to clean perfectly even in the areas that are difficult to reach.
Important: After inspection and maintenance steps, always remember to remove all tools and equipment from the conveyor and its surrounding.
These five steps will help you maintain the conveyor belt in its crisp and perfect condition for a long time. These tips will enhance the service life of a conveyor belt and components attached to it.
Also in the first year of the conveyor’s operation, keep in mind to check and tighten up all the bolts and nuts along the joints and hangers.
Be ready to improve efficiency and remove repair costs from your mind if you are committed to following all the above-mentioned steps for maintaining your conveyor belt.
Further reading and reference:
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