Friday 21 March, 2014
Thinking of investing in a mechanical conveying system? Peter Guttridge offers expert advice about such topics as what to expect from a supplier, lifetime maintenance and associated costs, defining critical aspects of the material and how to communicate effectively with equipment designers.
1. Assess supplier experience for your industry and application.
Conveying requirements are constantly evolving in terms of scale and the range of materials handled. Experienced suppliers who know your industry will have the knowledge needed to design and manufacture conveyors uniquely tailored to your specific application. Look out for the option for bespoke systems for highly specialised requirements.
2. Define critical aspects of the material that will impact equipment design.
Some materials need particular consideration during transportation. For example, with fragile food stuffs such as breakfast cereals, avoiding attrition is vital in order to maintain product quality and value. Other materials, in contrast, may be very robust but highly abrasive or prone to entanglement in any conveyor internals.
3. Put figures to reliability.
Reliability requirements are now extremely stringent in certain industries and it is vital to be realistic about expectations. A good conveyor supplier will offer reliability enhancing mechanical features and automated monitoring but these will increase initial capital outlay. Putting value to reliability targets will help to justify the necessary investment.
4. Look for examples of supplier success.
It makes sense to scrutinise the history of your supplier. Look to customer testimonials and case studies for evidence of successful conveyor construction and a healthy track record of project completion. A company with longevity and economic robustness is especially reassuring when it comes to larger projects.
5. Focus on layout.
Distances and changes in height play a significant role in determining which type of conveyor technology is best for any given application. Get site layout well-defined as early in the project as you can to develop an optimal solution.
6. Communicate effectively with the designers.
Make sure any variability within your material is as fully described as possible to ensure that the project is effectively scoped. Streams with variable flow properties require a design with the flexibility to cope.
7. Make the most of specialist expertise.
Good conveyor design relies heavily on experience but technical expertise also has a part to play when it comes to developing right first time solutions. For example, for tricky to handle powders, the best suppliers are increasingly using powder testers to support their design work. Expert interpretation of the test results within the context of conveyor design helps to ensure that even challenging materials are handled efficiently from the outset.
8. Consider lifetime maintenance and the associated costs.
Conveying systems have a long lifetime and costs of operation need to be considered alongside the initial capital sum. Research whether a supplier has the infrastructure in place to provide long term support.
9. Investigate newly integrated care packages to minimise in-house support requirements.
Consider whether maintenance and any emergency breakdowns can be covered with in-house capability or whether external support is required. Leaders in the field are now offering ‘cradle- to-grave’ care packages that include both routine and emergency maintenance. These can substantially relieve pressure on in-house staff.
10. Decide how you want to implement the project.
Projects work best when each participant plays to their strengths. If a turn-key package is required then find a supplier with the resources to follow through every stage to final commissioning. On the other hand if there is a need for a single conveyor or discrete elements of a project, find a partner who will work productively alongside you.
Peter Guttridge, Chairman of Guttridge Ltd and recently elected as Chairman of SHAPA (Solids Handling and Processing Association), is an engineer with more than 30 years’ experience and unrivalled knowledge of the UK bulk materials handling industry.
To read this article as printed in Process Industry Informer, please click here.
With a foundation of 50 years of experience, Guttridge is a flourishing company, globally respected for delivering well-engineered, reliable materials handling solutions that continue to anticipate dramatically changing industrial needs.