Cablevey - The Gentle Way to Convey
Cablevey - The Gentle Way to Convey

How To Choose The Best Automated Conveyor System Manufacturer

by | May 31, 2022 | Conveyor Thoughts, Conveyors

Automation is the future of manufacturing, and it has arrived. If you haven’t yet invested in an automated conveyor system for your food processing plant, you are falling behind the competition.

Some of the most significant benefits of an automated conveyor include:

  • Increased efficiency and productivity
  • Reduced labor costs
  • Increased accuracy and consistency of product output
  • Increased safety for employees, and more.

When it comes time to purchase your first (or next) automated conveyor system, you must choose a manufacturer that will provide you with a quality product and excellent service.

Here are some of the most important things to consider when making your decision, starting with the most important question of all – which of your transfer operations should be automated.

Should your transfer operations be automated?

The two most important factors to take into account when deciding whether or not to automate your transfer operations are:

  • Production volume
  • Product life cycle

In total, there are four different options for automating your transfer operations:

  • Full automation – for products with a long life cycle and high production volume.
  • Adaptive automation – for products with a long life cycle but low production volume. This is less of an investment than full automation since you can gradually add features as needed.
  • Flexible automation – for products with a short life cycle and high production volume. Flexible means that the system can be easily reconfigured to accommodate changes in product design.
  • Manual operation – for products with a short life cycle and low production volume.

Before you start looking for manufacturers, you need to have a good understanding of which type of automation will best suit your needs. If the expected volume and life cycle of your products don’t justify the investment, you may be better off sticking with manual operation.

At the same time, you should be aware of other potential benefits of automation that might not be immediately obvious. Automating your transfer operations can free up your employees to do other tasks and also improve safety in your working environment.

For example, if you automate the transfer of powdered substances in your food processing facility, you will eliminate the risk of employees inhaling hazardous dust particles.

If, after all of this, you’ve decided that automating your transfer operations is the right choice for you, then you need to start looking for manufacturers.

Find the right conveyor system type

Not all manufacturers make all types of automated conveyor systems, so you need to start by narrowing down your search to those that make the type of system you need.

Whereas before, conveyor belts were mostly used for horizontal transportation, now there are all sorts of different types of conveyors available on the market. Pneumatic conveyor systems, screw conveyor systems, bucket elevators, and vibrating conveyors are just some of the options that are available.

The type of conveyor technology you choose will be determined by your product and process requirements.

Here are some product requirements to take into account:

  • Type of product – Is your product dry or wet? Hot or cold? Fragile or tough? Free-flowing or non-free-flowing?
  • Product size – What are the dimensions of your product?
  • Product shape – Are there any restrictions on the shape of your product? Does it protrude in any way?
  • Product weight – How much does your product weigh? Is its weight likely to change over time?
  • Product fragility – Is your product likely to break or crumble if dropped?

Here are some manufacturing process requirements to take into account:

  • Transfer distance – How far does your product need to be transported?
  • Transfer path – Does your product need to travel in a straight line, or can it travel in curves or loops?
  • Transfer speed – How fast does your product need to be transported?
  • Environment – What type of environment does your product need to be transported in? Will it be hot, cold, dusty, or wet?
  • Footprint – How much space do you have for your material handling system?

For example, if you need to transport fragile materials (such as nuts, snack foods, pet food, and similar) in a facility with relatively limited floor space, your best bet would be tubular cable and disc conveyors. On the other hand, if you need workers to operate on the product or material directly next to the conveyor, then a belt conveyor might be a better fit.

Once you determine the type of conveyor solution you need, you can start looking for manufacturers that make that type of system.

Ask the right questions

With your search narrowed down to a few manufacturers, you need to start asking questions to determine which one is the best fit for you. It stands to reason that it will take multiple calls and perhaps even in-person visits to fully understand each manufacturer’s capabilities.

Here are some important questions to ask:

  • What type of conveyor equipment and controls are the most suitable for the materials you need to be conveyed? – While you may have figured out the right type of conveyor for your needs, the manufacturer you choose should be able to help you confirm that and offer additional advice in terms of the capacity of the conveyor (if they have multiple options), conveyor layout, and so on.
  • Do they offer material testing? – A manufacturer that truly cares about their products and their customers will offer material testing to ensure that their conveyor is suitable for your needs.
  • How easy is it to maintain their conveyor systems? – According to a survey conducted by Cablevey in partnership with Ascend2, a staggering 54% of food processing facilities cite cleaning and maintenance as one of the greatest challenges of conveying materials. Ask about how easy it is to access different parts of the conveyor system for cleaning and maintenance purposes and whether or not this can be an automated process.
  • What is their lead time for an order similar to yours? – You don’t want to be left waiting for months while your conveyor system is being built. Most manufacturers have a lead time between 6 and 12 weeks, depending on the complexity of the system.
  • What is their service and support like? – No matter how good a product is, things can and do go wrong. When they do, you want to be able to rely on your manufacturer for quick and effective service and support. Make sure to ask about their warranty terms and what kind of support they offer after the sale. It would also be a good idea to search online for reviews of the manufacturer’s customer service.
  • How quickly can you get a quote? – The speed of their response, not only in relation to the quote but in general business communication as well, is a good indication of how much they value their potential customers and whether or not the entire business transaction will run smoothly.

Be thorough in your research

Purchasing a brand new conveyor for your food processing facility is a big investment, so it’s important to do your due diligence and thoroughly research all of your options before making a decision. Asking the right questions is only one side of the coin – you also need to be sure to visit the manufacturer’s facility (if possible) and get a first-hand look at their operation.

This will give you a much better idea of the type of business you’re dealing with and whether or not they are truly invested in providing the best possible products and services to their customers.

Don’t limit yourself to only one or two manufacturers – the more options you have, the better. In the end, the goal is to find a conveying system that meets all of your needs and that you can rely on for years to come.

Conclusion

Automated conveyors are becoming the norm in food processing plants as they offer a more efficient and cost-effective way to move materials. If you’re looking for a brand new automated system for your facility, it’s important to research and choose a conveyor manufacturer you can trust.

Asking the right questions, visiting the manufacturer’s facility (if possible), and reading online reviews are all good ways to vet potential vendors. The goal is to find a conveyor system that meets your specific needs and that you feel confident will be a valuable addition to your food processing plant.

Are you transporting fragile materials such as breakfast cereals, nuts, coffee beans, snack foods, frozen food, and similar? Contact Cablevey for a quote. Our team will help you determine the best type of conveyor system for your needs and budget.

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