In the case of any business, it is natural to be focused on growth and efficiency. You are looking to increase productivity while reducing operational costs in every aspect, and your conveyor system is no different.
Conveyor throughput is often one of the first areas to be addressed when trying to achieve productivity and efficiency goals. In our State Of Conveying report, 26% of respondents from industrial facilities listed high volume per hour as one of the top three considerations for selecting a new conveyor system.
After all, if your product is not moving, it cannot be processed or shipped. Optimal conveying throughput comes with a host of benefits that directly impact your business, including:
- Increased production
- Reduced downtime
- Lower labor costs
- Smoother product flow and more
In this article, we will discuss how to increase conveyor throughput. This should give you a better understanding of how to fine-tune your system for optimal performance.
What is conveyor throughput?
Conveyor throughput is a measure of how much product your conveyor can move in a given period of time. The goal is to have the maximum amount of product moving through the system while maintaining high quality and safety standards.
There are a few factors that contribute to conveyor throughput, including:
- Conveying velocity: This is the rate at which your products are moving on the conveyor.
- Properties of the product: The size, weight, and shape of your product or material can affect how quickly it can move through the system, as well as how fragile it is.
- Conveyor design: The type of conveyor you are using will also impact capacity. Some conveyors are better suited for high-volume throughput than others. For example, bucket elevators can move up to 130,000 lb/h (6,000 tons/h) compared to the maximum capacity of vacuum conveyors at around 33,000 lb/h (15 tons/h).
- Operational procedures: How your conveyors are being used can also affect throughput. If your system is not being operated correctly, it will not reach its potential.
This list is only a short overview of what can affect conveyor throughput. Throughput can be calculated using different methods for each conveyor and product type.
How is conveyor capacity calculated?
Here is an example of conveyor capacity calculated for a belt conveyor:
Q = ρ * A * v
In this formula, Q represents the conveyor capacity (in kg/s or lb/s), ρ is the average density of the conveyed material in kg/m3 or lb/ft3, A is the cross-sectional area of the item or the bulk solid on the belt (in m2 or ft2), and v is the belt speed in m/s or ft/s.
This is only one example of how throughput can be calculated for a conveyor. As mentioned, the formula will change depending on the type of conveyor and the product being conveyed. Some might be more complicated to calculate than others, depending on the factors involved.
The most important thing is to have a clear understanding of your goals and objectives, so you can determine the best way to measure throughput for your specific needs. If you need help, consulting with a conveyor expert is always an option. They will be able to help you understand the different ways you can calculate the capacity and find the method that works best for your business.
How to increase conveyor throughput
So, after careful analysis, you have determined that your conveyor system could be moving more product, and you want to know how to increase throughput. Below are a few ways you can achieve this:
A bottleneck is anything that is slowing down or halting the flow of a product. This can be caused by several things, including:
- Poorly designed transfer points
- Belt tracking issues (on a conveyor belt)
- Worn or damaged rollers (on a roller conveyor)
- Inadequate conveyor cleaning
- Buildup on the pulleys, chains, cables, and more
These issues can cause your system to operate at reduced throughput. To eliminate bottlenecks, you need to identify where they are occurring and find a solution. This might involve making changes to the conveyor itself or the way it is being operated.
In an industrial process, buffering is used to even out the flow of product. This is done by storing the product in a buffer (a temporary storage area) until it is needed by the next machine in the production line.
For example, if you have a machine that can only operate at a certain speed, you can use a buffer to store the product until the machine is ready for it. This way, the product doesn’t have to wait for the machine and can keep moving through the process.
Buffering is often used in conjunction with other methods to increase throughput, such as accumulating.
Accumulation is also used to even out the flow of the product. However, instead of storing the product before it is needed, accumulating allows it to build up after it has been processed, especially if a downstream machine is not ready for it.
Accumulation can be used with many conveyor types, including belt, roller, chain, cable, and disc conveyors.
With both buffering and accumulating, it is essential to calculate the amount of product that can be stored without causing issues further down the line.
Too much product in the buffer or too much accumulation can lead to problems, such as:
- Belt tracking issues (on a belt conveyor)
- Buildup on the pulleys, chains, or cables (on a roller, chain, or cable and disc conveyor)
- Damage to the product
Therefore, it is important to find the right balance so you can increase throughput without causing any issues.
Depending on the conveyor type, you might be able to increase throughput by controlling the speed of the conveyor. This can be done either manually or automatically, depending on the system.
If you are using a belt conveyor, for example, you can increase the speed by:
- Adjusting the drive pulley ratio
- Installing a variable frequency drive (VFD) on any mechanical conveying equipment
As mentioned above, you can also use speed control to introduce buffering and accumulating. By controlling the speed of the conveyor, you can ensure that product is stored in the buffer or allowed to accumulate until it is needed.
Speed control can also be used to improve safety by reducing the chance of a product being damaged or falling off the conveyor. Of course, in the case of tubular conveyors such as the tubular drag conveyor, there is no concern about the product falling off the conveyor.
Educate your operators
Your operators play a big role in how efficiently your system runs. If they are not properly trained on how to use the system, you may not be able to achieve the throughput you need.
It is important to educate your operators on:
- How the system works
- The importance of safety
- How to troubleshoot common problems
- The correct way to load and unload products, and more
By properly training your operators, you can help ensure that your system runs as efficiently as possible.
Faster is not always better
Notice how we didn’t mention one very obvious solution to increasing conveyor throughput – running the conveyor faster. In some cases, this might be possible and will have the desired effect. However, in most cases, it could do more harm than good.
For example, if you are already experiencing issues with product buildup or belt tracking, increasing the speed of the conveyor is likely to make these problems worse.
It is also important to consider the effect that increasing the speed of the conveyor will have on your product. If the product is delicate or fragile, running the conveyor faster could damage it. This is one of the reasons why pneumatic conveyors are unsuitable for fragile materials such as nuts, snack food, breakfast cereal, and similar – the high speed of the conveyor severely damages the material, drastically affecting the quality of the final product.
Being concerned about throughput is a common aspect of running any industrial operation. And there are several ways to increase the throughput on your conveyor system, including but not limited to:
- Removing bottlenecks
- Introducing buffering zones
- Accumulating product
- Controlling the speed of the conveyor
- Educating your operators
However, it is important to consider the potential consequences of increasing throughput before making any changes to your system.
If you need help calculating or increasing the throughput on your system, our team of experts can offer advice and assistance. Contact Cablevey today to learn more.