Modular Conveyor Systems Become Material Handling Equipment Trade Secret

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Manufacturers are keeping quiet about new Â?truly modularÂ? conveyors that put them at competitive advantage.

So, when we look at production equipment, we tend to look for the indestructible. Yet the maintenance requirements and downtime of heavy steel conveyors were causing production and even safety problems for us.

Manufacturers in every field are keeping their processes private, if not secret. After all, most processes are in some ways proprietary, comprising a mixture of methods, technologies and operations that ultimately affect a manufacturer's ability to compete. Although most of the secrecy has been applied to primary production equipment, it is now extending to secondary support equipment, such as the latest material handling equipment. The latest example: the silence inspired by “truly modular” conveyor systems.

The fundamental benefit of a truly modular system is in its ability to change shape, and quickly. Composed of interlocking units, including belts, sides, legs, motors and accessories, these conveyors are self-contained systems that can be configured like “building blocks” to meet changing production flow in any environment where light- to medium-duty conveyors are used.

Unlike fixed steel systems, truly modular conveyors can improve process flow, facilitate system integration, enhance quality assurance, reduce labor and virtually eliminate the cost of replacement conveyors.

The benefits of this material handling equipment were so significant that one plant manager decided that he didn't want to share his solution with his competitors, saying that he had to “search hard for this solution,” and that even a friendly competitor would have to discover the solution themselves.

“A truly modular conveyor system is a revelation to many plant managers,” says Dynamic Conveyor's Tom Havetler, speaking of his firm's unique DynaCon system. “It changes their way of thinking, not only about conveying products, but also about the many other positive improvements material handling equipment can bring to their processes.”

A truly modular system is also a strategic production tool. Instead of replacing a conveyor whenever a workstation or production setup changes, a modular unit can be expanded, contracted or reshaped to fit new requirements.

Modular material handling equipment also has a direct impact on uptime.

"Uptime is literally money to us," says Mark Evjen, R&D Engineer for Custom Bottle in Naugutuck, CT, a blow molder of containers used by the pharmaceutical industry. Having worked in the industry for 20 years, Evjen knows that downtime affects the bottom line as well as his ability to meet delivery requirements.

"A blow molding department is like a war zone," says Evjen. "So, when we look at production equipment, we tend to look for the indestructible. Yet the maintenance requirements and downtime of heavy steel conveyors were causing production and even safety problems for us."

Often, the hidden value in material handling equipment can be found in relatively small changes in configuration or accessories. Ventlab, a manufacturer of anesthesia masks, uses a DynaCon conveyor equipped with a motion detector that counts masks after they pass through a human-operated inspection station.

“The conveyor and accounting system make it much more efficient for inspectors to inspect the masks,” says Chris Reed, Mechanical Engineer. “They just place it on the conveyor as each mask is inspected. The system takes care of counting the masks so that they are packaged in the correct quantities.”

“Through this small automation process we've gained productivity and also ensure that inspection is not hindered by counting, which can improve quality assurance,” adds Reed.

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