Increase Your Conveyor Uptime and Safety With the Right Belt Maintenance and Installation Tools

Guest blog by Todd Stewart from MHI Member Company Flexco

In the middle of 2021, Statista released some sales trends to watch in relation to global retail e-commerce. According to their survey, retail e-commerce sales worldwide amounted to 4.28 trillion USD in 2020, a growth of 27.6 percent over 2019, and e-retail revenues are projected to grow to 5.4 trillion USD in 2022.

So what does this mean for the material handling industry? It means business will be good for a VERY LONG TIME.

Once you get past the euphoria of booming business, the panic may be creeping in with your next thought being, “do I have the personnel for this and can my equipment hold up to this increased volume?”

Taking a Closer Look at Your Belt Conveyor System

Instead of eyeing your capital equipment budget for opportunities to purchase large machinery, maybe you should take a look at something a little more budget-friendly that can make an immediate impact on downtime, worker safety and fatigue, and throughput… upgrading your belt conveyor maintenance tools.

When was the last time you looked at how a belt is repaired and thought, “There has to be a better way?” The truth is, you probably haven’t. Because the methods for installing mechanical fasteners have not changed much throughout the years. And with the exception of a few, the tools used to install them haven’t either. But in some cases, there are better ways that you probably haven’t noticed because you’ve been a little busy these past few years.

Preparing Your Conveyor Belt for Quick and Easy Repair

The opportunity begins with maintenance tools. When you think about preparing your belts for safe repair, a three-word phrase should run through your head: Clamp, Square, Cut. Surprisingly, there are opportunities for productivity-enhancing opportunities within all three of these steps. So let’s take a look at each.

  • – The first, and most important function of proper belt clamping is that it provides a safer working environment for your employees. Where your productivity-enhancement comes in is your choice of belt clamps. For example, if you’re using the old bolt-actuated method, consider upgrading to a safer, more efficient tool that clamps down quickly and easily. You’ll want to ensure that the clamping pressure is evenly distributed at each clamp, keeping belt integrity intact and maintenance hazards at a minimum.
  • – When you square the belt correctly, you reduce the chances of your belt mistracking to one side and damaging your belt or the packages it is carrying. No one wants their belt to go down because a line was drawn incorrectly. There are tools that can make belt squaring quicker, more accurate, and easier. But the basic messaging here is similar to the “measure twice and cut once” premise. Make sure your belt is square before moving on to the next step.
  • – Grabbing the utility knife out of the toolbox is tempting, but the truth is, it is a safety and accuracy nightmare. Remember what we just said about the importance of squaring? Cutting with a utility knife could ruin your chances of a straight cut, meaning mistracking is in your future. Grab a belt cutter that is designed for the job – manual or cordless – and you’ll feel a lot better about the resulting cut and the safety of your employees. Employee injuries are scary, but preventable in most cases. In a worse case scenario, a severe cut from a razor knife at the conveyor can could cause a stop in production for the rest of the shift, and could send your employee to the hospital.

Upgrading your fastener installation tools

Now that you’ve been able to speed up your belt prep time in a safer manner, we can focus on upgrading your fastener install tools. Without going into what kind of fastener you are using, I am willing to guess that the installation tools you are using to install them in haven’t been changed out since the early 1980s. Does that sound familiar?

While the installation methods haven’t changed, upgrades to installation tools have made it quicker and easier to get a splice installed. In some cases, installations that may take a few passes to install lacing now only take one. And the amount of time it takes to load the fasteners and the belt have also been cut, with less steps for set up and better designs. There are even cordless drill options out there that could get your fasteners installed and belts up and running in a fraction of your current install time.

Now, on to your personnel problem…

I hate to say this, but I can’t really give you any advice on how to recruit and hire the best people. What I can tell you is that good safety and ergonomic practices can be a really big job differentiator, especially when you are competing for pennies on salary. And everything we’ve talked about in this blog makes a current and potential employee’s job safer and easier.

So upgrade your tools, upgrade your safety, upgrade your uptime, and you may just be able to upgrade your staff by setting yourself apart from the rest!