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Belt Conveyor Maintenance Planning

Planning for Maintenance

Many times management and employee compensation packages are based on achievement of production goals. As a result, the down time allotted for maintenance invariably decreases. In this scenario, the infrastructure of the conveyor is often left un-serviced, and needed repairs are left undone, as the plant struggles to achieve its production goals.

This leads to the conveying system being neglected and run down to the point of catastrophic failure. It is essential the conveyor production schedule allows for adequate down time to perform the necessary maintenance. To allow these maintenance procedures, the conveyor must be shut down following lockout / tagout /blockout / testout procedures so scheduled downtime to perform these functions must be kept available. Proper outage time planned into the production schedule to allow maintenance is essential to prevent "crisis management" of conveying systems, in which systems run full time all the time, and the only maintenance provided is when something fails.

Conveyor maintenance should involve proper maintenance of each individual component of the conveyor system.

The axiom "failing to plan is planning to fail" is true for conveyors. The conveyor system in which maintenance is not planned is planned for failure.

Designing for Maintenance

Maintenance management needs to be considered when the conveyor system is in the design or planning phase. Many times, the needs of a Maintenance Department are not included during the design phase; in those cases, the new system is not engineered in a way that will allow easy access and maintenance. In the face of industrial conditions with the continuous stress of day-to-day operations mingled with the demands of changing material conditions and amounts system service becomes a real requirement. The problem is magnified if the system is not designed from the outset with adequate provisions for maintenance. For many plants, a common assumption is, "If it is difficult, time-consuming, or potentially dangerous, then it is inevitable that shortcuts will be taken." In the case of maintenance activities, this means if a system is difficult to maintain, the service activities will probably not be performed. Or, if the work is performed, it will be done in a superficial, or path-of-least-resistance, fashion. Either way, the increased risk of component failure offers a loss of productivity as its result.

In many cases, the engineering process allows, or even promotes, maintenance problems. Examples include awkward spacing, inaccessible components, "permanent" fasteners, or other non-repairable systems. Designers generally think of, and make provisions for, larger service projects; however, they often neglect provisions necessary to perform routine maintenance easily or effectively. As an example, many conveyors include a frame to lift out and replace the head pulley, an event that may be necessary every five years; yet, no accommodations are made for regular service, such as idler lubrication or belt cleaner maintenance.

There are ways available to solve these problems by having them included in the design of the system. Examples include adequate walkways, platforms, access, and utilities such as water, electricity, and compressed air readily available to be able to complete tasks in a more timely and efficient manner. Additional examples would include the use of components that are "hammer" adjustable or that are track mounted for "slide-in/slide-out" adjustment. Having these features "designed-in" will greatly increase the odds of routine maintenance being done properly.

The key is to consider the requirements for maintenance early in the design stage of any project. The Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association (CEMA) provides guidelines for conveyor access for maintenance in Belt Conveyors for Bulk Materials, Sixth Edition.

Ergonomics and Maintenance

Wherever personnel are involved in a system as designers, operators, maintenance staff, or management, human performance will greatly influence the overall effectiveness and efficiency of that system. Ergonomics (or human factor engineering, as it is sometimes known) is an applied science concerned with designing and arranging components people use so that the people and components interact most efficiently and safely. For a mechanical system to deliver its full potential, sufficient thought and commitment must be given to optimizing the human role in that system.

Equipment must be designed to improve the reliability and consistency of operators and maintenance personnel in performing regular service.

Topics: Belt Conveyor System Maintenance

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