It is important that only competent, well-trained personnel – equipped with proper test equipment and tools – perform conveyor maintenance. For reasons of both safety and efficiency, the maintenance personnel should be skilled, veteran employees empowered with the authority to shut down a conveyor to make a minor repair that will prevent a major outage or equipment expense.
As maintenance crews are reduced, and the demands of conveyor systems increase, it becomes vital to maximize the efficiency of the personnel who are available. One way to maximize efficiency of the personnel is to document procedures for safely performing tasks in the safest, most efficient way and what tools and equipment will be needed to complete the task. It will also allow a plant to better train new employees, as more experienced personnel retire or transfer.
A computerized maintenance-management system (CMMS) is a good tool for housing the maintenance/repair procedures. The system will administer work orders and manage information, so the maintenance staff can perform chores in a priority-based fashion. Most systems will also track maintenance expenditures for specific equipment: this is essential for justifying upgrading or purchasing new equipment.
A maintenance program that utilizes these types of procedures will prove much more efficient and reliable in the long run.
As plants reduce their head count of employees, many companies are entrusting some or all of their conveyor equipment installation and maintenance to outside contractors. Utilizing contractors allows personnel to be deployed on core activities unique to the operation.
A comprehensive belt conveyor system survey can identify opportunities to improve system performance, increasing productivity, lowering the cost of operation, and improving safety.
Contractors prevalent in the bulk-materials handling industry can be categorized as either general or specialty/niche. Both have merit and will bring value to the plant if they are used properly, and the limitations of each one are understood. A general contractor is willing to do almost any task and has a general understanding of many things; however, the general contractor is not highly skilled in all aspects or components of the conveying system.
Specialty/niche contractors, on the other hand, are experts in certain areas or components; they are often either directly employed by a manufacture or have been trained and certified by the manufacturer. This training affords them the skills and knowledge necessary to properly install or maintain equipment more efficiently than a general contractor. Specialty/niche contractors should be willing to offer performance guarantees on both labor and the products or components they supply.
Spillage cleanup is another area in which an outside contractor can help free up plant personnel. Contracting spillage cleanup in a plant may actually help to identify the root cause of the spillage, leading to a change in operating procedures or justifying the upgrade, or replacement, of an existing system.
See Also: Belt Conveyors, Personnel, and Procedures Part 2.