When plants deal with bulk material well, all of their operations become easier. But challenges in bulk material handling lead to many problems, including inefficiencies, degradation and material segregation. Plants that struggle in this area may also develop issues with controlling dust and cleaning and maintaining machines.
Some plants lose efficiency because of poor bulk material handling. One issue is material spillage, which manufacturing professionals should take seriously. Spillage is a potential cause of injury, material loss and downtime.
Poor flow or a complete cessation of flow can cause inefficiencies as well. This crops up in several situations, including when:
- Materials form an arch by an outlet, obstructing it
- Too much material moves through an outlet at once, creating downstream issues
- Materials gather on the sides of an outlet and stagnate, which is known as “ratholing”
Fortunately, it’s possible to make systems more efficient by correcting the above problems. That may involve a reassessment and calibration of a given system’s design, taking into account its temperature, the materials it moves and other factors.
Degradation is one of the most prominent challenges in bulk material handling because the process involves so many objects coming into contact. Degradation may change traits such as the size and consistency of the material, leading to later issues with product quality or plant operations. The answer to reducing degradation often lies in selecting better equipment, as perfectly fitting components give greater control over materials.
When it comes to challenges in bulk material handling, no discussion would be complete without touching on segregation. This problem occurs when particles with different traits, such as size and shape, separate from each other. If this goes on unchecked, significant amounts of material may stay behind, slowing down operations and reducing the resulting products’ quality and consistency.
However, it becomes easier to prevent material segregation by installing properly fitting components, including bags and hoppers. Other helpful steps include optimizing conveyors’ configurations and carefully controlling how much material moves through a feeder at once.
While cleaning needs vary from factory to factory, cleanliness is always important for bulk material handling. Dirty machinery contaminates materials, making them unusable and unsafe.
Keeping machinery clean is so important in manufacturing that government regulations dictate the standards factories must meet. That means factory managers and process overseers need an adequate plan for cleaning their conveyance systems. The good news is that there are convenient solutions like clean-in-place systems available.
Dust control challenges
While dust particles are small, failing to install dust-control measures can create huge challenges in bulk material handling. Over time, materials leaving the supply line as dust can cause costs to creep up, while dust can also present maintenance problems if it accumulates in unwanted places. In extreme situations, dust may even make fires or explosions more likely.
Fortunately, there are many potential dust control and containment measures for manufacturers to explore. Examples include sealed conveyor designs and components dedicated to dust collection.
Machine maintenance issues
The machines that handle bulk materials are often capable of controlling impressive amounts of volume and weight — but no machine can run forever without maintenance. Periodic tune-ups are necessary to avoid unplanned downtime as well as dangerous, operation-disrupting events like material pile-ups.
Given how much money maintenance saves through downtime prevention, it’s an investment with a huge return. Factory managers can get ahead of the curve with a maintenance plan. By scheduling preplanned inspections and performing routine repairs, maintenance providers reduce service disruptions and extend equipment’s useful life.
Partnering up for better processes
Plant managers and process engineers who proactively tackle the challenges in bulk material handling will be rewarded with safer, more profitable operations. And partnering with a company like Hapman means manufacturing professionals don’t have to solve problems alone.
From maintenance plans to custom equipment, Hapman offers efficiency- and safety-boosting solutions to companies around the world and in an array of industries. To speak to a local Hapman representative, get in touch today.