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Maintenance Tips by Larry

Q – “Help! My conveyor output is falling and I cannot maintain production levels. What is wrong with my conveyor?”

A – In this case, often the root cause of lost production is not obvious. When a conveyor fails to produce at a rate it had previously performed and regular maintenance checks have been done, often what I see as the cause is a variance in the material.

Over the course of time, material suppliers are sometimes changed, the manner or frequency of raw material delivery changes, volume of material deliveries may increase or decrease, and the make-up or quality of compound materials may change. All of these variables, and also things like high humidity can affect material characteristics which can impact conveyor performance. There are ways to combat sluggish material movement so it is a good idea to contact your supplier to get the material composition details and then call Hapman or another qualified service provider to discuss your options.

Q – “What is the recommended schedule for checking my mechanical conveyor and what components have the highest fatigue and wear?”

As a maintenance technician and advisor I understand how difficult it is to keep up with the nuances of all types of equipment in your plant. The run-fail-run mode of operation is difficult to manage and even harder on company profitability. So let’s first start with the understanding that these tips, while important, are not all encompassing. A complete PPM schedule should be done for all operational equipment in the plant.

A – For mechanical conveyors I recommend a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly plan.

Daily – Perform a quick visual inspection before start-up to make sure operation is safe. This means verifying electrical connections are solid, there are no lock-out, tag-out orders from the previous shift, and connections are sound between hoppers or silos, wherever material is pulled from. (Many conveyors will fail or cause premature failure if allowed to run empty.)

Weekly – Check for joint leaks or connections, cracks or unusual vibration. If you have a Helix® Flexible Screw Conveyor it is a good idea to inspect the hopper weldment for cracks and check the clamps that hold the casing in place to make sure they are secure and tight.

Monthly – Perform inspections of internal components with the conveyor empty. Most conveyor types will come with an inspection or access port. Look for points of wear on key components, in a drag type conveyor this could be the sprocket teeth height and flight wear, in the case of a Helix Flexible Screw Conveyor, I recommend the following:

  1. Remove the end cap and checking the distance form the end of the boot. It should be 2-3 inches. If the auger distance is closer than this, cut to length.
  2. Check the connection of the auger to the adapter. This should be tight and free of excessive wear. If connecting hardware is deformed or showing signs of wear, a replacement should be installed.

Quarterly – Check conveyor support infrastructure to make sure there are no visible signs of over-stress, replace accordingly. Seek out possible operational swings for root cause of premature infrastructure fatigue. For a Helix or other screw conveyors also perform these checks:

  1. Remove the auger and check for abnormal gapping/spacing between pitches of the auger. Standard should be about 2-1/2” between pitches. If gaps are wider the auger strength has been compromised and therefore should be replaced. Lay the auger on the floor and check for uniform length. It is common for the auger to snake somewhat while lying on the floor but you should not see tight or extreme bending.
  2. If equipped, check the end probe for wear and replace if needed.
  3. Visually inspect the motor and gear box and other components. Check gear box oil level to ensure proper lubrication.

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