Since the first conveyor belts were installed in mines over 100 years ago, they have become essential to modern manufacturing and material handling. Henry Ford revolutionised mass production when he incorporated powered conveyor belt in the assembly line at the Ford motor plant in Detroit in 1913. It helped to speed up the assembly of individual units, making it possible for Ford to produce cars faster and more cheaply than ever before.
Since then manufacturing processes from food to furniture, textile to tyres have incorporated the humble conveyor to enhance efficiency. Whilst not a complicated mechanism, it works wonders for productivity and can be found at airports and train stations, conveying people and parcels with equal ease over distances
Today, conveyors are integral to efficient warehouse operations, increasing operative productivity.
Quatum leap in warehouse efficiency
Conveyors are used for receiving and despatch to increase productivity and reduce transport turnaround times. Equally they can be integrated into order picking systems to improve productivity and expedite throughput. In split case picking, orders can be picked into totes or shipping cartons which are moved between zones on conveyors. Once the orders are completed, they can be sent via conveyors to the despatch area.
The most popular system in use is the powered roller conveyor. Flexible with high speed, these electrically driven roller conveyors can handle up to 6,000 cases per hour, complete with high speed diverts, work stations, incorporating automatic packaging, sealing, weighing and labelling of shipping cartons or totes.
Whether the conveyors are installed in a small or a large warehouse, they can take a lot of manpower out of the warehouse, particularly when used with a material flow program.
Pros outweighs cons
What are the drawbacks of conveyors you may ask? Change in the weight of the material or alteration in the size of the package may require changes to the conveyors. And as in any mechanical equipment, breakdowns are cause for concern. Should the conveyor malfunction, it may well bring production to a halt and the cost can be significant.
On balance, the conveyor system is an asset to the warehouse. If you have not installed a conveyor system in your warehouse, you may want to consider it. Check in with your material handling supplier who you can provide a lowdown of the different systems available which can help improve your operation and the estimated cost of installation.