How To Minimize Downtime and Increase Throughput in Conveyance Applications

It is estimated that over the last three years, 82% of manufacturing companies have experienced unplanned downtime and that unplanned downtime is costing them as much as $260,000 an hour. Surprisingly, it is also estimated that more than 70% of respondents do not know exactly when their devices need to be serviced, upgraded or replaced. Even with the knowledge that unplanned downtime is so costly, manufacturers’ most common maintenance approaches — which should ideally help reduce unplanned downtime — are not necessarily effective at reducing it.

Unplanned maintenance on a conveyor system can result in downtime that impacts productivity and throughput – which can be costly downstream. Replacing traditional conveyor systems with a software-controlled, intelligent, high-speed conveyor system can play a crucial role in minimizing overall downtime by increasing throughput and optimizing processes for maximum productivity.

Implement predictive maintenance

A recent GE study found that only 24% of operators describe their maintenance approach as “predictive” or based on data and analytics. The rest took either a reactive or a time-based approach. In terms of unplanned downtime associated with each approach, reactive approaches accounted for an average of 8.43% annually, with 7.96% for planned and 5.42% for data/monitoring approaches.

With the data collection capabilities of intelligent high-speed conveyors, operators can gain visibility into the entire system and see events causing downtime before they impact production. Compared to traditional systems, which typically only have external sensors, high-speed conveyors have data collection capabilities within the system. This means that an operator can not only track external data, e.g. where pallets are positioned and where they are going, but smart conveyors also track internal components such as volts, currents, position and errors to ensure the conveyor is running at peak performance.

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Implementing modern high-speed conveyors with advanced predictive maintenance features keeps unplanned downtime low and productivity high.

Optimize the conversion process

Traditionally, conveyors require tools and operator intervention to adjust equipment for product changeovers. For example, a consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturer might pack 16-ounce bags of product and then switch to 8-ounce bags to fill an order. This means that in a conveyor application, the tool would be set to hold the 16 ounce package as it flows through the line and adjusted to accommodate a smaller 8 ounce pouch. In some production lines, this process can take several hours.

Rather than having to stop production and manually adjust the conveyor for the 8-ounce bags—a process that would require equipment downtime and reduced productivity—high-speed software-controlled conveyors make changing parameters as easy as pushing a few buttons and having to was automatically applied to the system.

By using automation and software to streamline changeover processes, production workers can maximize uptime and throughput regardless of product variations. As an added benefit, longer production runs are not required for inventory. With a flexible conveyor system, manufacturers can start production when needed and use the storage space for more valuable operations such as additional production lines.

Reduce cycle times

The latest generation of transport systems offer a valuable tool that is relatively easy to implement. These easily reconfigurable transport systems allow manufacturers to customize their production processes built around the system with minimal cost and time. Manufacturers who have installed this type of transport system have been able to significantly increase productivity and reduce cycle time. The ability to independently program each pallet and vary its speed and direction gives assemblers and manufacturers the ability to address specific process bottlenecks and keep their production lean while responding to the needs of their markets and customers.

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High-speed, linear motor-driven conveyor systems combine versatile movement with transport speeds of up to four meters per second, significantly faster than many standard conveyors. In addition, the workpiece carrier changeover time is less than one second. And because each pallet is independently programmable, its position can be tracked and documented with absolute accuracy. Faster throughput, accurate position accuracy, and pallet-level tracking can increase productivity, thereby helping to reduce cycle time and overall manufacturing and maintenance costs.


When deciding whether intelligent high-speed conveyors are worth the investment, consider the overall ROI, particularly the long-term maintenance benefits. While traditional conveyors tend to be cheaper upfront, maintenance costs add up later. Traditional conveyors can be less durable, which means they also require excessive maintenance and repairs to keep them running smoothly.

An investment in intelligent conveyor systems unlocks advanced automation features that help reduce maintenance costs and result in less costly unplanned downtime due to inefficient production processes.

Abdullah Al Ramadan is Product Sales Manager, High Speed ​​Conveyance, Bosch Rexroth Corporation.

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