A Modular Solution that Eliminates Conveyor Dead Zones

By eliminating conveyor dead zones, this manufacturer was able to eliminate faulty transfers and keep up with scheduled production. The modular solution was installed quickly and technicians can complete repairs or regular maintenance in only 15 minutes, compared to 2 hours using the old transfers.

THE SITUATION:

An appliance manufacturer was experiencing significant backlogs in machine assembly at their facility. The appliances are put together in an assembly line with a conveyor moving the appliance on a pallet throughout the facility. Each time the pallet had to turn or move onto another conveyor line, the pop-up transfers should have moved the pallet into the right spot. Often, dead zones in the transfer would cause the pallet to get stuck and would require maintenance to get the product moving again. Regular planned maintenance and fixes to “unstick” the pallets would mean that the line was down for about 2 hours each time. The process was designed to move up to 625 units per hour, so each time the line was down for maintenance, the whole process would be 1,250 machines behind. The manufacturer was getting fed up with the long downtime which delayed orders and asked PSI for help.

THE RECOMMENDATION:

PSI performed tests on different types of transfers and eventually recommended replacing the pop-up transfers with omnidirectional transfer units (OTUs). OTUs eliminate the dead zones that caused pallets to become stuck when changing directions ensuring that the pallets moved continuously down the proper line. OTUs are a modular solution made up of “stripes” that can be removed at any time it required maintenance or repairs and can be replaced immediately with a working stripe while fixing the faulty stripe offline. This modular solution reduces downtime due to maintenance to 15 minutes from 2 hours.

Other Applications

Once the manufacturer saw how the OTUs performed, it occurred to them that they could be used for other applications around the plant such as moving the pallets to the correct side of the conveyor (also called “justifying”). The assembly operators and machines were split up on the right or left sides of the conveyor. Having the OTUs justify the pallet to the proper side allowed for better ergonomics for operators and proper placement for machines.

THE RESULTS:

By installing OTUs throughout the facility, the manufacturer saw an immediate improvement on their output. There was minimal maintenance required and zero delays due to malfunctioning transfers, so they were able to keep up with the planned rate of 625 units per hour. Additionally, using the OTUs for justifying pallets had positive effects on the operators’ working conditions and increased accuracy when it came to machine-work.

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