Manufacturing : A Modular Solution 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 could complete repairs or regular maintenance in only 15 minutes, compared to the 2 hours required with the old transfers.


An appliance manufacturer was experiencing significant backlogs in machine assembly at their facility. The appliances were put together on an assembly line with a conveyor moving the appliance on a pallet through 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 correct 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 meant 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 turned to PSI for help.


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 stick 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 reduced maintenance downtime from 2 hours to 15 minutes.

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.


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

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