Conveyors are one of the most widely used pieces of equipment within a warehouse or distribution centre environment. But when something goes wrong and a conveyor system unexpectedly stops operating, substantial costs are often incurred which directly impact on the user's bottom line.
And, while an effective conveyor maintenance plan will go some way towards preventing failure and helping to keep breakdowns to a minimum, unplanned and costly conveyor downtime remains an issue that plant engineers have to contend with on a regular basis. One of the most common causes of conveyor failure is chain malfunction.
"Chains, bearings, and other moving parts are exposed to high levels of friction which causes wear and tear and leads to problems," says Peter Church, managing director of FB Chain Ltd.
Choosing a chain that offers high levels of reliability is, therefore, essential. But, Peter Church believes, too many engineers base their chain selection choices on price alone.
"These days more and more purchase decisions are made purely on short term financial considerations. Buyers seem less interested in product integrity – which, for a highly stressed item such as chain, is perhaps surprising," he says.
"In many ways," he continues, "buyers have become more professional and companies now employ sophisticated purchasing techniques. But unfortunately there are lots of businesses out there that still believe that, when it comes to chain, there is little to choose between the products that are currently on the market. Nothing could be further from the truth".
He continues: "While it is hard to tell one make of chain apart from another by simply looking at it, the material, the quality of press tooling, heat treatment processes as well as ancillaries such as corrosion resistant coatings and lubrication will all influence a chain's product quality and performance.
"The money that an engineer may save his or her company by selecting cheaper, inferior quality chain, is insignificant when compared to the cost of the disruption to the facility and the lost operating time that a prematurely worn conveyor chain causes."