For the last several years, a green movement has swept the globe. Consumers, organizations, and large corporations have all moved toward green initiatives. Whether in packaging, recyclable materials, or energy efficient production, these programs have all lead to more earth conscientious workplaces as well as saved overheard spend. However, in an industry filled with automation and machinery, the thought of going green might seem like a faraway dream. Luckily, new innovations in conveyor technologies have led to the possibility of greener business practices in the fields of materials handling and automation.
What Does Going Green Mean?
For any industry, going green can be interpreted in different ways, but for those in the materials handling industry, going green consists of minimizing the amount of energy and materials being used in our systems. It also consists of ensuring our material handling equipment and systems positively affect employees. This means all machinery should be safe, low noise, and operate as cleanly as possible.
The Cost Concern
While going green might be a possibility, many businesses ask if the investment in green material handling initiatives is really worth the price and if it will eventually save money. There are several ways to look at a green investment. In some cases, a business might be able to afford a new, more eco-friendly system. In other cases, a new motor can be enough to save on energy costs and establish an eco-friendly business plan. Whatever an organization’s situation might be, we will explore a few ways in which going green with conveyors can save money.
Eco-Friendly Conveyor Systems
There are a few ways to compare conveyor options and determine which one will take an organization in an eco-friendly direction. Organizations prioritizing green initiatives might want to overhaul existing systems for something more earth conscientious. If this is the case, there are several options to compare. For example, when considering belt conveyors, you might find that a narrow belt conveyor performs the same amount of sortation per minute as well as have the same initial investment cost as other systems, while cutting energy use significantly. Other items to compare and consider in conveyor sortation systems can include how much materials are needed, whether or not a system requires lower maintenance over another conveyor, and if it provides low noise for employee safety. Each of these meets the criteria of going green.
Activated Roller Belt (ARB) Conveyor
Small Adjustments for Green Initiatives
For corporations without a large budget for overhauling entire systems, there are several other ways to “go green” with conveyor equipment without breaking the budget. A few of those ways include:
- Installing Energy Efficient AC Conveyor Motors
Energy-efficient motors are proven to increase efficiency and productivity by 3% to 5%. An increase in motor efficiency by as little as 4% can result in significant financial savings as well as in materials handling time. Energy efficient conveyor motors provide a 2- to 3-year return on investment (ROI) with 24/7 operations. Energy-efficient motors also last longer than the typical conveyor motor.
- Sleep Mode Controls Logic
There is often dwell time on conveyor systems where there is no product or associates are on a break. During this time, intelligent Warehouse Control Systems (WCS) will turn off the motors to save energy, reduce noise, and extend the mechanical life of the equipment. As soon as product is sensed on the system, the motors are re-energized and the system comes out of a “sleep” mode.
- Capturing Regenerative Energy
Using regenerative capable motors that can serve as a motor or generator allow electrical energy to be captured when equipment or product is lowered. With Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS), a shuttle is lowered and the energy can be captured. With Perfect Pick iBots, the iBot drops vertically, and the energy is recaptured by the ultra-capacitor. For some types of decline belt conveyors using motorized drive rollers, the energy can be captured and used on other equipment or sent back into the grid.
Perfect Pick iBot at Picking Station
- Determining on Eco-friendly Final Drives
Studies have found that 4% of energy on the handling floor is lost through a conveyors belt or chain drive. (That percentage jumps to 10% if the drive has been ill maintained.) Shifting to direct or variable speed drives can increase efficiency as well as dramatically reduce maintenance and conveyor downtime. A move to this type of eco-friendly drive can provide a 2- to 3-year ROI.
- Considering a Hybrid System with 24V DC Motorized Drive Rollers
MDR (Motor Driven Roller) conveyors can cost 15% more, yet they tend to yield the greenest results. Many corporations are considering a switch to hybrid systems where transfer and merges are done with an MDR and the rest of the handling systems work with existing conveyors. This provides low energy use while offering more efficiency on the warehouse floor.
- WCS to Monitor Energy Usage
Energy monitoring tools on advanced Warehouse Control Systems (WCS) show peak and steady state energy usage throughout the day. With these tools, floor supervisors can better manage the material handing system’s energy usage.
Example of a WCS screen monitoring energy usage
Going Green with Conveyors
In an industry filled with automation and machinery, the thought of going green may seem like a dream but with the cost-effective solutions provided above, greener business practices in the field of automated material handling are possible and can save you money.