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10 Simple Tips for Basic Conveyor Troubleshooting

Dan Williams | 19 February 2013

I have seen people push boxes along powered conveyors too many times. Just fix it already! If you open and close the same door 20 times a day, and each time it sounds like nails on a chalkboard, what are you going to do…?

If you would grab a can of WD-40 and spray that door, you should keep reading. If you’re just going to let that door squeak, then stop reading because you probably won’t use the following advice. For those of you ready to fix that conveyor, here’s a list of tips based on my experiences in the field. Hopefully, they’ll help you out and get that conveyor up and running.

  1. First and foremost be safe! If you're not sure what you're doing, be over cautious because 480V electricity is not to be messed with unless you know what you are doing. Any conveyor can be very dangerous. Watch where you place both hands at all times, and be aware of boxes coming down the conveyor. (I have a broken finger and have received a couple scars learning that the hard way!)
  2. Look, listen, and feel before performing conveyor CPR. Look to see if there is anything that doesn’t belong such as labels falling off and sticking to conveyor rollers. Feel to see if there are any catch points that don’t belong or bent guardrail that is not properly overlapped and creating a rough transition. Feel if there is adequate drive on the rollers, or if the rollers aren’t going to turn anything heavier than a feather.
  3. A hard, plastic screwdriver is a conveyor mechanics stethoscope. Put the metal tip to a roller shaft and then your ear to the screwdriver handle.  This will allow you to hear whether bearings are grinding or running smoothly.
  4. Carry common tools when looking at conveyor issues. For example, if you're fixing Hytrol conveyor and have a 9/16” wrench, 1/2” wrench, and a Leatherman type, multi-tool you can fix 95% of the problems with these 3 items. No need to lug around a big tool bag.
  5. It’s not always the program that is wrong. Too often I hear the program is wrong and that is why x, y and z are happening. If the program worked yesterday, it’s probably still working fine today. Check the most obvious things first, which brings me to the next two points.
  6. Check photo eyes early and often. Photo eyes are the most common cause of conveyor losing its mind. A partially-aligned photo eye is the biggest culprit I see because a photo eye can still reflect the beam back and not be correctly aligned. If the photo eye beam is centered on your reflector, it is aligned properly. If the photo eye is only hitting one edge of your reflector, it is prone to falling in and out of alignment for a variety of reasons. The following test only applies to a reflector larger than your finger. With no product on the conveyor, see if you can block the photo eye with one finger over any part of the reflector. If yes, your photo eye is likely not centered. If no, your photo eye is aligned well enough.
  7. Is the motor power disconnecting switch turned off? Check it before saying the conveyor is broke and not running.
  8. Fixing Conveyor JamA bent piece of conduit creates a pretty awesome Shepard’s hook for the hard-to-reach places. It is great for clearing jams or pushing the single, hung-up box. For an added bonus, attach a reflector to one if you want to trick photo eyes into reflecting when they shouldn’t, and a piece of cardboard attached to the end for the opposite effect.
  9. It's OK to push a box forward if you can’t figure out what is wrong, but put a sticky note or piece of tape where the problem occurred. Next time you go to push a box and already see a sticky note or tape marker, you know there is something wrong at this location, and it should be fixed.
  10. Take great notes on what happened. Often we are told there is a problem somewhere, and without more information all we can respond with is a more elaborate way of saying, “Watcha talkin' 'bout Willis”. If you want to one-up the old school pen to paper, bust out your cell phone and snap some pictures and take a video of the problem happening. A picture is worth a thousand words and video is worth more words then I would ever want to write out.

I hope these 10 tips help you troubleshoot your conveyor issues, but if not, please contact us. We would be happy to help you fix any problems you're having with your conveyor system. Good luck!

Author: Dan Williams

Dan is a Systems Operations Manager at Bastian Solutions based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University. Since 2007, Dan works closely with clients on material handling solutions; including concept development, design, integration, site, and project management.


Sandra Patterson says:
5/7/2019 06:52 PM

You make a great point to be very cautious around a conveyor since it is a machine that can cause injury. I can imagine that anyone that was dealing with any machine would want to be sure that they were using the correct safety procedure, whether that be for a conveyor belt or something as simple as a common hair dryer. I would love to learn more about this conveyor belt troubleshooting process, I feel like it is very interesting information that you don't hear about every day.

Gary L. Muñiz says:
8/28/2018 10:08 AM

You have done this before. Sage advice for newbies and us old timers.

Tyson says:
10/24/2019 09:46 AM

I like what you said about being cautious whenever you work with a conveyor belt to avoid electrocution. My boss has been telling me about some issues that he's been having with a belt in the warehouse recently. I'll share this information with him sot hat he can look into his options for professionals who can help him with this.

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