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Prep for the Holidays with These Material Handling Maintenance Tips

Stefanie Hardy | 24 September 2014

The holiday season is fast approaching: Yesterday was the first day of fall, football is finally back, and Kmart has already released its first Christmas commercial (no matter how hard they deny it). With the holiday rush around the corner, it’s important to inspect each area of your material handling system to ensure it's running at peak performance.

Below are some maintenance and spare parts tips from our team. We’ll review four key areas: Conveyors, controls, robotics and software.

Conveyor Maintenance – Charles Schollenberger, Applications Engineer

When it comes to conveyor maintenance, there are many components that should be checked on a regular basis. This can include drives, take-up systems, belting, pulleys, idlers, guards, and the list goes on. There are some items, such as emergency stops, that should be checked almost daily. Cleaning and lubrication of the conveyor can take place on a weekly schedule, and then more in-depth examinations of belts and pulleys should be done on a monthly basis. This planned preventive maintenance will help you avoid unnecessary downtime, and a dedicated maintenance technician is a great person to have on hand.

In preparation for a busy holiday season, we recommend a full-scale preventive maintenance check from cleaning, to lubrication, to inspection of all conveyor elements. Make any necessary part replacements now and then plan to keep any spare parts on hand that would cause extended downtime. Popular spare parts to keep on hand:

  1. Motors – For a large system, keep a couple motors on hand for each type of conveyor. During a busy holiday season, these can wear out faster.
  2. Belts – It isn’t always necessary to keep extra conveyor belts on hand, but if it’s a critical line, it would better to have one available to avoid extended downtime. Extra v-belts are also a good item to keep readily available.
  3. Drive o-rings – These are used in a variety of conveyor types and are an inexpensive part to keep stocked.
  4. Drive and tail pulleys – If the majority of your conveyor is the same width, then keep a spare drive and tail pulley on hand.
  5. Couplings – The couplings used between motors and gear boxes as well as between lineshafts on your roller conveyor can wear out easily but are fairly cheap to replace.
  6. Powered rollers – Keep one to two on hand if a large portion of your conveyor system uses powered rollers.
  7. Air bags and brake pads – With accumulation conveyor, such as Hytrol’s ABEZ, it’s common to keep a few replacement airbags and brake pads.
  8. Sensors – When using zero pressure conveyor, keep a few sensors in stock for a quick replacement.

Industrial Controls Maintenance – Bryan Evans, Sr. Controls Project Engineer

For controls maintenance, here are the top 3 components to check before you enter a busy holiday season.

Check photoeye alignment, especially in key areas like merges, transfers, and scan points. Over time, vibrations from the conveyor can cause the mounting hardware for photoeyes and reflectors to come loose and flicker on the edge of alignment. This can cause false jams, missed diverts, and poor scanner read rates all of which will contribute to poor throughput during what might be the busiest time of the year.

Almost all photoeyes will have indicating LEDs on the top to show their status, some even have 2 LEDs to the strength as well as the status. Make sure these LEDs are on when they should be, off when they should be, and tighten the brackets down.

Check the pressure and quality of the plant’s compressed air system. A majority of conveyor system components, from accumulation conveyors to blade stops to pushers to divert solenoids are pneumatically activated. Low or fluctuating air pressure or excess water/oil in the air supply can cause valves to stick or not open completely, again leading to headaches and low throughput.

Check all air filters on the compressor and empty all the water traps located at the compressor and around the conveyor system. Most regulators will have an indicator on the dial showing the ideal operating pressure, adjust the regulator until this pressure is achieved.

Make sure your tool crib has a supply of replacement fuses on hand. A blown fuse can occur without warning and without a replacement on hand, it could be the end of the shift whether the time clock agrees or not. The electrical schematics for each panel should list fuse sizes and part number on the BOM. Spares can be ordered directly from Bastian Solutions.

Robot Maintenance – Dave Hoyle, Integration Manager

When it comes to repair or maintenance of your robotic systems, it makes a lot of sense to stock your shelves with replacement parts that ensure your system’s success. To maintain maximum uptime, you need to plan for more than a repair by planning a preventative maintenance shutdown if possible. To help with this, Bastian Solutions can outfit your company with a custom designed maintenance kit for each coverage period.

To prepare for the holiday rush, or more importantly to ensure years of trouble-free operation, we suggest the following robot maintenance procedures:

  1. Replace the controller CPU battery and resolver batteries every three years
  2. Replace the controller air filter annually
  3. Replace the controller fan unit every three years
  4. Replace gear oil every other year
  5. Replace gaskets and/or gasket covers every three years
  6. Visually inspect for damaged connectors, replace when needed
  7. Test all cables for wear and damage
  8. Check and replace seals as needed
  9. Test for gear backlash
  10. Re-grease balancer and other bushing / bearings on the mechanical manipulator
  11. Test and inspect teach pendants, replace overlays if needed

Software Maintenance – Craig Lee, Sr. Project Manager

For each critical server or workstation within your facility, we recommend the following maintenance tips to keep your software and hardware running smoothly:

  1. Physically evaluate the machines. Are they clean and dust free? Any strange noises or warning lights? If there is backup power, is it functional? Do any Uninterruptible Power Supply batteries need replaced?
  2. Evaluate the system resources. Using tools, or just an inspection, check the normal CPU, RAM, and Hard Drive usage. Does it seem too high? How has it changed since the last inspection? Document your findings to compare the next time.
  3. Is all software up to date? Check Windows updates, security software, and the applications that run the business. Are they performing as expected?
  4. Backups! Are you taking regular backups, and are they working correctly? Do you have offsite copies? Do you have a procedure in place to restore or switch over to backup hardware and software if needed?

There are many material handling maintenance checks to perform, especially if you have a large-scale system with a variety of components. Although we only touched on a few tips, hopefully, they help you review and prep the critical areas of your system before the holiday season. Keep in mind, though, it is best to routinely perform a full-scale preventive maintenance check on your system. This is something your maintenance technician can do, or if needed, a Bastian Solutions maintenance technician can come to your facility to complete the inspection and perform any needed repairs.

Author: Stefanie Hardy

Stefanie is the Director of Marketing at Bastian Solutions, headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. She has a background in advertising and marketing and has been with the company since 2010. Outside of work, Stefanie enjoys spending time with her husband and two children as well as running, hiking and reading.


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