What Do Material Handling Applications Engineers Do?
In short, they save clients time and money.
You might have heard of the term ‘application engineer’, but what does that entail for the material handling industry? As an application engineer at Bastian Solutions, I’ll break down my role and illustrate the process that helps to ensure each project delivers on its given design goals. In simple terms, I will review the equipment specified on a layout to verify that it has all accessories needed and is designed and used properly for the application.
When a new project gets the green light, it typically starts with a layout that is designed utilizing BastianCAD software to meet your design needs. BastianCAD uses AutoCAD blocks that contain all the information needed to build every model of our conveyor equipment. The information contained in the blocks such as length, width, roller type, and price can then be extracted into a bill of materials that I review for the application, cost, and completeness.
Ensuring Proper Design
Let’s talk about the most important pieces of information I need to review your project. There are three key categories these fall into: product specifications, system throughput rate, and system location. Each category can have an influence on an aspect of another.
Product specifications may seem easy, but these details can significantly impact the conveyor choice.
- Minimum and Maximum Length/Width/Height
- Is the weight evenly distributed throughout the product?
- Case/Tote Type
- Any special items to consider? Open flaps, lips, bottom not flat, etc.
System Throughput Rate
System throughput rate is usually broken down to cartons per minute (CPM). Once the rate is known, we make equipment choices based on that in order to meet the customer needs. That rate can dictate whether we use an AC or DC powered solution or even the specific type of Motorized Driven Roller (MDR) used in the project.
System location is an important factor because additional considerations need to be accounted for in seismic areas. Certain locations or municipalities might have specific regulations that can affect both design and electrical choices.
These categories contain information that needs to be accounted for and can dictate the design of the final project. For example:
- Do you have a shorter length product or a polybag? You might need to use 2” roller centers or switch to a belted accumulation bed.
- Does your system need to run at least 150 feet per minute in order to hit the case rate desired through the system? You might need to go with a different roller type that offers a higher speed rating.
- Do you have a heavier product loading on an inclining section? You might need to upgrade the AC motor horsepower from 1HP to 2HP
- Is the job site in California? You might need to supply all UL Listed components or supply heavier duty floor supports that are seismically rated.
- Is your product almost as wide as it is long? You might need to increase the overall width of your conveyor because it might overhang the side channels going around a curve and rub on the guardrail.
- Is your product almost as tall as it is long? You might need to make the angle on an incline/decline shallower so that your product does not start tumbling.
I utilize that information along with the understanding of Bastian Solutions’ conveyor product line to ensure that the equipment specified in a drawing is designed properly to meet the customer’s application and ensure satisfaction. Once the equipment is specified properly, it can go through our engineering design and production processes as smoothly as possible. This helps to reduce change orders after a project is in motion and to shorten the lead time that Bastian Solutions’ conveyor can offer.
Details Matter - A Real World Example
To give a recent example, I was reviewing a project that had a product length that was about one inch longer than the zone size specified on the conveyor beds. This was not a concern because our conveyor’s accumulation drivercards have a built-in capability to dynamically zone product, allowing the product to occupy two zones and still keep the accumulation logic. However, because the product was now occupying two zones instead of one, the expected throughput rate of the system was reduced because fewer zones were able to be used at once. This increased the cost of the system since it had more MDRs and photoeyes than were actually needed. By lengthening the standard zone size by six inches, the product was able to fully fit in one zone. This small catch on increasing zone size to fit the product increased the throughput rate of the system by twenty-one percent and lowered the overall project cost to the customer by five percent.
Application engineers have an intimate knowledge of the equipment being ordered. Having them review your project and layout in-depth prior to the equipment being ordered should be an essential step in your project’s timeline.
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