Features

Smart solutions key to reducing conveyor belt downtime

Flexco

The continued growth of e-commerce has ramped up volume for the parcel handling industry. MHD talks to Flexco about the challenges that come with high demand, and solutions to common pain points. 

Flexco has a clear priority when it comes to conveyor belt solutions. While quality, delivery and cost are all important – it’s safety that comes first for the more than 110-year-old company. 

Safety has to come first, says Ellaina Mackay, Product and Marketing Manager for Flexco Australia, because sadly Australian workers have been seriously injured from conveyor belt accidents. She explains that fingers can get caught in the system when people try to reach into gaps to retrieve loose objects that are causing the belt to stop. 

“Safety will always be number one in our hierarchy – we want to keep our customers safe at work,” she says. “The next most important aspect is quality. We manufacture a lot of our products in Australia and also the United States. Obviously there are cheaper alternatives out there, but we really want to bring the highest possible quality products to the market.”

Flexco has focused more on lighter duty industries over the past 10 years, including parcel handling and food and beverage manufacturing. 

“One of our employees spent time at a major parcel handling operation in the US to try and understand what their pain points were and to develop solutions,” says Ellaina. “We’ve invested a lot of time and a lot of money into gaining that intimacy with lighter duty markets.” 

One of the results of Flexco’s efforts to serve the lighter duties sector is its segmented transfer plates. They were engineered and manufactured in the US, and created to provide a safe and simple solution for loss of product at the transfer point. The segmented design is what separates the plates from commonly used homemade ultra-high molecular weight (UHMW) polyurethane. 

If a foreign object gets lodged between the segment and the belt, the segment will lift, allowing the item to fall through. The hole in the plate can be fixed in seconds, by snapping a new segment in place. This process avoids damage to the belt, conveyor structure, or packages, and also limits downtime. 

“The plates are designed specifically for customers so they’ll suit the exact width and length of your transfer gap,” says Ellaina. “It also helps limit the challenge of belt tear. As soon as the belt rips you can have hours of hours of downtime using homemade solutions, which costs thousands of dollars.”

Australian businesses have been using the transfer plates for the past 18 months. Parcel handling sites are making the most of the decreased downtime, but so are airports with smoothly run luggage conveyors.  

Ellaina says she sees businesses save money in the long run on more intelligent conveyor belt solutions like the segmented transfer plates. She adds that most homemade solutions have to be changed every six months, whereas the transfer plates last an average of two years. 

“Flexco wants to help our customers adapt and embrace the e-commerce era. Customers lower cost by reducing downtime and lessening the risk of belt damage,” she says. “Those two problems are what really hurt the hip pocket.” 

For more information on Flexco, click here

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