Published by: Emma Lande

Three Tips That Will Eliminate Downtime and Extend the Life of Your Towline System

Eliminate Towline Downtime

Towline conveyors are the workhorse transporters of high-volume and heavy equipment machinery in the material handling industry; they will move payloads worth tens of thousands of tons within assembly and distribution facilities with minimal human intervention. 

The continuous heavy lifting often results in frequent wear and tear that can significantly shorten the lifespan of your system, but a good preventive-maintenance program will prevent premature decommissioning and reduce order fulfillment disruptions.  

Keeping these factors top of mind will ensure that your towline system continues providing the same dependable services many decades after installation. 

Vendor Selection:
The first order of actions when planning a towline installation is selecting vendors. Narrowing your vendor list to suppliers who can demonstrate a solid reputation for providing quality and timely services to industry-known clients is a critical part in securing a vendor with the required engineering capabilities. 

  1. Do they provide standard equipment?  These are easily accessibly at competitive prices. Your vendor should demonstrate that they can re-stock certain critical parts and components within reasonable time.  Alternatively, your purchasing department should be able to easily purchase similar components without hurdles.
  2. Does your vendor have a repair and rejuvenate program?  For a minimal fee, quality vendors often provide support systems that provide periodic systems audit and new user training sessions. Through these programs, renowned towline conveyor companies such as SI Systems will replace or rebuild damaged carts and turns, worn chains and track sections, old drive units and more to extend the life of your system.
  3. Is your vendor's control system designed to interface with existing systems?   If your system cannot successfully integrate with emerging order fulfillment technology, it cannot keep up with industry best practices and may have to be decommissioned or you may be forced to pay costly remodification prices. 

Establish a Maintenance Protocol:
A preventive schedule that triggers maintenance work orders based on pre-determined parameters is an ideal way of establishing routine upkeep of your towline system. An effective program should include a roster of responsible staff, timeline of service, service protocol and associated independent verifiers.  

Your protocol should include a thorough towline drive and conveyor inspection, with emphasis on:  
  • Motors (drive):  Lubricate bearings annually with industry-standard grade of ball bearing grease. 
  • Reducer (drive):  Follow manufacturer's preventive maintenance instructions for the reducer.  If the reducer oil change intervals are not followed, premature bearing failure may follow. 
  • Conveyor chain:  The conveyor chain should be cleaned with a solvent and high-pressure air at least once per year, and more often if necessary.
  • Cleanout boxes:  They are often located in areas of excessive dirt and contamination and should therefore be opened and cleaned on a weekly basis; however, this interval can be extended if debris is minimal.
  • Drive pit:  Like the cleanout boxes, the drive pit is a receptacle for debris and oil, and should be cleaned every six months, or sooner if necessary.  

 Staff Safety & Installation Training:
In addition to technical training, safety training should be provided to all operational personnel.  Different organizations follow different safety training protocol, but we generally find these overarching tips crucial to any training protocol:  
  • A thorough review of vendors' recommended safety procedures.
  • A thorough description of the system's functionality and a defined risk reassessment should the functionalities change.
  • The identification, use and location of all controls, including emergency stops.
  • A thorough training in detecting abnormalities in the system's functionalities and corresponding responses.
  • Identification of safety documentation.

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