When it comes to selecting conveyors for assembly and manufacturing it’s important to keep the “2Ps” in mind – Product and Process. In this article we’ll explore what these two requirements entail and how they can ultimately help determine the best assembly conveyor for your specific application.
While it can seem natural to begin the conveyor selection by looking at the Process – it is important to understand and define the Product first. In some instances, there will be specific characteristics about the Product which may ultimately determine the conveyor type, platform and prerequisite (such as being food safe or able to operate in an explosive environment). So let’s start by taking a look at the various Product characteristics to know and understand when selecting an assembly conveyor.
- What – What is the conveyor conveying? Is it food or is it explosive, or perhaps it’s sensitive to shock? In looking at the “What Product Characteristic” it’s important to ask: What makes this product unique? In asking this question you’ll have a better understanding of what, if any, special requirements the conveyor system may call for.
- Size – How large or small is the product being conveyed? In assembly conveyor applications it is important to understand the size of the product as it starts it’s journey on the conveyor as well as the size it will ultimately be.
- Shape – What is the footprint of the product and how tall will it be? And as with Size, how will these characteristics change as it’s being assembled? Additionally, does the product have any protrusions that require special attention?
- Load – How much does a single product weigh? How much does the tooling – the fixtures on the pallet that hold the product in place – weigh? Product Weight + Tooling Weight = Total Load Per Pallet. Since the total load per pallet is one of the biggest factors in selecting the assembly conveyor platform it is critical to have this value as accurate as possible. And just like size and shape, it is important to know the load per pallet at the start of the assembly line as well as what the maximum load per pallet after the last assembly station.
- Orientation – How should the product being orientated in relationship to the conveyor? Is there a critical edge that must always face forward or a particular side of the conveyor? Does the product need to change orientation on the conveyor? Your answers to these questions will help the conveyor manufacturer determine if the pallet’s leading edge needs to be maintained or if modules like Lift and Rotates may be required.
Product Orientation naturally lends itself to thinking about the second P – Process. When you begin defining the Process it is critical to understand what the goal of the assembly line is, and what pieces of equipment are necessary to accomplish that goal. How these pieces of equipment will fit into your facility is the first required step in determining Process, since the conveyors will be responsible for moving the product between the various steps and stages of assembly. Knowing this will also help determine how manual or automated the conveyor system needs to be. Once the assembly equipment and production goals are defined and placed, then the conveyor Process can be determined using these characteristics.
- Layout – What is the footprint of the assembly line? What are the distances between stations or operations? How far does the product need to travel? What path does the product follow? Does the conveyor need to go around corners, change elevations, merge or divert with other lines?
- Ambient Environment – What is the ambient environment in which the conveyor system will be installed? Will the conveyor need to operate at an extreme high or low temperature? Is the assembly line in a clean or dusty or wet or oily environment? Is the conveyor being used in a food processing facility or a cleanroom or explosive environment? Does the conveyor system need certain certifications?
- Ergonomics – Who is working the conveyor assembly line? Is it employees, robots or a combination? If employees are working on the line does the conveyor need to be a certain elevation to prevent injuries? Are employee interaction stations required – for example worktables? If there are robots, do they require a particular elevation?
- Positioning & Accuracy – Does the product need to be precisely positioned while being conveyed? What type of accuracy is required? Is this a constant requirement or intermittent, such as when interacting with a particular piece of equipment? Knowing these requirements will help not only determine what type of conveyor to use, but also what types of modules such as Lift & Locates may be necessary.
- Speed – How fast or slow does the product need to move from one station to another? Is there a cycle time to meet? Or a required number of parts per minute or hour? Does the product need to travel fast to some stations and slow after others? Thus creating the need to buffer and accumulate product? Understanding these questions is key to understanding the Process.
It may seem like there are a lot of questions to answer when developing a conveyor system. However, working with a seasoned and versatile conveyor manufacturer, like mk North America, will make the process easier. mk’s VersaMove sales engineers will work with you to review these, and other questions, in order to ensure that the Product and Process are fully understood when developing the conveyor system. mk’s sales engineers will work with you from concept, through design approval, the build and beyond in order to ensure that not only are we providing a better product, but also a better solution for your assembly conveyor system needs.
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