In any manufacturing or production operation, one of the biggest variables in calculating reliable profit projections is the constant reality of downtime and the related financial costs. While the exact number depends on the specific business and industry, an International Society of Automation study estimates that downtime costs the manufacturing industry nearly $650 billion each year.
Ignoring the financial cost of downtime is not an option, especially for a material handling operation that utilizes screw conveyors in its processes. Equipment reliability must be addressed directly in order to understand how downtime is impacting an organization’s profitability and ability to achieve future growth. The best way to do that is to start at the top:
Misapplication is the number one challenge impacting downtime for a screw conveyor.
While the versatility of the screw conveyor design is impressive, several variables can negatively impact the equipment’s reliability if they are not taken into consideration. Three of them are:
- Length of Run: Misapplications often start with a screw conveyor’s length. Standard screw conveyors are available “off the shelf” with the trough and the screw in a nominal 10-12 foot length. However, a customer’s required distance of travel can exceed the standard length. Those nominal lengths must be joined together with additional screw sections, along with the addition of coupling shafts and the installation of a hanger bearing at each connection point. Often made of plastic, hanger bearings are clear areas of vulnerability in a screw conveying system.
- Screw Design: The engineering, materials and design of the helix itself is another source of maintenance headaches associated with a screw conveyors. For example, a helicoid screw will be misapplied in an operation that moves heavy, aggressive materials. These applications require a heavy-duty screw that features individual, highly durable sections fastened to form the screw flight. Without such custom modifications to a conveyor’s design, breakdowns are inevitable.
- Material Characteristics: Operations invite trouble when they require an off-the-shelf screw conveyor (typically designed for low-caustic material exhibiting high flowability) to handle sluggish, abrasive material or anything else beyond basic design specifications. Screw conveyors that are misapplied in this fashion can go down in just weeks if their components and construction are not adjusted to the characteristics of the materials being transported in a specific application.
When a modern production process that relies on output comes to a complete stop, the pressure impacts everyone until the situation is corrected. Frequently, when problems can be traced to a conveyor—a piece of equipment that often isn’t highly valued until production is compromised—the response is a short-term fix. Unfortunately, temporary solutions inevitably lead to more failures, which create additional stress as everyone understands another shutdown is right around the corner.
In short, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for a screw conveyor, and no instant remedy when something goes wrong. Balancing all of the processing and material demands with the appropriate conveyor design, components and features is important for achieving optimal operating efficiency and maximum ROI.
At CDM, we address screw conveyor misapplication problems in several ways:
- Custom Design: Creating a screw conveyor system from scratch to fit an operation’s specific needs is the best way to proactively avoid a misapplication. Custom-engineering conveying equipment based on the operating environment, available space, volume targets, materials, heavy-duty considerations and other variables may be more costly at the outset, but the financial impact of downtime easily justifies the investment in the larger scope of long-term efficiency, reliability and profitability.
- Retrofitting: Replacing existing screw conveyor parts is another approach that involves identifying the key components impacted by the misapplication and engineering a custom fit for the process. Whether that means changing out a vulnerable helicoid screw for a more heavy-duty version or changing the trough to better achieve speed and capacity production targets, CDM retrofit solutions can significantly improve reliability while reducing the potential for unplanned downtime.
- Full System Review: In some cases, a screw conveyor may have been the most convenient or affordable initial option, but breakdowns and costly downtime have made it clear that other conveying methods were better suited for the job. Reevaluating the entire system allows us to substitute more specialized, efficient equipment (such as en-masse conveyors) for any misapplied screw conveyors.
Screw conveyors are the most widely utilized conveyors in the world, but it is important to understand their limitations and how to overcome them. With more than 40 years of experience building the highest-quality, longest-lasting conveyors for heavy-duty industrial applications, CDM will provide honest evaluations, expert insights and ultimately the most effective and efficient systems for maximizing your profit margins.