Today more than ever, industrial automation plays an important role in keeping manufacturing sustainable in Australia. In order to stay competitive, industries are always looking to improve effectiveness in their operations.
Thanks to innovation, there is a lot of great technology on the market to provide smart and automated solutions to manufacturers. Steve Alcorn, managing director of FlexCAM, a Melbourne-based conveyor system supplier said the spotlight in most cases is on big machinery being the heart of production.
“But, what often gets forgotten is the complex artery of conveyor lines that transport products and packaging in a controlled way from one machine to the next. Without conveyor systems, machines alone are not enough to efficiently automate factory floors.”
Conveyor systems are often complex in their design and construction due to the large scales and integration with machinery. When they are designed with production processes, space constraints, and operational requirements in mind, they play a significant role in industrial automation.
Well thought-out design can eliminate product flow issues, which can impact machine operating efficiency, resulting in product loss and downtime.
“The modular aspect of innovative conveyors enables engineers to design and commission systems that meet any budget requirement and the conditions of even the most complicated and demanding production environments. Standardised solutions also allow businesses to stage their capital expenditure when upgrading their factory automation,” Alcorn says.
Different machines work at different rates. The role of conveyors is to allow machinery to perform at its best by conveying and feeding products or packaging in a controlled manner between machines. By optimising input and output, conveyor systems ensure machines operate at their ideal capacity, thereby maximising capital investment for manufacturers.
Conveyor systems must be able to absorb overfeed from one machinery to the next. Overfeed can take up floor space and create difficult working conditions. Cramped factory floors present many problems, such as safety issues, costly product changeovers, and capacity restraints.
Alcorn says by using the height and ceiling space in a factory, floor space can be reclaimed without a costly footprint expansion.
“The installation of overhead conveyors significantly improves operator safety,” Alcorn says. “One of the main reasons, our clients want to elevate their production is to create clear passage space for forklifts to separate heavy equipment from pedestrians.”
Elevating solutions such as incline conveyors, spiral elevators and wedge conveyors allow manufacturers to lift production off the floor offering extra capacity and improved accessibility for operators.
Standardised interfaces to the upstream and downstream equipment make elevating solutions space-efficient and accommodating for a full range of products. Also, smart accumulating solutions can accommodate significant conveyor length into a small footprint without overcrowding the factory floor.
Automatic for the future
Automation can be very costly requiring high capital investment. Customised solutions can put automation out of reach for many manufacturers. However, standardised robotic solutions present a more affordable option to small-to-medium size businesses.
“Automation is not only reserved for big manufacturers. For example, end-of-line robotic palletising is no longer a highly specialised solution. Innovative and compact palletising machines cost half as much as customised solutions making them ideal for smaller operations. They are called collaborative palletising systems because operators can work alongside the robot on one side of the line without any safety concerns,” Alcorn says.