Conveyors: A List of Applications, Types and Benefits


Conveyors are essential material handling equipment seen in places like warehouses, factories, airports, and any business requiring the safe handling and transport of goods from one location to another. They come in different designs, can span hundreds of metres or be compact and modular, and deal with materials, packages, and products of varying shapes and sizes. What’s common to all though is they’re efficient, and fast and greatly remove the risk of injuries to employees when handling heavy and bulky goods.

What Conveyor Systems Are And How They Work

Conveyor in warehouse

A conveyor system is a mechanical device used to transport products, supplies, raw materials, packages and any item from one point to another within a defined setting. Systems can be simple and small, or configured to move thousands of items at any given moment, virtually in any direction. The main goal is to prevent property damage, lower labour costs and reduce likely accidents when moving items difficult to handle. They can also be integrated with existing material handling gear to effortlessly transport items with minimal fuss.

Though there’s a wide variety of types, belt or slat conveyors seem to be the most familiar, These consist of two or more pulleys supported by a frame, a belt or slats stretched across the pulleys to form a close loop, and a variable speed motor to initiate movement. This is often located at the ‘drive’ pulley and in indoor systems powered by a mains connection. Rollers can be used to support the conveyor frame when moving heavier items, and additional parts like clamping straps hold down fixtures and components. Most designs also incorporate a carryback or belt cleaner to remove stuck items past the discharge point.

Major Types

Belt Conveyors

The belt systems described above can be seen in mail and parcel distribution, mining operations, airports, farms, specialised and general production plants, warehouses and more. Belts alone can be used to move lighter goods, but heavy-duty use often relies on supporting roller systems, multiple pulleys and motors, as well as strengthened frames. These are often referred to as roller belt systems.

Chain-Driven Systems

Chain conveyors are another take on belt systems, but use looped chains at either end to move the belt. Most are motorised, simple to maintain, often work at set speeds, and relatively cheap to assemble. They’re mainly used in recycling, construction and mining. Systems that replace belts with metal or plastic slats are good for transporting fragile items, such as those found in pharmaceutical and food production and packaging.

Roller Conveyors

Roller conveyor

These come as gravity or motorised systems. They consist of a defined number of evenly spaced rollers (between 5 to 15cm apart) positioned along the length of a supporting frame. Gravity rollers can placed flat or set at an angle so that gravity helps with the moving, such as when unloading trucks.

Motorised types are bulkier and more complex, and are usually seen in large-scale operations, such as food handling, packaging and steelmaking. The rollers can cover large distances, and move and distribute items both for production or assembly, and storage. Controllers with serious circuitry control multiple points in the system, and streamline operations.

Overhead Types

These conveyor systems work above or over employees, utilising overhead space in manufacturing, bottling and assembly plants. They consist of revolving tracks of chains or trolleys, can be hand-powered or motorised and automated, and their modular design means they adjust to different floorplans. The type of track means the distinction between enclosed and open monorail conveyors. Enclosed systems are less prone to environmental damage, and can be configured to accommodate tight bends, but are more suited to lighter loads. Open track types can take larger and heavier loads, though work better in a straight line.

Why Consider Conyevors for Your Business?

Conveyor in mining industry

If your company deals with large quantities of goods that need to be transported or handled during different production stages, then conveyors offer numerous advantages. One of the most important is the ability to move high volumes of goods in varying dimensions and weights, continuously. Downtime due to fatigue or human error in manual handling is significantly reduced. A by-product is improved efficiency and lower damage rates.

Related is the increased safety. Conveyors remove the risk of injuries and accidents commonly seen in manual handling tasks. And they help reduce overall costs by limiting the need for manual labour in the first place. The systems move goods and materials at a much faster rate, specifically when compared to conventional material handling solutions like trolleys.

Improved efficiency, adaptability and productivity is another reason to choose a conveyor. Systems can be configured in a layout that best suits needs, or fits within allotted spaces, and items can be moved at varying speeds to suit varying processes. For production and assembly lines, this aids in quality control and detecting faulty products or parts. The modular designs also mean conveyors can be used as single units or joined together when covering larger distances or moving heavier items.

Lastly, consider the low-maintenance needs. Simple, free-moving roller conveyors are almost maintenance-free and can handle exceptionally large loads (100 kilos per square metre). Motorised systems with complex circuitry and sensors still are cost-effective solutions and only need periodic checks.