The Top Three Conveyor Issues & How To Avoid Them

It’s not uncommon for large, complex machinery to develop issues that can impact its efficiency or operation, and conveyors are definitely no exception. 

With a myriad of moving parts, all working 24/7 at maximum output, the possibility of something breaking down is fairly high. A conveyor that isn’t operating correctly can result in productivity loss, costly repairs, and even a safety hazard to workers. 

To avoid these unwanted scenarios, it’s important to be on the lookout for any potential problems and take proactive steps to prevent them. 

With that in mind, let’s explore the three most common conveyor issues: Belt Mistracking, Belt Slippage, and Material Carry-back. What are they? What can cause them? And what can you do to keep them from happening? 

What is Belt Mistracking?

The term ‘mistracking’ refers to a conveyor belt that pulls to one side and runs off its intended track. Mistracking is a significant issue that should be addressed immediately since it can lead to additional problems, including belt damage, material spillage, and even damage to the conveyor’s overall structure.

Several factors can cause belt mistracking, such as:

  • Misaligned idlers or locked rollers
  • Faulty chute structure skirting
  • Material overload on the belt
  • Crooked belt splices or worn vulcanized belt splices

Regular inspection and maintenance of your conveyor, along with choosing appropriate, good quality conveyor components, are all things you can do to prevent mistracking and other issues from possibly occurring. It’s essential to regularly inspect idlers and their rollers to ensure the idlers are aligned properly and the rollers are running evenly. And daily greasing of roller bearings helps to avoid any locked rollers. 

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the chute skirting, too, especially at the discharge points. Skirting that doesn’t contain or discharge the material properly can push a belt off track. And there are more steps you can take to prevent mistracking. 

For instance, don’t overload the belt with more material than it’s designed to handle, clean the conveyor frequently to avoid material build-up, and fix any crooked splices or repair any vulcanized splices that have worn down. 

What is Belt Slippage?

Slippage occurs when there is either too little or too much tension in the conveyor belt. Without the proper balance of tension, a belt can slip off of the pulleys and eventually cause further serious problems, such as belt or motor failure. Like mistracking, belt slippage should be corrected right away, or better yet, avoided altogether. 

Some common causes of belt slippage include: 

  • Improperly installed or worn lagging on the head drive pulley
  • Damaged wing or tail pulleys
  • Material overload on the belt

To lower the risk of conveyor belt slippage, regularly inspect (and replace if needed) the lagging on the pulleys, especially on the head drive pulley. Incorrectly installed lagging or lagging with a lot of wear can become smooth and lose that all-important grip on the belt. 

The less grip a lagging has, the greater the chance a belt could start to slip. At the same time, a bent or damaged pulley can also affect the tension of the belt and result in slippage, so if you discover any broken pulleys, be sure to replace them sooner rather than later. 

Loads that are too heavy for the conveyor’s belt type and size can cause the belt to slip, too. Never overload the belt with extra material. 

What is Material Carry-Back?

Out of the three, carry-back is probably the most common conveyor issue. The term ‘material carry-back’ refers to material that doesn’t discharge from the bed as it should but, instead, gets caught in the bed and is carried back on the return. 

The carry-back material either falls off the belt under the conveyor (producing what is called ‘tailings’) or continues to build up on the belt. If not controlled and eliminated, carry-back can cause serious damage to belts and other critical conveyor components. 

Carry-back not only affects the performance of your conveyor, but it can also impact your bottom line causing significant material loss and creating a need for additional labor to clean up the tailings. Since tailings clean up near a running conveyor is a dangerous task that can risk the safety of your workers, eliminating carry-back on your conveyor is all the more crucial.

Some causes of material carry-back can be:

  • Poor quality scrapers
  • Improperly installed scrapers
  • Inappropriate scraper type and size

A good quality belt cleaning system, also known as ‘scrapers,’ is essential to preventing carry-back. A scraper system is made up of primary and secondary blades that are designed to  ‘scrape’ material off the belt and greatly reduce or eliminate any carry-back. 

Primary scraper blades clean the belt at the head pulley, while secondary blades, which are installed at the discharge pulley, remove any residual material remaining on the belt. Using high-performing scapers is a must to get rid of carry-back since poor quality scraper blades tend to wear out quickly and start to flip or twist, which can make them ineffective. 

Be sure your primary and secondary scrapers are installed properly because blades that don’t press close to the belt won’t scrape away material. Scraper blades that are the wrong size for a conveyor’s belt or pulleys can lead to carry-back, too. 

For example, depending on the size of your conveyor’s belt and head pulley, it may require a heavy-duty scraper with a 12-inch high blade to control the amount of carry-back it can accumulate rather than the more standard medium-duty scraper with a 6-inch high blade. So, make sure your scraper system is sized appropriately for your specific conveyor.

How Can West River Conveyors Help?

Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And when it comes to conveyors, this philosophy couldn’t be more true. 

West River Conveyors believes in helping you take proactive steps to prevent mistracking, slippage, and carry-back, as well as the high repair costs, productivity loss, and safety risks they can cause. 

With that aim in mind, we created a Belt Assessment Program to help you uncover any potential problems before they become major issues. 

During an assessment, our team will complete a comprehensive evaluation of your conveyor, from head drive to tail, to ensure that all of its components are correctly sized, installed, aligned, and working properly. And if any underlying problems are discovered during the assessment, we’ll provide you with a full report and recommendations for an effective solution.

To discover all the ways West River Conveyors can help you with conveyor issues, click the button below.

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