3 case studies in conveying success through a TCO approach

While the up-front purchase price of capital equipment is often heavily weighted in the decision making of industrial organizations, purchase price isn’t the only factor …

Photo courtesy Triple/S Dynamics
Photo courtesy Triple/S Dynamics

While the up-front purchase price of capital equipment is often heavily weighted in the decision making of industrial organizations, purchase price isn’t the only factor worthy of consideration. As we’ve analyzed the concept of total cost of ownership (TCO) in previous posts in this series ("Considering the total cost of ownership for capital equipment" and "Infographic: TCO – Belt conveyors vs. horizontal motion conveyors"), we’ve come to understand that the lifetime cost of capital equipment is often a much more appropriate measure of a company’s return on investment.

Here we consider three case studies that demonstrate the value of a TCO approach when evaluating industrial conveying systems.

1. Dust control

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An aggregate products company operated years with many "enclosed" belt conveyors. While the conveyors did not spill and leak much in the beginning, as bearings and rollers failed, the covers were not reinstalled with the same sealed nature, and dust control became a pressing challenge. To combat this issue, more aspiration was gradually added – not to mention personnel to sweep and clean. Being a hazardous-to-breathe product, these additions were not only expensive, but also impractical in the long term. Thus, the units had to be replaced after a relatively short lifespan.

When the company considered the maintenance and extra dust collection, it rebalanced its approach on technology specification from the cheapest capital option to the option with the fewest failure points in the long term. With this perspective in mind, the Slipstick conveyor rose above the competition, as the technology was able to maintain its seal over the course of its intended lifespan, thus keeping the plant cleaner and healthier for decades. Because the Slipstick Conveyor employs a differential drive and moves materials without moving parts, it is both durable and low maintenance. The product contact pan can be covered with a tight seal that ensures a clean, dust-free environment, and the absence of exposed conveyor parts makes this system one of the safest available.

No fines or dust are generated in the Slipstick pan. What is generated from infeed is easily contained with flexible connections and gasketed covers. With no dust generated, expensive dust control systems can be downsized and fewer hours are dedicated to clean up, which especially important when handling hazardous materials. Errant dust from other systems can be cleaned more easily under the simple pan that can be supported from the structure above.

2. Incinerator ash conveying

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In 1989, a large waste-to-energy (WTE) company came to Triple/S looking for a better way to convey wet, very abrasive, hot incinerator ash over a 200’ distance.  This company, along with other WTE facilities, had been using belts and other forms of mechanical conveying.  While in this application, horizontal motion conveying maintained the same performance metrics as the prior system, and it forced the company to take a long hard look at what it had been spending to keep the belts or other conveyors running.  The rugged construction of the Slipstick conveyor provided years of little-to-no maintenance, with the sealed drive units running 10 or more years. Ultimately the Slipstick conveyor meant less downtime before a rebuild and less costs year-over-year.

From those three units, word spread about the successful application of this new method of conveying, and, one by one, most locations added Slipsticks, some of which were quite large – 17 conveyors over 100 feet long; 9 conveyors over 200 feet long; and the largest Slipstick being five feet wide by 259 feet long.  Many of these units have been in continuous 24/7 operation since they were originally installed in the late 1980s.  Over the past few years, new units have been ordered, replacing some of those 1989-vintage machines.  With a lifetime of nearly 30 years of continuous operation, these machines are quintessential examples of TCO.

3. Pet food conveyor of choice

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A pet food company had problems using belt conveyors to move its product through the plant.  Not only was there a cleaning issue –  product on the floor and guards filling up with product – it became a safety issue as well. While the cleaning/sanitation issue was a pain point and a growing expense, the safety issue forced them to look at alternative methods of conveying.

In addition, the review of alternative methods of conveying allowed the company to get ahead of the Food Safety & Modernization Act and its new requirements for pet food/pet treat manufacturers.  FSMA is affecting pet food processors by shifting toward regulation that focuses on prevention rather than reacting to potential food safety issues.  The FSMA preventive controls (PC) result for animal food includes adhering to the Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs), which include components such as sanitation and equipment maintenance.

According to CGMP, Section 110.35:

  • General maintenance: Buildings, fixtures, and other physical facilities of the plant shall be maintained in a sanitary condition and shall be kept in repair sufficient to prevent food from becoming adulterated within the meaning of the act. Cleaning and sanitizing of utensils and equipment shall be conducted in a manner that protects against contamination of food, food-contact surfaces, or food-packaging materials.
  • Sanitation of food-contact surfaces: All food-contact surfaces, including utensils and food-contact surfaces of equipment, shall be cleaned as frequently as necessary to protect against contamination of food.
    • Food-contact surfaces used for manufacturing or holding low-moisture food shall be in a dry, sanitary condition at the time of use. When the surfaces are wet-cleaned, they shall, when necessary, be sanitized and thoroughly dried before subsequent use.
    • Non-food-contact surfaces of equipment used in the operation of food plants should be cleaned as frequently as necessary to protect against contamination of food.

The simple seamless pan of the Slipstick kept product off the floor, provided sanitary conveying, and enabled easy wash-down, quickly making it the operator’s conveyor of choice.

By leveraging technology to comply with emerging regulatory requirements, this manufacturer was able to avoid the cost of force technology replacement and/or potential penalties for noncompliance.

This content is sponsored by Triple/S Dynamics. Sponsored content is authorized by the client and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Process Flow Network editorial team.

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