Low Maintenance, Reduced Manual Lifting
Utilization of work stations and multiple conveyor systems produce a system of operation ergonomically safer and more cost-efficient.
Three and a half years ago, F. Schumacher & Co., a distributor of renowned Waverly fabrics, Schumacher fabrics and wallcovering, and manufacturer of high-quality home fashion decorating accessories decided to upgrade and automate their production operations. Mr. Bud Randall, Corporate Facilities Manager responsible for overseeing this entire project from concept to completion, contacted Century Conveyor, Inc., a Hytrol sales & service center based in South Plainfield, New Jersey.
Based on past projects Century had completed, F. Schumacher & Co., was very confident that Century Conveyor Service, Inc. working with Mr. Randall could provide them with assistance in the design and layout of a conveyor system which would be cost-effective and efficient. Schumacher & Co. elected to construct a new 526,000 sq. ft. distribution facility in Richburg, South Carolina. The objective was the consolidation and relocation of their distribution operations for several of their facilities located in various parts of the country.
A primary concern of F. Schumacher & Co. was the automation of the material handling portion of their product line. This included handling of fabrics, wallcoverings, bedspreads, curtains, and pillows. Before the installation of the system, the majority of their production operations were handled manually, involving a great deal of lifting, and moving of products by carts.
Through the utilization of work stations and five individualized conveyor systems, Century and Hytrol greatly reduced the manual lifting requirements and produced a system of operation which was ergonomically safer and cost-efficient.
Integrating a variety of HYTROL conveyors, five independent systems were created:
- SYSTEM 1 – Transporting of “ready to ship” cases from the home fashion production areas to a staging area for shipping
- SYSTEM 2 – Three packing lines for conveying rolls of fabrics
- SYSTEM 3 – Wallcovering packing line
- SYSTEM 4 – Heavy freight line
- SYSTEM 5 – Shipping line for sample books of fabric and wallcoverings
Since its installation, the system has run perfectly. F. Schumacher & Co. has been very pleased with the system’s reliability and low maintenance, and Mr. Randall highly recommends the use of Hytrol equipment.
The nature of products here required the use of a variety of conveyors. In some cases, the live roller was used for general transportation of boxes. In other areas, belt conveyors were used for transporting unboxed items. These slider bed units are also quieter. Heavy-duty 20-CR and 2514-CRA were used for conveying and accumulating heavier loads. Finally, boxes waiting for shipment are moved by an ABA zero pressure unit or in some cases a gravity unit.
System #1 starts in the sample manufacturing area. It uses a Hytrol Model SP. Items packaged in the home fashion area or showroom samples, using a special container, travel via an incline and ABA to the shipping area. LRC curves are also used and, to avoid accumulation in these curves, a photo-eye senses when the conveyor is full and shuts the unit down.
System #2 consists of three packing lines for fabrics. Fabric orders are picked from static shelving, placed in a cart, and pushed to a cutting station. There, the fabric is cut according to the order and placed on a roller bed belt unit which takes it to the packing station. The packer can control or feed items as needed to that station. After packing, they are placed on another roller bed conveyor which takes them to a scale area. Roller bed conveyor was preferred here because of the potentially higher loads. Some of the RB conveyors used a TW type frame which was more eye-pleasing and had no protruding edges. At the end of the packing conveyor are a scale and an operator who weighs the roll. The operator pushes the roll off the scale onto a conveyor with a flipper. The roll is then moved on a 5 ft. wide cleated belt which takes it to a rack. This rack travels to UPS and is returned after emptied.
System #3 is the wallpaper line. Wallpaper is picked from storage rack and placed near the packers who put the rolls of paper in boxes. Boxes are then placed on the conveyor. There are two slider bed Hytrol TL units side by side with work stations on one side. These belt conveyors end at a wide 20-CR (chain roller). The chain roller has a plow mounted to it controlled by the scale operators. These operators move the plow the direction necessary to get work in process. The 20-CR was used to provide good traction for diverting the heavy boxes. After the 20-CR, boxes accumulate on an ABA zero pressure waiting for shipping.
System #4 is the heavy-duty line for boxes of fabric weighing up to 400 lbs. Again, rolls of fabric are brought to the packing stations next to the conveyor, a 20-CR, used to best convey heavy boxes. At the workstation table, boxes are loaded and sealed. When finished, a set of rollers extending from the table to the 20-CR can be lifted by a foot-operated pedal. Boxed are then pushed onto the 20-CR. When the rollers are lowered, the box travels to the scale and strapping area. A break belt is located before the scale. When the operator calls for it, the box transfers to the scale is weighed and then sent to the binder. The binder bands it in one direction transfers it at 90 degrees with a heavy-duty push-off, bands it in the other direction then conveys it to a gravity line for removal by a lift truck.
System #5 is used for processing sample books of fabric and paper. Samples are staged on a gravity conveyor, transferred to a short Hytrol 1.9-SP then to an ABA via a special pop up o-ring transfer. Samples not boxed travel through a shrink wrap machine before shipping.
Recycle Ink- Full function industrial container management
Conveyor System Upgrade Increases Throughput
Faster order-picking and increased flexibility improve order-filling accuracy.
Full-function industrial container management
Conveyor system automates container handling operation
When Recycle Inc. had the opportunity to design a new container processing plant from the ground up, an automated conveyor system was high on the list of priorities. Company managers wanted to replace a largely manual handling operation with a conveyor-based approach that would be both more efficient and safer.
Based on the new facility’s first few months of operation, they were right. Employee productivity climbed 20% just in the first week of start-up. Throughput projections predict that the new plant will process four times as much material as the old plant did in the same amount of time and with the same number of employees.
Jeffrey Bey, President of Recycle Inc., cites several reasons behind his company’s decision to switch to automated handling. “Essentially what we are is a manufacturing operation,” Bey explains. “We use one process to wash and prepare containers that will be reused, and another process to shred or granulate containers that are to be destroyed.
“Our incoming ‘raw materials’ are the containers themselves. These containers — especially the larger ones — tend to be unwieldy, and some of them are fairly heavy. In the past, we handled the containers manually at several points during processing. Given our throughput requirements, we had the potential for accidents, and our approach wasn’t very efficient. As the demand for our services escalated, we knew that we needed to come up with a completely new way of handling containers — one that would take advantage of the benefits offered by automation.”
After the company located a suitable building for a new facility in South Plainfield, New Jersey, Bey assembled a project team to study new materials handling methods. The team contacted several nearby conveyor distributors for design ideas. According to Bey, some distributors balked at the idea of getting involved in up-front design work without first being assured that they would get the job.
“We were looking for ideas,” says Bey, “and we were also looking for a distributor and a conveyor manufacturer that would partner with us on this project.” Fortunately, the local Hytrol Conveyor distributor, South Plainfield-based Century Conveyor, didn’t hesitate to tackle the project.
Working closely with the project team, representatives from Century Conveyor, from Hytrol, and a nearby automation firm designed a conveyor system that combines powered conveyors with smart sensors and custom software. At every decision-point in the system, sensors supply feedback to the control program on the movement of individual containers, on the performance of the conveyors, and even on the maintenance requirements of the sensors themselves.
A Whole New Approach
At the company’s old processing facility, employees did a lot of the handling of incoming containers. The plant did have a conveyor system in place, but it was a single straight-line design that simply transported the containers from one workstation to the next. The old conveyor system did not include any powered transfers or spurs.
The design of the new conveyor system at the South Plainfield facility greatly reduces the amount of manual handling by relying on automated conveyors to move the containers.
The new plant inspects and cleans 5- to 85-gallon polyethylene containers and intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) for reuse. Also, it provides certified destruction of 5- to 85-gallon polyethylene, steel, and fiber containers, and of IBCs.
Incoming containers are transferred from trucks to one of four takeaway conveyor lines. Based on their composition, disposition and on whether they will be prepared for reuse, the containers are carried by the conveyors to several possible destinations.
Containers that are to be reused are conveyed to an inspection loop where employees evaluate their condition. Powered roller conveyors then carry the containers that have passed inspection to one of three fully-automated washing stations. After washing and another inspection, the containers are ready to be returned to their owners for reuse. All of these containers are captive within a closed-loop system between their owners, customers, and the South Plainfield plant.
Containers that are slated to be destroyed are conveyed to other workstations within the building for processing. In this part of its operation, the facility handles containers made of steel, polyethylene, or fiber.
Conveyors carry steel containers to a shredder; the scrap metal that is generated goes to electric mini-mills to be made into reinforcing rods for use in concrete construction projects. Polyethylene containers are ground into pellets which are then sold to be made into various corrugated plastic products including plastic drums. The fiber containers are conveyed to a workstation where they are broken down before being supplied to a paper mill for recycling.
Except for the belt conveyors that carry materials to waiting trailers, nearly all of the conveyors used in the new system are powered roller. Strategically-placed accumulation sections control the grouping of the containers before being transferred to workstation infeed conveyors. At two points, powered turntables rotate the containers 180 degrees (see drawing).
“This new system is enabling us to process 80,000 containers per month with almost no manual handling,” notes Bey, “and it can handle a lot more. So in addition to being far more efficient and having a much greater throughput capacity, we now also have a facility that’s substantially safer for our employees.”
Recycle Inc.’s new 86,500 sq. ft. processing center
Incoming containers are loaded onto four takeaway conveyors in the receiving area. The containers are conveyed either to inspection and washing or to shredding or granulating. The containers that are to be reused are delivered to their owners after being washed; materials from destroyed containers are hauled to recyclers to be made into other products.
The new facility at a glance
Company: Recycle Inc.
Location: South Plainfield, N.J.
Nature of operation: full-function industrial container management
Services provided: container inspection, cleaning, dedicated reuse, certified destruction
Total square feet: 86,500
Number of employees: 70 (company-wide)
Types of containers handled: 5- to 85-gallon polyethylene containers; intermediate bulk containers (IBCs)
Types of containers destroyed: 5- to 85-gallon polyethylene, steel, and fiber containers; IBCs
Number of containers processed per month: 80,000
Design conveyor throughput rate: 10 drums per minute
Maximum daily throughput: 6,000 Accumulation sections: Chain driven live roller
Conveyor supplier: Hytrol Conveyor Company, Inc.-Jonesboro, Arkansas
Equipment distributor: Century Conveyor Service, Inc.-South Plainfield, N.J.