zigzag conveyors

If you want to succeed in the world of Industry 4.0, then you need to adapt to the latest trends and create a fast, lean, and advanced system. At Richards-Wilcox Conveyor, we believe that efficiency begins with your conveyor technology.

Each year brings new trends, and it’s important to keep these conveyor technology trends in mind as you make adjustments to your existing system or start to design a new system. As experts in the industry, we’ve put together a few of the top trends for 2023, from robotic integration capabilities to energy efficiencies and safety design.

Energy Efficiency

As sustainability becomes an increasingly significant priority around the world, companies are investigating new ways to reduce energy consumption (and reduce material handling costs). One of the best ways to reduce the energy use of conveyors is by streamlining the mechanics used to operate these systems. Considering that modern conveyor systems are the backbone of your IoT infrastructure, it’s important to design your conveyor belt with connectivity in mind and integrate the system with the latest technology.

For example, conveyor systems equipped with motorized driven roller systems are more energy-efficient than legacy systems. These quiet systems can save companies up to 81% in energy use. Another way to improve power generation is to attach a mini-generator to idlers and take advantage of the kinetic energy created by the moving belt. Through magnetic coupling, the generators operate efficiently while ensuring that no electrical or mechanical overload occurs.

Building Vertical to Optimize Space

As business and demand grow, so does the need for space. However, waiting for building expansions or securing acquisitions can be time-consuming and expensive, or simply just not an option, causing companies to miss out on time-sensitive opportunities and profits. To meet this need efficiently and without breaking the bank, companies can utilize vertical space by using lifters and overhead conveyor systems.

By making the most of vertical space, companies save time and money and improve their productivity. For example, lifters are designed to move various loads from one level to another while vertical farming applications operate as overhead handling systems that optimize space.

Another way to optimize space in the warehouse is through conveyor rotation which offers an ergonomic solution to improve productivity and space.

Flexibility and Expandability

Depending on the business’s materials and end product, you may experience seasonal volume increases, unexpected spikes in demand, and opportunities to grow your brand. In these instances, it’s important to meet demand and increase production. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen many persisting logistics and supply chain issues that have made these shifts more common and the ability to adapt more important than ever. Expandable conveyor belts can be assembled and reconfigured to meet these shifting market demands.

Flexible conveyors allow businesses to adjust their output depending on the demand, ensuring orders are fulfilled without wasting materials or time. Expandable conveyors are an affordable alternative to fixed conveyors, allowing companies to adapt to new packaging designs, order sizes, product lines and other evolutions.

Prioritizing Speed

Competition between manufacturers and distributors over the past few years has intensified. As that continues into 2023, time is of the essence, and conveyor technology becomes a critical point for addressing the need for fast production. As requirements increase, manufacturers are searching for ways to optimize the speed of conveyor systems without compromising product quality or staff safety.

Much inspiration is taken from the airlines’ Interroll Portec systems which rely on speed and durability to handle materials in demanding environments, such as distribution and parcel handling operation centers. Considering that even marginal adjustments to speed can lead to unanticipated problems, businesses must invest in trusted systems that execute these adjustments with reliability.

Robotics & Automation

Robotic systems, especially in the finishing industry, are leading the charge in conveyor system design trends. Robotics are being used to integrate into conveyor systems to automate material handling, improve efficiency, and offer other robotic integration benefits. For example, autonomous mobile robots (AMR) help transport materials around a facility and robotic arms and end-effectors pick and place items on the conveyor. Robots work alongside human operators, often handling dangerous, dirty, or repetitive tasks, shifting the demand for manual labor to more complex tasks, making the human and robot more productive.

Another improvement in which allows machines to identify and track items on the conveyor with improved speed and accuracy. This development helps to reduce errors and increase output.

The continued migration to Industry 4.0 technologies has led to significant advantages such as real-time data analysis and enhanced productivity in automation. By collaborating and integrating horizontal and vertical systems, automated systems and robotics play an invaluable role in meeting productivity demands. Conveyor controls are adjusted according to need, and automated processes make sure jobs are completed on time and up to standard.

Examples of these automation technologies include radio frequency identification (RFID) and the previously mentioned AMRs. The benefits of automation vary depending on the specific function of each conveyor system.

Safety Design

Each conveyor system design comes with its own unique safety risks, which need to be considered and addressed carefully. For instance, higher belt speeds make pinch and sheer points of conveyor systems more dangerous. Addressing these risks through modern tracking technology and innovative designs reduces safety hazards. In the process, the cost of injury and damage is also reduced.

Maintenance is also key to safety, and conveyors and automation go hand-in-hand as conveyor systems autonomously operate to predict maintenance needs. For example, modern stilling zones are crafted with an innovative chute design to reduce the need for maintenance and improve safety. In another example, belt cleaner technology uses an automated system to increase blade life and belt health by removing contact between the blade and belt when a conveyor runs without materials.

Conveyor Systems Engineered for Evolution

At Richards-Wilcox Conveyor, we boast a century of innovation, evolution, and craft, maintaining a finger on the pulse of conveyor system trends. We continue to lead our clients into the future by engineering the most effective conveyor solutions that have undergone intense conveyor simulation and testing.

We believe the conveyor system is the backbone of any operation. Incorporating these trends of energy efficiency, space optimization, automation and robotic integration, and safety design ensures an optimal system. For more information on our systems and products, contact us online or call us at 888-852-1020.