Common Conveyor Design Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

assembly line customer support

In the fast-paced world of manufacturing and material handling, efficient and reliable conveyor systems are the backbone of countless industries. However, designing the perfect conveyor system can be a complex task, fraught with potential pitfalls that can negatively impact safety, productivity, cost, and the environment.

Today we’ll dive into the most common conveyor design mistakes and provide expert advice on how to avoid them. By understanding these critical mistakes, you can make informed decisions that optimize your conveyor system for long-term success, ensuring that your operation remains a well-oiled machine for years to come!

Mistake 1: Focusing on Up-front Costs Rather Than Lifecycle Costs

One of the most common mistakes when designing a conveyor system is basing the purchasing decision solely on the initial costs. While it’s important to consider the initial investment, it’s equally crucial to evaluate the life-cycle costs of the conveyor system. This includes ongoing maintenance, energy consumption, and potential downtime that could result from system failures.

By focusing on life-cycle costs, you can make a more informed decision and choose a conveyor system that offers a better return on investment in the long run. Richards-Wilcox Conveyor provides design services and expertise to help you evaluate the overall cost of a conveyor system and make the right decision for your business.

An excellent example of taking life-cycle costs into account can be found in the Dematic Corporation Case Study. By considering factors such as energy consumption, maintenance, and system longevity, Dematic was able to design a conveyor system that offered significant long-term savings and improved efficiency.

Mistake 2: Underestimating the Space Needed for Safe and Efficient Conveyor Usage

Another common mistake in conveyor design is underestimating the amount of space needed for safe and efficient operation. This can lead to issues such as insufficient access for maintenance, unsafe working conditions, and reduced efficiency. Examples of this mistake include using minimum pulley diameters and not providing enough clearance around the conveyor.

To avoid this issue, it’s essential to carefully evaluate the spatial requirements of your conveyor system, considering factors such as maintenance access, worker safety, and future expansion. Richards-Wilcox Conveyor can assist with spatial planning and design to ensure your conveyor system is both safe and efficient.

Mistake 3: Choosing the Wrong Materials

Selecting the appropriate materials for your conveyor system is crucial, especially in industries with strict requirements, such as food packaging and processing. It’s essential to choose materials that are compatible with the products being transported and meet any regulatory requirements.

To select the right materials for your conveyor system, consider factors such as the material’s form or state, flowability, composition, and particle size. Richards-Wilcox Conveyor has extensive experience in designing conveyor systems for various industries and can help you choose the best materials for your specific application.

Mistake 4: Selecting the Wrong Type of Conveyor

Choosing the wrong type of conveyor can lead to reduced efficiency, increased costs, and even safety hazards. It’s essential to select a conveyor system that is suitable for your specific application, taking into account factors such as material, operation, environment, space constraints, conveyor history, and cost. Moreover, it is important to consider the speed, load capacity, and durability of the conveyor system, as well as the ease of maintenance and potential for future upgrades.

There are numerous types of conveyor systems available, including belt conveyors, roller conveyors, chain conveyors, and pneumatic conveyors, each with their unique advantages and limitations. To help you choose the right type of conveyor for your industry, refer to our blog page for industry-specific advice and guidance. This comprehensive resource covers the specific requirements and challenges of various industries, from food processing to pharmaceuticals, and manufacturing to e-commerce, ensuring that you have the necessary information to make an informed decision.

With a wealth of experience and knowledge, our team can help you evaluate the pros and cons of different conveyor types and configurations, taking into account your specific needs, budget, and long-term goals. Through a thorough analysis of your operation, we can identify potential bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and safety concerns, offering solutions that optimize your conveyor system for maximum productivity, safety, and return on investment.

Mistake 5: Designing without Accurate Measurements

A successful conveyor design relies on accurate measurements of various factors, including weight, density, bulk load, speed, and angles. Designing a conveyor system without precise measurements can result in inefficiencies, increased costs, and potential safety risks, such as improper tensioning, inadequate load capacity, or incorrect incline angles that can lead to product spillage or damage.

To ensure your conveyor system is designed with the utmost accuracy, it is essential to gather comprehensive data on the materials being transported, as well as the environmental and operational conditions of your facility. This information will allow for precise calculations and informed decisions regarding the conveyor’s dimensions, layout, and component selection.

Working closely with experts can greatly benefit this process. Our team of experienced professionals can assist in obtaining the necessary measurements and data, guiding you through the various steps and considerations involved in designing a reliable, efficient, and safe conveyor system. Additionally, we can help you identify potential challenges or limitations related to your specific application, offering solutions that address these issues while maintaining optimal performance.

Mistake 6: Not Thinking Long-term

It’s crucial to think long-term when designing a conveyor system. A cost-effective and long-lasting conveyor solution should account for factors such as maintenance and expansion.

When considering maintenance, ask yourself if it will be easy to replace parts and keep the system running efficiently. For expansion, determine if the system you’re investing in has the capacity to be improved upon in terms of functionality and space as your operation grows.

By taking a long-term approach to conveyor design, you can ensure that your investment remains valuable and adaptable to the changing needs of your business without having to incur unnecessary costs down the road. Richards-Wilcox Conveyor can help you design a system that meets your long-term requirements while providing ongoing support and expertise as your operation evolves.

Mistake 7: Ignoring Environmental Factors

Environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, dust, and exposure to chemicals can have a significant impact on the performance and lifespan of your conveyor system. Ignoring these factors during the design process can lead to premature wear, system failures, and increased maintenance costs.

To ensure your conveyor system is designed to withstand the specific environmental conditions of your operation, work with experts like our team at Richards-Wilcox Conveyor. They can help you select the appropriate materials, coatings, and system components that will provide the necessary protection and durability.

Mistake 8: Overlooking Safety Features

Prioritizing safety is essential when designing a conveyor system, as it not only protects your employees but also contributes to the overall efficiency and productivity of your operation. Overlooking important safety features can lead to accidents, injuries, and even fatalities, as well as costly downtime, potential legal ramifications, and damage to your company’s reputation.

To create a safe and secure conveyor system, it is vital to incorporate a comprehensive set of safety features. These may include:

  1. Emergency stops: Ensure that easily accessible emergency stop buttons are placed at strategic locations along the conveyor, allowing for the rapid cessation of operation in case of an emergency.
  2. Guards: Install physical barriers such as guards and covers to protect workers from moving parts, pinch points, and other hazards.
  3. Warning devices: Implement visual and audible warning signals to alert workers of potential dangers or when the conveyor is about to start.
  4. Safety interlocks: Use safety interlocks on access doors and gates to prevent the conveyor from operating when opened.
  5. Fall protection: Install safety rails, platforms, and harness attachment points where necessary to protect workers from falls when performing maintenance or inspection tasks.
  6. Proper signage: Display clear and visible warning signs and labels to inform workers of potential hazards and safe operating procedures.
  7. Ergonomic design: Design the conveyor system to minimize strain and injury risk, considering factors such as workstation height, reach distances, and material handling requirements.

Consulting with experts can help you identify the necessary safety features for your specific application and ensure compliance with industry standards and regulations. Our team has extensive experience in designing conveyor systems with safety as a top priority and can provide guidance on implementing best practices to minimize risks and protect your workforce.

Mistake 9: Failing to Plan for Maintenance and Cleaning

Regular maintenance and cleaning are crucial for keeping your conveyor system running smoothly and efficiently. Failing to plan for these essential tasks during the design process can result in hard-to-reach areas, increased downtime, and higher maintenance costs.

When designing your conveyor system, consider factors such as accessibility for maintenance and cleaning, as well as the incorporation of features that facilitate these tasks.

Mistake 10: Not Engaging Stakeholders Throughout the Design Process

Lastly, the design of a conveyor system is not a one-person job; it requires input from various stakeholders, including operators, maintenance personnel, management, and safety officers. Failing to engage these stakeholders throughout the design process can result in a system that does not meet the needs and expectations of those who will interact with it daily.

To ensure a successful conveyor design that meets the requirements of all stakeholders, involve them in the planning and decision-making process. Experts can also assist in facilitating effective communication and collaboration among stakeholders to create a conveyor system that satisfies everyone’s needs.

By avoiding these common conveyor design mistakes and working with experienced professionals like our team at Richards-Wilcox Conveyor, you can develop a conveyor system that is safe, efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly, ensuring the success of your operation for years to come.

A Deeper Look at Our Comprehensive Conveyor Customer Support System

assembly line customer support

The success of your conveyor operation relies heavily on a conveyor system that is dependable and efficient. Richards-Wilcox Conveyor is the go-to source for innovative conveyor system designs, high performance conveyor chains, conveyor controls and software solutions that make your manufacturing environment more productive and your organization more profitable. In addition, we provide an extensive customer support system to ensure client satisfaction every time.

Education & Training

Offering full training and education on your control system is a significant part of our design and installation services. Our instructional programs are designed to provide our clients with an understanding of industrial material-handling equipment, robotic interfaces, automation, and any other elements of your conveyor that are essential for successful operation within your industry.

We provide information to all staff on how to run and maintain your conveyor control system effectively, creating a smoother transition for your factory. Successful implementation of high-performing conveyor systems is contingent on flawless design and installation; however, we understand that ongoing support plays an equally crucial role in achieving sustainable success. Our adept professionals ensure expeditious responses to all customer inquiries and grievances while delivering access to educational resources and training programs aimed at optimizing business performance.

Customers choose us as a trusted partner because we go above and beyond supplying high-quality conveying equipment. We understand the importance of educating our customers about how their systems work at every stage of development from design through installation & operation until maintenance & troubleshooting stages, enabling them to reduce costly downtime whilst boosting overall efficiency (resulting in higher profitability).


Installing or enhancing a conveyor system is a huge investment in your business operations. Therefore, the concern of unanticipated design changes or installation challenges that would require rebuilding part of your system can cause a lot of financial anxiety. With Richards-Wilcox Conveyor simulations, you can see your conveyor in action before it exists! Numerous scenarios can be tested, processes can be analyzed and optimized to identify bottlenecks, and waste can be reduced to improve efficiency before a conveyor system is ever installed.

Our simulation experts use their in-depth experience and cutting-edge technologies and methodologies to model different design and installation options, providing you with knowledgeable insights based on real-time data analysis that aid in better decision-making and conveyor system design. Our advanced simulation tools can also be utilized to examine how your conveyor components, including the conveyor control system, perform under different loading conditions without inhibiting precision.

Simulation is a great way to plan an extension of your current conveyor as well. Seeing how the new addition to your system can seamlessly integrate with your existing system prior to installation is a game changer for Industry 4.0 and helps our customers keep their conveyor projects on time and on budget.


Businesses that are flexible and adaptable will have a strong advantage over their competitors as conveyor technologies continue to rapidly evolve. Reevaluating your operation on a regular basis to determine if improvements can be made through new technological breakthroughs is a way our support team can help keep your system ahead of your competitors and at its most effective. This process is called modernization.

When we collaborate with you on modernization, we will review the design of your current conveyor system, talk about your objectives, and create a strategy to achieve them. Our in-depth understanding of industrial material handling trends and technologies allow us to keep you ahead of the curve.

Maintenance & Parts Replacement

Richards-Wilcox Conveyor is not only a respected partner in new or expanding conveyor systems; we also provide top-notch solutions in conveyor system parts replacement and maintenance. To avoid having to worry about future costly repairs or unexpected shutdowns, our team can help you develop a maintenance schedule for your conveyor system. In addition, our specialists will evaluate your system and help you determine what replacement parts you may need, whether that’s a chain, belt, or anything in between. Finally, we provide thorough installation instructions and prompt delivery, to maintain (or enhance) your factory’s productivity and reduce downtime.

Ongoing Customer Support

Conveyor systems, like all technology, can have their hiccups. Therefore, we understand the significance of providing exceptional ongoing customer support. Our accomplished team has a vast knowledge of industrial material handling equipment, conveyor systems design, installation and more, which qualifies them as dependable sources of solutions for any potential problems for our clients. Our all-encompassing customer support ensures that every customer inquiry is handled effectively and efficiently. Client satisfaction is always our #1 goal.

Richards-Wilcox Conveyor Solutions

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, and it is our job to support your through the lifetime of your system. For more information on our systems and products, contact us.


powder coating

5 Tips for Maximizing Your Finishing Line: Conveyor Systems & Engineering

powder coating finishing line

As the world embraces Industry 4.0, manufacturing and distribution operations are becoming more streamlined and efficient. Finishing lines are no different, as automation revolutionizes the industry.

With so many moving parts in any operation, it’s important that the finishing line receives the same attention and strategy as the rest of the production and manufacturing process.

The Importance of the Finishing Line

Manufacturers need to be fast and lean to remain competitive in the current environment. A finishing line can be used for wet spray painting, powder coating, dip lines, cleaning and pretreatment, and more. As such a versatile element in your conveyor system, it is a large factor in how efficient your entire system is.

Conveyor belt technology is at the heart of these operations. These systems play a critical role in transporting products and materials from one point to another. When strategically operated, conveyor belt technology helps to increase productivity and optimize the distribution process.

Tips for Maximizing Your Finishing Line

With technology and the use of space in mind, consider the following top tips for maximizing your finishing line.

1.   Reduce material handling costs

Profit is the end goal in most businesses, and efficient finishing line conveyor systems help to boost profit by lowering expenses associated with material handling costs. Finishing line conveyor systems use automation to transport and sort materials, reducing manual labor costs for repetitive tasks.

Conveyor belt systems also help to free up space in the warehouse or factory by removing bulky storage solutions. Instead of relying on pallet racks and bins, conveyor belt systems use space efficiently, helping to reduce the demand for space and the overhead cost associated with it.

2.   Optimize conveyor design

Various finishing lines require different design elements. Make sure you choose the best finishing line conveyor system design to meet your needs. Whether you need large-scale robotics systems or simple paint line conveyors, it’s important to choose a system that offers flexibility, reliability, and customization.

For example, standard (monorail) systems are a simple and cost-effective solution for straightforward processes as the system follows a single path. These can be installed manually or by a continuous chain, such as safe-rail, zig-zag, or inverted zig-zag for batch paint systems. A chat with our expert team will guide you in the right direction.

Power & free systems are other options for finishing line conveyor systems. Overhead power & free conveyors offer flexibility to adjust to operational needs. With the option to operate at different speeds, divert to multiple locations, and provide part-tracking analytics, these systems are versatile and help to maximize the finishing line productivity.

3.   Incorporate automation

There are many different benefits to incorporating automation into your finishing line, all of which promote efficiency. Automation helps to reduce labor costs by training robots to perform mundane, repetitive tasks, freeing up manual labor that is better suited elsewhere. These robots work for longer hours with less risk of injury. Robots are reliable and consistent, producing fewer costly errors.

Robotic finishing systems use various tools and techniques to automate processes, saving time and money. For example, sensors and automated controls ensure that the conveyor system operates efficiently and that products are transported smoothly from one process to the next.

Consider how automated conveyors are revolutionizing paint applications. Automated paint finishing systems use robotic arms with servo motors integrated into conveyor systems, improving precision and flexibility. With sensors and robotics to assist the process, businesses experience less waste, greater flexibility, and improved production volume compared to manual capabilities.

4.   Think vertically

Conveyor systems are often thought of in horizontal terms, but they can be even more effective when installed vertically. Rather than rely on horizontal systems to move items along a flat plane, vertical systems send products up and down, efficiently using the space. Taking advantage of vertical space cuts down on expensive overhead linked to renting larger spaces.

Overhead conveyor applications utilize the open space above to transfer items and materials, freeing up valuable floor space and reducing the need for a possible expansion.

Vertical design can also be incorporated by rethinking vertical transport units (VTU). Innovative VTUs are supported on all four sides, resulting in a robust mechanical design. By using an electric servo to control the VTU positioning, the movement is smoother and quicker. Finally, the servo stops the conveyor deck more precisely at multiple positions, which assists with accuracy.

5.   Extend conveyor life

If you want to maximize your finishing line, you need to keep downtime to a minimum. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is to keep your finishing conveyor systems in tip-top shape. Wear and tear occurs in many ways, and maintenance is imperative.

To keep your conveyor on track, lubrication should be applied appropriately, a schedule of chain conveyor maintenance should be followed, and the manual should be studied to understand specific maintenance needs better. By conducting regular and preventative maintenance, the system will keep operating smoothly and keep pace with a radically changing world. Any questions on how to properly maintain your conveyor? We’re here to help!

Maximize Your Finishing Line with Richards-Wilcox Conveyor

At Richards-Wilcox Conveyor, we’ve created flexible, modular, and automated systems designed to last. Whether you’re looking for a standard monorail system for a simple process or a power & free system that offers unparalleled flexibility, we’ve got you covered.

If you’re ready to get started on a new conveyor project — or give an existing project an overhaul — we’d love to hear from you. Contact our team today!

2023 Trends in Conveyor Technology

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.