While forklifts are excellent tools for transporting heavy pallets from place to place, they can also pose a very real risk to employee safety and cause damage to stock; this is especially true in an extremely busy working environment. One Swiss drinks manufacturer found that its bottling plant was so busy that driver error was having a real impact on productivity. Fortunately it was able to reduce operating costs and increase productivity by installing an electrical overhead conveyor (EOC) with vehicles powered by Bauer Gear Motor.
The Swiss drinks producer is especially well known for its apple juice product and processes around 30,000 metric tons of fruit and 7,500 metric tons of vegetables a year for its juice products. It also operates a contract bottling service for beer, iced tea and other soft drinks. One of the company’s busiest bottling plants contains several production lines. In order to maintain production schedules it is vital that pallets of product are regularly moved swiftly from the production lines to the storage areas.
Traditionally forklifts have been used to move the pallets in and out of storage and to load them onto lorries and rail cars for distribution. However, to keep up with demand, this required a large amount of labour which was costly. It was also found that because the site was so busy the forklift drivers were also prone to mistakes which reduced site productivity and, at times, impacted on site safety. As part of a site wide refurbishment programme it was decided that an Electric Overhead Conveyor (EOC) should be installed to replace forklifts as the main method of transport on-site.
Because the location of each pallet at the end of the production line is constant, and the warehouse was well organised, an automated EOC was able to run with very little supervision required. Running a total of 450m the system can handle up to 338 stock movements per hour (in or out) and operates three shifts per day. As the vehicles are on fixed tracks there is very little danger of injuring personnel or causing damage to stock. The pallets are transported by one of nineteen vehicles, which move at 90m/min.
For the application to run efficiently it is vital that each of the vehicles is reliable and operates with the accuracy required to pick up the pallets and position them in the correct place. If one vehicle were to malfunction then the necessary maintenance downtime would negate the benefits of the new system. To guarantee maximum reliability each of the individually driven vehicles has been fitted with a BM20 geared motor from Bauer Gear Motor.
The BM series of monorail geared motor drives has been developed specifically for electric overhead conveyors, to offer efficient and reliable solutions. The design includes a low-backlash coupling for positioning accuracy and each unit is fitted with a transmitter for exact motor speed control. Units incorporate low noise gearing and IP65 sealing for complete protection from dust and water ingress.
Since the installation of the EOC all of the vehicles have continued to operate with no un-planned maintenance required. Thanks to the accuracy and reliability of the vehicles the plant's efficiency has increased and there have been no safety concerns from the automated system.