As an Industry Manager for Flexco, I’ve had many conversations with folks across heavy-duty industries and have heard quite a few horror stories. From destroyed belts that cause massive downtime and profit loss, to surprise visits from the Mine Safety and Health Administration MSHA that leave plant managers scrambling, there is always the thought that something could go wrong at any time.
So, after all of these great chats that I’ve had as of late, I’d like to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys in this case) and list out some of the most common problems that people experience with their aggregate belt conveyor systems and go into detail on how you can best address them.
Speaking of workplace safety, let’s talk dust! In everyday life, and especially at an aggregate plant, dust is everywhere. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t, or you shouldn’t, actively address it. In fact, doing so could save you big on MSHA fines and save your employees big on potential medical complications from dust inhalation or injuries related to cleaning around conveyors.
The harsh reality of working with a variety of materials and sizes is that there is bound to be dust. Aggregate material is often susceptible to breaking down and becoming a fine material; that is just the nature of the product.
And, when you mix in the many aggregate belt conveyor transfer points, improperly maintained load zones, and ripped belt openings, the opportunity for dust to seep through becomes inevitable.
The ramifications from an improperly maintained dust control process are huge. First, obviously, is the financial aspect. The implication of excess dust often correlates to material waste, meaning that material can fall to the floor below and become unusable.
Additionally, financial strain can and will come in the form of MSHA fines. New guidelines state that the administration is pushing back on allowance of dust particles at aggregate facilities. When an MSHA agent gives your facility a surprise visit, and you are not up to code, you are at risk of footing a massive bill.
Most importantly, there is the aspect of worker safety. It’s no secret that dust inhalation, especially silica dust, is dangerous for lung and respiratory health, and can even lead to cancer. Unfortunately, this can happen due to the nature of working with aggregate materials, which is why MSHA and other leaders across the industry are taking the threat so seriously.
Excessive Conveyor Carryback
Yet another massive issue that I often see at aggregate facilities is that conveyor belts often do not have any form of cleaning mechanism. This amounts to massive material carryback on the belts, leading to complications as it moves through the system.
But why is carryback such a problem? There are many, but the most prevalent reasons are conveyor belt wear and tear and material loss.
Material loss is the most obvious of the two as you can see material stuck to the belt or you can locate spillage directly at the load zone. When you’re not addressing carryback, you actively lose out on precious materials, and you’re probably causing long-term damage to your belt conveying system.
But there is also the aspect that material builds up on the belt, ultimately falling onto the ground below and becoming unusable as an end product. This cuts into your profitability and effectively wastes the biggest resource: your and your team’s time.
Additionally, this material loss can become a safety hazard for your workforce, especially if your aggregate conveyor belts are elevated off the ground and can be walked underneath. The material will fall below, and if a worker is walking through, they can get hit and potentially face injury.
Carryback also creates excessive wear on conveyor belts, leading to increasingly present tears. These tears will fester, eventually leading to full belt rips and, in turn, huge material and profit loss. Belt rips and tears need to be repaired, and if you decide to opt for vulcanization over repair fasteners, you can have huge financial strain.
Aggregate Conveyor Belt Mistracking
One of the most common in-the-field problems I see is that belts are often mistracked. Unfortunately, this is often overlooked, as an installation team’s main goal is to get the belt up and running, and not necessarily that the belt is perfectly placed on the belt conveyor system.
When a belt is mistracked, it shifts from side to side, damaging other facets of the belt conveying system than the belt itself and reducing the overall amount of material that the belt can carry. Over time, we see an excessive amount of force on the belt which leads to a litany of issues.
For one, there is general belt damage and wear. Mistracked belts will move to an unnatural position, and when this happens long term, the belt can have permanent damage. This happens in the form of rips, tears, and damaged splices, and if not properly repaired with either conveyor belt vulcanizing technology or a mechanical fastener rip repair procedure, a replacement belt may be the only option.
Additionally, a mistracked belt is not just damaging itself, it can be harmful to other key areas of your conveyors. For example, let’s consider your conveyor belt positioners, trackers, and trainers. After coming into contact with a mistracked belt so many times, your belt trainers can face an increased amount of stress, reducing the overall lifespan of some of your most specialized pieces of equipment.
Not only does a mistracked aggregate conveyor belt cause financial strain from plant downtime, but it creates an unnecessary risk for workplace safety. When a belt remains unmaintained from mistracking, multiple safety issues arise.
One such safety issue stems from continuous friction on the belt conveying structure, which damages both the belt and the structure itself. Over a long period of time, the structure will begin to deteriorate, becoming a hazard to work on or around.
Furthermore, mistracked belts encourage material spillage. This material will fall below into a worker's path, potentially causing them physical harm. This is especially true when considering the harsh nature of many heavy-duty materials throughout the belt conveying process.
Top Solutions for Aggregate Belt Conveyor Issues
Preventive maintenance measures are always the best option to combat aggregate conveyor belt issues, as they leave you ready to react in a moment's notice to a downtime incident.
But how do you properly implement procedures for preventive maintenance? In my opinion, it’s by making some key investments in specialized equipment and dedicating some time to educate your workforce through training and site-walkthroughs.
Best Preventive Equipment for Aggregate Belt Conveyors
There are a ton of solutions available for aggregate facilities that are looking to invest in preventive maintenance for their belt conveyor systems. From user-friendly technology to simple repair and cleaning solutions, Flexco has something for everyone.
Take the critical data that is provided from your belt conveying processes and turn it into an impactful business decision with Flexco Elevate®. With a real-time and easy-to-use cloud platform, plant managers can better understand how their belts are working and what actions they could take to ensure top performance.
Rip Repair Fasteners
When your belt encounters excessive wear that turns into a reasonably sized rip, Flexco’s Rip Repair Fasteners can get you up and running quicker than most solutions, especially vulcanization. Best of all, Rip Repair Fasteners can be used to bridge “soft” spots in belts, allowing you to address the problem before it becomes a fully-realized rip.
View Repair Fasteners
Conveyor Belt Cleaners
Flexco’s selection of belt cleaners are designed to remove material from key areas throughout the belt conveying process. In total, this decreases the likelihood of carryback, material spillage, and overall belt wear damage, allowing you to get more life out of your conveyor belts.
Impact Beds and Skirting Systems
To better tackle problems at the load zone and to further address concerns with dust containment, consider using our Impact Beds and Skirting Systems. Using them in conjunction with each other creates an effective seal that will help cut down on MSHA fine concerns and increase worker safety.
View Conveyor Load Solutions
Conveyor Belt Maintenance Tools
When your belt goes down, getting up and running becomes paramount. Keep your belt secured in place for repairs and perform perfect belt cuts with the industry’s most top-of-line belt maintenance tools from Flexco.
View Maintenance Tools
Belt Conveyor System Education Courses
If you need a direct fix on a specific problem, utilizing a tangible product like the ones listed above is probably the right move. However, there is a great way to ensure that you know what to do before a real downtime incident occurs: belt conveyor system training.
Flexco Essentials™ is a six-part e-Learning course that is designed to get everyone in heavy-duty industries up to speed with the latest in belt conveying technology. Whether you’re a new hire or a seasoned vet that needs a refresher, this is a great opportunity to stay up to date.
Check out Flexco Essentials
Available all across the globe, our in-class training sessions give students a hands-on learning experience that includes a comprehensive breakdown on technical training, application insights, and problem-solving techniques to bring back to the field.
View Flexco training classes
Available through Flexco and our distribution network, our customers can request an expert to visit their facility for custom on-site training and education so their employees can gain a better understanding of belt conveying technology.
Get on site training
Our online learning portal gives users the ability to get a deep dive into anything and everything in the world of belt conveying. Courses are easily accessible, are available for all levels of learning, and are the ideal solution for plant managers looking to get their workforce up to speed.
Flexco Online Training
Contact a Distributor
Ready to move forward with Flexco’s aggregate belt conveyor solutions? Our distribution network can get our products in your hands fast so you can get your operation up and running for a more profitable quarter. Simply click our button below to access our list of distributors by location.
If you’re still not sure what you might need for your facility and you’d like someone from our team to conduct a site walkthrough, you can request one by visiting our aggregate conveyor belt site walkthrough request form.
Authored by: Brian David, Industry Manager
In the role of Industry Manager, David develops and maintains subject matter expertise related to key heavy-duty growth industries, applying that expertise to market development and marketing communications programs, including the development tools that highlight product, services, and delivered customer value. David has been with Flexco since 2018, beginning his time as a Territory Sales Manager before becoming Industry Manager in 2021. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech and a Master of Business Administration from Emory University.