On its conveyors, Steel Storage Systems custom tailors roller widths, spacing, capacity and length.
Connecting Components
Conveyor systems create a safe, smooth path to productivity
BY Lauren Duensing

utomation is efficient, but it isn’t a silver bullet. It has to be applied with thought and purpose. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has suggested that automation applied to an efficient process will “magnify the efficiency,” while “automation applied to an inefficient process will magnify the inefficiency.”

As companies strive to move material through operations quickly and efficiently, conveyors and packaging systems can help eliminate bottlenecks and manual labor when properly implemented. According to Commerce City, Colorado-based Steel Storage Systems, a designer and manufacturer of custom storage and handling equipment, a good conveyor system will increase productivity and improve safety.

“A properly devised system will not only increase output but also can have downstream benefits such as better personnel and crane utilization. We often arrange a system to serve multiple machines or where one operator can effectively run two machines simultaneously,” a company spokesperson says.

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One manufacturer was running five saws and solicited Steel Storage to analyze how to increase its sawing output. Although most of the saws already had handling systems to increase output, simply repositioning the equipment allowed for “better operator utilization and more efficient material flow while alleviating crane bottlenecks and creating closer and safer access to material. Only one saw required a new conveyor system,” the spokesperson says.
An integrated roller and lift-and-carry transfer conveyor system carries tubes.
Moving material
Steel Storage Systems finds that a typical challenge customers face when feeding saws and cut-to-length lines is access to material, especially if it is located in a different bay than the machine. Crane utilization can also be an issue. If a particular crane serves a machine at the same time it is tasked to fill orders and load and unload trucks, any bottleneck will interrupt machine feed rates.

Steel Storage Systems builds individual conveyor components and complete integrated systems to complement saws, cut-to-length lines, order filling stations, beam splitters and other metalworking processes. These components include idler and powered roller conveyors, transfer conveyors, cross conveyors, measuring systems, accessories and custom conveyor systems.

Roller conveyors are designed to stand up to the wear and tear that comes with daily handling of steel. They are available in modular sections up to 10 feet long that can bolt together to form any length required. Transfer and cross conveyors primarily serve roller conveyors for accumulating, feeding and discharging material. They comprise a series of arms with a large powered roller chain linked to a common drive shaft to convey material laterally. Transfers provide uninterrupted material flow for continuous operation of machinery, resulting in maximum productivity. Similar to transfers, cross conveyors have a wide range of accumulation capacity but are better suited for multi-process handling systems.

A key factor to evaluate when prescribing a system is the volume coming through the line. Steel Storage Systems advocates that a machine operating just a few hours a day requires a minimum of conveyors, whereas machinery running multiple shifts can justify a more comprehensive system. Both systems increase output and value-added revenue by improving handling.

A properly devised system will increase output and have down-stream benefits such as better personnel and crane utilization.
properly devised system increasing output
Powered rollers, staging and discharge transfer conveyors are key components to increase productivity and, just as importantly, to improve safety. This combination allows the operator to process without interruption while the material handler works optimally, serving the saws—retrieving and offloading—while also performing their other duties. Typically, the machine operator is paid more than the material handler so it’s better to be focused on processing.
Ask the right questions
Many manufacturers focus on basic requirements when performing due diligence on a material handling system, such as feed and exit roller conveyors, rather than taking a broader view that will increase output, improve safety and enhance a plant’s layout.

Not properly defining the application can lead to an inadequate solution, e.g., handling a 12-inch-diameter bar is significantly different than a 12-inch-wide beam. Experienced customers will consider features that add productivity, make it more convenient and safer for the operator, and withstand the rugged environment of handling metal.

A common misperception is comparing conveyors by their cost per foot. For example, a 10-foot-long powered roller conveyor will have a much higher price-per-foot cost than a 20-foot powered section that would spread the same drive cost over twice the length.

So when evaluating conveyor options, it is essential to account for all the details of the application beyond the materials being processed and machine model.

“Plant layout, logistics issues, types of handling and controls are critical as well. We collaborate with the customer to learn their objectives and concerns. The combination of their input and our expertise is what determines the best conveyor system,” the spokesperson says.

Steel Storage Systems tailors each system to match individual needs, from something as basic as the height of the conveyor to the requirements of the application and layout. Most installations don’t require a significant reconfiguration, but layouts are fitted to the particulars of the plant, such as building columns, walkways and the existing machinery and inventory area.

Steel Storage Systems, Commerce City, Colorado, 800/442-0291,