Cleaning conveyor belts and maintenance

Jul 18, 2023 | potash news

What exactly is lean maintenance?

Lean maintenance is a type of proactive maintenance that applies lean applications to equipment management and it is set up to minimize the cost and effort required for preventive maintenance. Lean maintenance ultimately saves a manufacturer/company tons of money. It also prevents headaches via costly repairs and shutdown times.

A nod to its name, the concept of being lean has the ultimate goal of trimming away all unnecessary actions (such as maintenance repairs and extra steps). Typically, when we think “lean” in manufacturing, we’re thinking about producing products with zero waste and zero defects.

In maintenance when we think lean, we’re avoiding costly downtime. That means implementing preventative maintenance, or PM programs.

Preventive maintenance is preferred by roughly 80 per cent of maintenance personnel, according to Statistics reveal that 80 per cent of manufacturing plants also use preventive maintenance, and more than 50 per cent use predictive maintenance with analytical tools.

This smarter way of conducting operations makes sense and has become a necessity, as the statistics reveal PM is needed. Case in point, it is estimated that roughly 10 per cent (and maybe even less) of industrial equipment ever actually wears out, meaning a large portion of mechanical failures are avoidable. But to avoid (or prevent) them (hence, the name), preventative measures—and maintenance—must be added to the equation.

Three main principles of lean maintenance

Grounded in Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), which is a strategy that maximizes effectiveness through workers from all levels of the organization involved in maintenance and reliability initiatives, lean maintenance is founded on three main philosophies:

  1. 5S principle

This methodology, which was made popular by Toyota to reduce waste in its facilities, includes principles for creating a logical order to the workplace: eliminating unneeded materials, putting everything in its proper place, and standardizing upkeep practices.

  1. Autonomous maintenance

Autonomous maintenance gives machine operators the responsibility to perform basic maintenance tasks instead of relying on a dedicated maintenance technician. This gives operators more control and authority while allowing maintenance personnel to focus their energies and expertise on more complex maintenance work.

  1. Continuous improvement

Continuous improvement is the ongoing upgrades of products, services, or processes via incremental improvements. Ideally, this eliminates breakdowns and unnecessary downtime for repairs.  Lean maintenance puts these philosophies into practice to minimize costs while increasing the reliability of equipment and systems.

Unsurprisingly, we’re not alone in the adoption of this logical and effective approach, as many in the industry have also discussed the merits of lean maintenance. A favorite quote of ours comes from author and speaker John Wooden, who once said, “If you don’t have time to do it right, you must have time to do it over”.

In a nutshell, Wooden means: Do the job right the first time (and maintain that stasis) or pay the consequences, which in mining’s case involves a wealth of lost time, wasted resources, additional time and labour, and missed revenue from having to do it all over.

We’ve compiled some helpful information to explain why we care about—and do—this. And why you should, too, particularly when it comes to cleaning conveyor belts.

Why do mining facilities need to clean belts regularly?

Simply put, cleaning a conveyor belt in a mining environment is necessary due to adhering or generally sticky material remaining on the belt’s return side. It’s an all too common problem, which has several causes and effects that we will go further into detail about below.

Repercussions of not cleaning and maintaining conveyor belts

Among the negative effects that result from material remaining adhered to the conveyor belt include the wearing of idler rollers and belts, and increased difficulty—and costs—related to removing it the longer it remains on the belt.

Once a belt is allowed to degrade past a certain point with the sticky materials adhering to it, this adhered material can only be recovered and put back into the process to a certain extent.

Mining safety and conveyor belts

Material carry back is a common issue that occurs when there is a buildup of material on the belt itself. In mining, these can leave behind residue that can wreak havoc on operations. While it may not seem like it would be a big deal, this material can start to accumulate—especially in the area beneath the belt—which can mean big trouble for your rollers and pulleys.

Another threat posed by this same buildup issue is that in certain operations it can even become a fire hazard. To reduce material carry back, it would benefit you to install a cleaning system that will scrape your belt to ensure no material gets left behind.

From a standpoint of worker safety, the failure to maintain and properly clean conveyor belts will contribute to respirable dust emissions and increased need for ventilation, as well as a potential risk to the workers of inhaling harmful fumes.

Benefits of proper conveyor belt cleaning

On the opposite side of the coin, because we want to focus on the positive, there are definite benefits to properly cleaning and maintaining your conveyor belts, two of which we wanted to particularly highlight here.

  1. Control and regulation

You can control when and how the adhered material is discharged, relegating it to a controlled, planned location. Recovery of material that would otherwise be lost to spillage or made airborne can be rerouted back into the processing system, increasing the extraction rate. Also, the components of a belt conveyor are protected from excessive wear due to material buildup when they are regularly cleaned.

  1. Reduction of residuals

Cleaning a conveyor belt properly—and regularly—results in a drastic reduction of loose material needing to be removed below the conveyor. Referring back to worker safety, proper conveyor belt cleaning means that respirable dust emissions and other harmful residual inhalants are drastically reduced.

To find out more about proper conveyor belt cleaning and maintenance, and get more insights and help from Bit Service, contact us today to speak with one of our friendly experts. You can also learn more by reading our comprehensive article discussing belt cleaner and maintenance repair.