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Technology takes the pressure off common accumulation conveyor errors

Technology Takes the Pressure off Common Accumulation Conveyor Errors

Jerry Koch

Technology Takes the Pressure off Common Accumulation Conveyor Errors

Accumulation conveyors are critical pieces of equipment found in most material handling systems, serving as buffer zones where product is temporarily held until downstream operations are ready to accept it. For example, in distribution center (DC) operations, accumulation conveyors are often used to queue up items destined for the sortation line. When these conveyors don’t function properly, problems can quickly (and quite literally) pile up, severely affecting throughput and limiting fulfillment efficiencies. 

Recent advances in zero-pressure, accumulation conveyor technologies are helping to minimize these issues and introduce newfound efficiencies in distribution and fulfillment operations. Before gaining a deeper understanding of these technologies, let’s first take a look at some of the most common accumulation conveyor errors and their impacts on productivity.  

  • Side-by-sides — occur when two or more cartons are positioned next to each other on a conveyor rather than in a singulated flow (or single file order). This “dis”-order potentially places multiple barcodes next to each other, causing the downstream scanner to misread one or more of the cartons. This can result in sorting product to the wrong location, creating order and shipping errors, or pushing items into a sorter line recirculation loop that can also become quickly overloaded.
  • Conveyor jams — happen when cartons accumulate and the ensuing back-pressure results in side-by-sides and wedged product that impede the flow of cartons upon release. This typically requires one or more DC workers to physically clear the conveyor and get product flowing again. 
  • Product damage —side-by-side conveyor jams coupled with continuous conveyor driving can lead to what’s commonly referred to as the volcano effect, as conveyor pressure reaches the point where product erupts and spills off the conveyor, often getting damaged in the process. Not only does this require employee intervention to clean up the mess, it often results in inventory loss due to product damages. 

Welcome Intelligent Zone Control and High Speeds to the Neighborhood

Thankfully, all of these issues can be remedied with ZoneFlex® Advanced, intelligent, high-speed accumulation conveyor technology from Honeywell Intelligrated. This dynamic system enables precise speed control and product visibility within discrete conveyor zones, automatically slowing down cartons prior to accumulation and preventing side-by-sides and jams. ZoneFlex Advanced is available as an upgrade to existing accumulation conveyors — such as IntelliQ® and Accuglide™ conveyor types — or as a complete replacement to outdated conveyors.

Using a proprietary technology called neighborhood mode, ZoneFlex Advanced ensures singulated product flow, preventing side-by-sides and back pressure that lead to scanner mis-reads, product jams, inventory shrinkage and critical sorting errors. Neighborhood mode restores order to the accumulation process, minimizing conveyor congestion and helping reduce line sorter shutdowns caused by excessive cartons entering the recirculation loop.

ZoneFlex Advanced was also built for speed, delivering up to a 45 percent increase in throughput without adding to a facility’s overall conveyor footprint. With this technology in place, you can achieve industry-leading speeds that can adapt to the increased production requirements of tomorrow.  

From shipping and inventory perspectives, ZoneFlex Advanced delivers the accuracy needed to help prevent lost revenue from costly mis-shipments and inventory errors by limiting the possibility of sending cartons to the wrong destinations — both inside and outside the four walls of the DC.

And by enabling consistent, orderly product flow, ZoneFlex Advanced frees your teams from the inefficient, recurring tasks of clearing jams and cleaning up product overflows. View our new animation to learn more about how ZoneFlex Advanced can deliver faster rates and gentler carton handling for true zero-pressure accumulation in your system .