Most conveyors are used in place of warehouse personnel. But on the receiving and shipping docks, the loading and unloading zones, conveyors that extend into trailers and shipping containers interface with humans. “In those areas, we are where the rubber hits the road,” says Mark Rehder, general manager and vice president for Caljan Rite-Hite (303-321-3600,http://www.caljanritehiteus.com)). “On the docks, ergonomics and safety are as important as throughput speeds.” Those concerns are being addressed in several ways, including guarding, labeling and enclosed designs that minimize the number of pinch points where a finger or garment might get caught in the conveyor. It’s also reflected in the ability to adjust the conveyor height to place the parcel at an ergonomic location for the operator at the dock. “You’ll now see conveyors using hydraulic elevation control and articulated belt systems that allow any individual to put the conveyor at the right height,” says Rehder. In addition, conveyor providers are also combining conveyors with vacuum-assist lifting devices that can lift bags, cartons and boxes from a trailer floor or pallet. “All the operator has to do is guide the parcel onto the conveyor,” says Rehder.
What goes up: Most people use conveyor for horizontal travel. Vertical reciprocating conveyors (VRCs) are used to transport parts, products, subassemblies and work-in-process from one level of a facility to another. “VRCs are a safe and efficient method of getting material from one elevation to another elevation,” says Todd Canham, lift product manager for Wildeck (800-325-6939, http://www.wildeck.com)). “They allow companies to make better use of their floor space by using the space overhead.” An electronics manufacturer, for instance, uses a VRC to transport materials from the manufacturing floor to a testing facility and then back to the ground level to a packing station. “It’s an easy way to move material while reducing lift truck traffic,” says Canham. A new generation of VRCs that use direct-acting lift technologies and eliminate cables and sprockets provides simple and reliable vertical lifting for low usage situations.