• A typical conveyor application is movement of totes from a picking area to packaging for shipping.

  • For transferring a load from one level to another, vertical reciprocating conveyors feature a carrier that moves up and down.

Used for movement of materials, products and loads throughout a manufacturing or distribution facility, conveyors are horizontal, inclined or vertical devices. Product transport is powered by gravity or by hydraulic or electric power. Loads ride atop rollers or a belt that travels along a fixed path with specific points for loading and discharge. Because they enable large volumes of material to be moved rapidly through a process or facility, conveyors reduce labor costs by eliminating non-value-added travel time. Typical conveyor applications include movement of cases, totes or palletized loads into and out of a trailer, to and from static or automated storage systems, or from a picking area to packaging for shipping.

There are two primary types of Conveyors. These include:

  • Gravity conveyor: - The simplest kind, gravity conveyors feature an incline and use the force of gravity, or of a person, to push the load along the conveyor surface. The main types include:

    • Chute conveyor – The most basic style, chute conveyors feature a solid surface made of metal or plastic that is angled down in a straight or spiral configuration. The load slides along the surface.
    • Gravity roller conveyor – Support a load on a series of rollers with internal ball bearing rings mounted on axles at fixed intervals in a frame. They come in straight, curved, spur or merge configurations.
    • Gravity wheel conveyor - Ideal for light duty handling of loads with flat, smooth bottoms, gravity wheel conveyors support the load on a series of skatewheels mounted on a shaft in a frame. The conveyor sections can be fixed or a flexible, expandable accordion frame.
  • Powered conveyor: Driven by either an electric or pneumatic power system, a powered conveyors’ movement is driven by motors and drives. There are several types, including:

    • Accumulation conveyor - A conveyor that accumulates loads at a location. To avoid any abrupt collisions of (or damage to) the loads, a variety of methods are employed to slow their travel speeds. These include non-contact, minimum pressure and zero pressure.
    • Belt conveyor - A powered conveyor that transports loads on belts made of fabric, rubber, plastic, leather or metal. Types include roller belt, slider belt and telescoping belt.
    • Chain conveyor – Transports of heavy unit loads (such as pallets or containers) chain conveyors use a single or double chain that provides the driving force to pull the load forward.
    • Live roller conveyor – This is the most common conveyor used in warehousing. Loads travel on rollers mounted in a frame and powered through various means. Types include: belt driven and line shaft driven.
    • Poternoster or platform conveyor - A type of vertical conveyor that includes multiple, equally spaced, load-carrying units fixed to chains that move continuously in an endless loop. This permits automatic loading and unloading.
    • Slat conveyor - Utilizes one or more endless chains that have non-overlapping, non-interlocking, spaced slats attached. Loads ride on the slats.
    • Vertical reciprocating conveyor (VRC) : For transferring a load from one level to another, VRCs feature a carrier that moves up and down to carry materials or objects from one belt or roller conveyor to another. They can be power or gravity actuated, and can operate automatically or manually. There are three styles:

      • Two post cantilever lift - Featuring a carriage guided and supported by two masts on the same side so three sides can be accessed to accommodate C-, Z- or 90°-loading.
      • Two post straddle lift – Featuring a carriage is guided by and suspended between two masts located on opposite sides of the carriage for C- and Z-loading.
      • Four post lift – A type of straddle lift carriage guided by and suspended between two sets of two masts located on opposite sides of the carriage for higher capacity use. They accommodate C-, Z- or 90°-loading.

Conveyors are used in a variety of areas to move materials throughout a facility:

  • Assembly: Moving products through production processes
  • Transportation: Moving pallets, cases and totes throughout a facility
  • Staging: Accumulating and holding items for further processing or packaging
  • Warehousing: Moving products from receiving to storage
  • Order Picking: Moving ordered products from storage to picking areas, and completed orders to trailer-loading area for distribution

Conveyors provide a variety of benefits:

  • Ergonomics – Because they do the work of load movement, conveyors eliminate the chance of operator injury from pushing or pulling a load
  • Process flow - Conveyors can be used as a part of an assembly or manufacturing process
  • Safety – Because they move loads along a fixed path, conveyors eliminate the chance of collisions associated with forklift or manual product movement
  • Speed – Conveyor speed can be set to accommodate slow and peak demand periods
  • Transportation – Conveyors facilitate the internal movement of totes, cases or pallet loads throughout a facility with minimal or no labor required

Conveyors provide internal material movement for facilities in nearly every industry, including:

  • Aerospace
  • Appliance
  • Automotive
  • Beverage
  • Chemicals
  • Construction
  • Consumer goods
  • E-Commerce
  • Food
  • Hardware
  • Hospital
  • Manufacturing
  • Materials processing
  • Paper
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Plastics
  • Retail
  • Warehousing and distribution

Read more about how Conveyors are used in different industries and applications. Case studies featuring the use of VRCs can be found here. Additional case studies can be found here.