Tag Archives: Jerad Heitzler

Martin Engineering goes virtual with conveyor training

With in-person training curtailed for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19 restrictions, Martin Engineering says it has developed an extensive array of tools to continue its tradition of educating those who maintain, manage and design conveyors for industrial operations.

The result is a wide range of globally-available options to help improve safety and efficiency, reduce maintenance expenditures and extend equipment life, ultimately contributing to greater profitability, it says.

“The pandemic has impacted our ability to teach traditional classes at customer sites,” PE Todd Swinderman, CEO Emeritus of Martin Engineering and an industry veteran with more than 40 years of hands-on experience, said. “But it doesn’t reduce the need for conveyor operators and facility managers to obtain the benefits and continuing education credits those sessions provide.”

In response to the restrictions that the virus has placed on face-to-face learning, Martin has created a series of interactive online modules based on the same non-commercial curriculum it has produced over the years. Designed to keep attendees engaged and organised into 90-120 minute segments, the virtual classes cover topics such as best practices for safety, fugitive material control and belt tracking. Upon completion, attendees are eligible to receive either Professional Development Unit (PDU) or Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credits.

“The Foundations™ online seminars deliver non-commercial, topic-specific problem-solving information that can be put to immediate use,” Swinderman said. “There’s no sales pitch, and even the most remote locations can take advantage,” he added.

Customer Development Manager, Jerad Heitzler, an instructor of Martin’s safety workshops since 2010, said: “Conveyors are one of the best productivity-enhancing tools available, but conveyor injuries cost employers millions of dollars annually. Because of the size of their material cargoes, the speed of their operation, and the amount of energy they consume and contain, conveyors have been shown to be a leading cause of industrial accidents, including serious injuries and fatalities. But injuries are preventable with the right training, preparation and safety precautions.”

According to Heitzler, the company’s preferred platform is Zoom, but its expert trainers also have experience with Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Webex.

“Our platform has been built to increase attendee engagement as much as possible,” Heitzler added. “Many trainers don’t use the available platform features effectively, because they were thrust into online training as a result of the pandemic. But we’ve worked hard at using engagement features to increase learner participation, with options such as a raise hand button, chat, Q and A, screen sharing, white boards, private breakout rooms and polling.”

Heitzler said the Martin team has taught around 2,000 attendees using video conferencing since the onset of the virus.

“We’ve presented these modules to learners in coal handling plants, cement manufacturing, aggregate production and pulp and paper mills,” he said. “We’ve also provided training for industry consultants, service providers and engineering firms who design conveyors and plants.”

Swinderman estimates the firm has trained more than 50,000 miners, operators, maintenance staff and management personnel around the world.

There are two standard tracks: one for maintenance and operations personnel that stresses safe work practices and solutions to common conveyor problems, and one designed for technical and management personnel that emphasises the design and operation of conveyors for safety and productivity. In addition, Martin trainers and engineers can custom design programs not only for customers using conveyors but for those needing training on the application of industrial vibration, air cannons and silo cleaning.

“Both methods of training are highly interactive, effective and non-commercial, focusing on delivering timely information that can be put to immediate use,” Swinderman concluded.

Martin Engineering on handling uptime and potential hazards in conveyor belt operations

Martin Engineering is aware of the potential hazards and injuries that can come from a build up of material around or near conveyor belts and has issued some advice to mining companies to prevent such events occurring and to ensure bulk handling equipment works to its potential.

“As tonnes of material per hour are quickly dropped with great force through receiving chutes onto a receiving conveyor, fugitive cargo often piles up around the frame and dust migrates throughout the area, collecting on idlers, pulleys and floors and affecting air quality,” Martin Engineering said.

“Workers have to continuously clean up the material before it encapsulates the belt, potentially exposing them to a hazardous work area around a moving conveyor, where even incidental contact can result in serious injury in a split second. Considering that most conveyor injuries occur though routine maintenance or clean up, controlling fugitive material is becoming one of the primary elements in a well-organised effort to reduce hazards and prevent injuries.”

Jerad Heitzler, Product Specialist at Martin Engineering, said conveyor operators need only to take a broad look at the expense that fugitive material has on a system to realise the full cost that accompanies inefficient transfer point designs.

“Problems such as improper belt support, badly sealed chutes, damaged idlers and uneven cargo distribution can all result in spillage and belt mis-tracking,” he said. “They also contribute to increased costs for lost material, premature equipment failure, maintenance and clean-up, as well as the potential for injury and compliance issues. These factors raise the cost of operation and reduce profit margins.”

In a properly-engineered transfer point, each component, from the chute design to the cradles and dust seals, is employed to maximise its specific function and contain dust and fines, while at the same time offering workers easy access for maintenance, the company said.

Transfer points

Containment is the key to avoiding spillage and dust and there are several components designed for this purpose, according to Martin Engineering.

Although shaped transfer chutes and rock boxes direct the material flow to mitigate the concussion of material on the belt, most high-volume operations need one or more impact cradles to absorb the force of the cargo stream.

“Heavy duty impact cradles can be equipped with rubber or urethane impact bars with a top layer of slick UHMW plastic to minimise belt friction. Able to withstand impact forces as high as 17,000 lbf (53.4-75.6 kN) and drop heights of up to 50 ft (15.2 m), support beams in the centre of the cradle are set slightly below the receiving belt’s line of travel. In this way, the belt avoids sustained friction when running empty and yet can absorb hard impacts during loading, while still retaining a tight belt seal.

“Within the settling zone – located after the impact cradle in the conveyor chute box – slider cradles can then create a troughed belt to centre the cargo and reduce disruption quickly, aiding in dust settlement.”

Slider cradles, located down the length of the skirted area, have several functions, the company said. One is to create a trough angle that adequately centres the load. The trough angle also plays an important part in retaining a tight seal between the belt and the skirt. Lastly, using track mount idlers in between each cradle, a smooth belt path is created through the settling area, one that can be easily maintained.

“A smooth belt path should have no gaps, minimising disruption and promoting containment, allowing dust and fines to settle into the cargo stream prior to leaving the containment area,” the company said.

Airflow

With a constant stream of material crashing on the impact point of the receiving belt, the transfer point can be extremely turbulent, and this turbulence must be contained, Martin Engineering said.

By slowing the airflow in the skirted area, suspended dust can settle onto the cargo path. To contain the mixture of air and disrupted material, a stable, correctly-supported belt is needed for the sealing components to function properly, according to the company. Without a stable beltline, the belt will sag between idlers, and sealing components will not prevent air and fine material from escaping out of the resulting gaps, causing spillage and dust emissions.

Chute sealing

By closing gaps and keeping a tight seal on the belt, apron seals can also be attached to the chute walls to prevent fugitive dust and fines from escaping.

“A crucial requirement in any transfer point designed for reduced spillage and high efficiency is an effective skirting and wear liner sealing system at the edge of the belt,” Heitzler said. “Modern designs feature external skirting, which establish the tight belt seal needed to eliminate fugitive dust and fines.”

The external design requires minimal tools and no confined space entry to inspect, adjust or replace wear liners or skirts and, in most cases, can be performed by a single worker, Martin Engineering said. “The low profile of the skirting assembly needs only a few inches of clearance, allowing installation and maintenance in space-restricted areas. The design of these components drastically reduces scheduled downtime and the potential workplace hazards associated with replacement and adjustment.”

Dust filtration

In operations with limited space for a settling zone or especially dusty materials, dust bags and curtains may be “essential components”, the company said.

“Providing passive relief via positive air pressure created at belt conveyor loading zones, dust bags prevent the escape of airborne particulates by venting the air and collecting dust at the same time. Installed at the exit of the loading zone and mounted in the skirtboard cover, dust curtains can help create a plenum for dust suppression and dust collection.”

For additional dust control, an integrated air cleaner system can be installed at the point of emission, containing a suction blower, filtering elements and a filter cleaning system.

Conveyor uptime

The company concluded: “Managers concerned with the overall safety and cost of operation need to review potential hazards, the impact of rising labour costs for clean-up and maintenance, combined with the expense of potential fines or forced downtime, to determine specifically how they can affect the bottom line.

“Using the technologies described here, even poorly-performing conveyors often don’t need to be replaced or rebuilt, but merely modified and reconfigured by knowledgeable and experienced technicians installing modern equipment.”

Heitzler signed off: “These improvements will help operations improve efficiency, reduce risk and contribute to regulatory compliance.”