It is hard to place value on automated systems just because they are based on an opportunity cost.
When you need an estimate for the value of an box indexing system, you need to know things like the box throughput that your system handles and the number of employees that it takes to do the spacing of your products.
Indexers act similarly to a set of photo eyes acting as a traffic cop.
Where the traffic cop setup can stop an in-feeding line to prevent product collision, an indexer can momentarily stop or delay a package to eliminate crowding on the line.
The difference is that using an indexer allows the conveyors to continue moving, which is of great importance for some operations.
The indexer works by dropping a portion of conveyor down slightly so that the package stops. The conveyor stays lowered until the system receives a signal that lets it know when the preceding product is far enough away.
When that signal comes in, the conveyor pops back up and the box continues onto the next conveyor. The conveyor then drops again to stop the next box if spacing is too close.
There are all many components that make this system work right. To avoid friction that can cause conveyor damage, the indexer uses a belt with embedded rollers that moves it forward when unhindered, but allows the conveyor to move freely beneath when the box is stopped.
You can also use a speed-up roller after the indexer to “grab” the boxes with a high friction surface and propel them ahead of the box behind them.
The fact that the indexer can perform such a repetitive motion with machine precision allows you to eliminate a highly menial labor task, increasing both your income and efficiency at the same time.
Variety in automation ensures that the industry is always moving forward and that there is a solution for every problem. However, the differences among varieties are not always obvious.
This is true with indexer types, so we’re going to look at some of the most common ones in the market.
1 – Speedup Conveyor
While not an indexer in the traditional sense, having a conveyor that runs faster directly before weighing can achieve product spacing.
This method works well with consistently sized products, however, can fail completely when product size varies dramatically. It can work in some situations, but the spacing is still dependent on how close the packages were before this conveyor, and the conveyor doesn’t do any sort of aligning.
2 – Drop-down Indexers
This is one of the types that we use most commonly. The indexer is a section of conveyor attached to a pneumatic cylinder. When photo eyes see a product, the cylinder brings the conveyor down so that the product is retained by a stop. When photo eyes or a timer tell the indexer that there is enough space between the previous product and the retained product, the air cylinder moves the conveyor back into the neutral position and the retained product progresses down the conveyor.
This system allows for very controlled spacing and packages tend to align themselves during the indexing process, which makes them easier to label accurately. This indexing method is commonly paired with a speedup roller to ensure a gap is pulled to accurately index.
3 – Pop-up Indexer
A pop-up indexer is a system where a barrier pops up between two conveyors to block forward motion.
This one is used mostly for boxes. It has less overall moving parts than a drop-down conveyor, but it is less effective the closer products get because the stop needs to be able to find a gap between packages.
4 – “Squeeze” Indexer
This type of indexer simply uses plastic wedges that swing in from the sides of the conveyor to pinch off flow when the system needs to stop it.
This is usually used with boxes or things with rigidity because of its nature.
This is also used often in a traffic cop role to stop line flow when you need to combine multiple lines into one.
We generally go with the drop-down indexer because of its versatility and because it works the best for separating tightly packed products, but there is a time and place for each of these indexer types.
Learn more about our Box/Case Indexers
Radio Frequency (RF) trolley tracking has been around for years, it has been developed, tested, proven, patented and disproved more than once.
We have even developed, tested and sold RF trolley tracking systems, and they work and they work well.
The question is, “Will the systems available on the market today work in your plant?”
Before you get started even thinking about using a RF system in your plant, you will want a study done on what stray frequency levels you currently have floating around in your plant.
There is a cost associated with this, however you need this prior to finding a transponder frequency that will work and be able to be read.
Now you have done your testing and you have a frequency that works in your plant, your problems are over…or are they?
What if one of your drives starts to go out creating electrical noise??
These types of equipment emit a radio frequency all the time; once things change in the drive or motor, the frequency they emit changes, now we could have a problem reading the transponder that we did not have before.
Let’s say we are willing to take the risk, what else could possibly go wrong?
Well there are other things that can affect the readability of transponders like, florescent lights, CB radios, electric motors and more.
You need to find a frequency that is the least effected by interference from outside frequencies.
You could do one other thing; you can use a Read/Write Transponder.
You can attach information to these chips and get information off of them.
However, they do still have the problem of frequency interference.
What if you miss the read on one and/or are notable to attach a piece of information to one, you be the judge of what the result will be.
The read/write chips are better than the passive chips.
The question is, are they worth the chance of loosing valuable information, oh and by the way, read/write chips are more expensive.
If you want to start tracking trolleys, take a good look at RF; they’re worth looking at.
Then look at what else is available on the market to accomplish the same thing.
Consider Vision Systems such as Trolley Vision® that offer extremely high durability and reliability!