As a vital part of the production flow, overhead conveyors are used to transport vehicle body parts through automotive production plants. Should the conveyor chain break or malfunction, a large proportion of the production line will come to a standstill, and this could quickly spread through to the other processes. Despite this, conveyor chain is often viewed as a commodity product. To help, specialist chains can often survive several times longer than conventional chain, particularly in heavy duty applications.
Take one of the UK’s largest automotive assembly plants as an example. The company was having to replace its conveyor chain at least once every 12 months, a problem which was made worse by the fact that maintenance was scheduled quarterly, so the chain could only be lubricated every three months. The chain became stiff and difficult to articulate and airborne particles were causing contamination to build up, causing wear. It would typically break inside of 12 months so, to prevent unscheduled downtime, had to be replaced every third quarter.
Tsubaki established that the OE chain in use was not suited to the heavy-duty operation and suggested that a better quality chain would offer a longer working life. However, to add value to the production line, the new chain would need to offer a demonstrably lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Tsubaki therefore recommended its maintenance-free Lambda series of self-lubricated chain. This would eliminate the need for manual lubrication while extending the overall operation life of the chain. The engineers also developed a special top plate, which was fitted to every second link, helping to reduce chain contamination and protect the chain from wear. In addition, on Tsubaki’s recommendation, the rivets used to secure the top plates were replaced with special, high tensile, screws that are secured into position with thread locking adhesive.
Thanks to the Lambda chain, the conveyor system now typically operates reliably for in excess of two years, resulting in the plant spending less on chain each year, as well as less on maintenance costs and lost production.