Accumulation Conveyors: What You Need to Know

Those who manage or operate warehouse facilities understand the detrimental effects even minor disruptions in the workflow can have on productivity. Delays can result in customer complaints, parcel backup, product damages and loss of revenue. 

When outfitting your warehouse, it’s critical to select equipment that will ease the burden on your team so everything runs as efficiently as possible. One such piece of equipment is the accumulation conveyor. With its ability to drastically improve throughput and efficiency, it is one of the most essential systems to have in many types of warehouses.   

As a part of our mission to maximize productivity in your facility, East Coast Storage Equipment is committed to providing you with the information you need to properly outfit your warehouse. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about accumulation conveyors and how they can help your team avoid delays and disruptions. 

What Are Accumulation Conveyors?

Accumulation conveyors accumulate, hold, stop and store products so that upstream equipment can remain operational if downstream equipment is halted. This type of solution is commonly used in order picking or packing operations to create a buffer zone between products in various stages of production.

The difference between accumulating and non-accumulating conveyors is that accumulating conveyors have a queue or stop functionality in order to accommodate disruptions along the line.

How Do Accumulation Conveyors Work?

There are three main ways accumulation conveyors work.   

1. Drive belts. The mechanism drives the product onward continuously. An air bladder activated by photo eye accumulation sensors controls the drivetrain in order to move the rollers.

2. Chains. These work in much the same way as a drive belt-operated system; the difference is the use of chains rather than drive belts.

3. 24v roller. If the system is driven by a 24v roller, the roller will switch on or off in order to halt specific products in certain zones along the conveyor.

Whether the conveyor system is minimum or zero contact, sensors monitor products upstream to determine whether or not to halt the line. When a product is stopped, the drive equipment will switch off in that zone, while the products behind it continue to run until they reach the halted zone. 

Until the products are processed downstream, the queue will continue to accumulate at the blocked zone. 

Features of Accumulation Conveyors

Different types of accumulation conveyors share some common features.

  • Photo eye accumulation sensors. This is the device that senses where products are along the conveyor.
  • Solenoids. This type of electromagnet controls troll-to-air mechanisms.
  • Nine diameter rollers. These make up the platform that transports the products along the conveyor.
  • Varying speeds. Speed options allow you to customize your conveyor based on your process and the needs of your team.
Accumulation conveyors use photo eye sensors to detect where products are along the line.

Minimum Pressure vs. Zero Pressure Accumulation Conveyors

The two types of accumulation conveyor systems are minimum and zero pressure. 

Minimum Back Pressure Systems

These systems allow accumulated items to touch each other. They drive pressure to the rollers, ensuring products come into contact with each other while avoiding damage. The back pressure on this type of conveyor will be a minimum of 2% of the total load.

This type of conveyor system is ideal for palletizing, and for items that share similar weight, shape and size. It is not recommended for fragile items.

Zero Pressure Systems

These systems will not allow products to come into contact with each other. This type of conveyor is preferred in most warehouses with fragile goods. Sensors help the system control each zone of the conveyor so that the rollers stop driving when products are near one another. 

The Benefits of Accumulation Conveyors 

Accumulation conveyors can help your facility be more efficient and productive. Here are some of the ways they can support your team:

Creating a Buffer Between Different Processes 

Depending on the sort of facility you have, different processes in your line may operate on varying timelines. Packers in a picking and packing facility will not be able to load a product at the same rate as it arrives in their zone. 

Accumulation conveyors can create a buffer zone in the flow, which allows packers to take products from a collection zone of accumulated products. This decreased strain on your team will also help to prevent injuries or accidents

Cooling and Drying Zones 

Accumulation conveyors allow you to customize the processes on your line. If you have items that need to remain untouched for periods of time before proceeding to the next zone, these systems will allow you to define certain sections for this purpose.

Improved Oversight 

Because the accumulation conveyor requires minimal manual operation, operators, managers and other facility team members can oversee multiple zones simultaneously. Operators are able to set specific intervals for different zones in accordance with the team’s needs, allowing them to move between zones to monitor different processes at once. 

More Efficient Queues 

If your facility operates using last in, first out, or first in, last out organizational methods, accumulation conveyors will help you to run products through a customized line that makes the most sense for your needs.

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Other Benefits of Accumulation Conveyors

Some other benefits of including these systems in your facility are as follows:

  • Able to mitigate or prevent congestion 
  • Less risk of damage on inclines, declines and spirals
  • Increased efficiency by decoupling different processes
  • Allow for seamless merging of separate lines 
  • Increase throughput by allowing more products to move together

How Accumulation Conveyors Will Improve Productivity in Your Facility

Most conveyor systems will benefit from some sort of accumulation technology. This is because almost all products, lines and processes will require a queue for merging, sorting, loading or picking. While facilities can manage without, accumulation conveyor systems will increase throughput and allow for maximum efficiency. 

Common Applications for Accumulation Conveyors

Because of their versatility, accumulation conveyors can benefit many modern warehouse facilities. The equipment can be customized based on the size, shape and weight of your products, making them nearly universally applicable. 

Some common applications include:

  • E-commerce packing facilities
  • Sortation 
  • Pick-to-put systems
  • Zone routing
  • Spiral conveyors 
  • Organizing multiple SKUs
  • Organizing a variety of product types

Get the Right Accumulation Conveyors

Accumulation conveyors can make your warehouse more efficient by maximizing throughput and decreasing strain on each zone. Whether you’re operating an e-commerce warehouse or a packaging facility, these systems will improve the ability of your team to meet the needs of your customers.If you’re looking for personalized storage solutions, we’ve got you covered. At East Coast Storage Equipment, we provide customized equipment plans that maximize space and efficiency in your warehouse. Contact us to see how we can help.

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