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What are Conveyor Belts?

Conveyer belt in a brewery.
Conveyer belt customized to carry apples.
Grocery stores typically use conveyer belts at checkout lines.
Depending on the system that is in place at a given airport, a luggage conveyor may simply provide support to human baggage handlers by moving the baggage closer to the planes.
Conveyor belts help move bottles through the production line in a bottling plant.
Escalators can be seen as conveyor belts built from stairs.
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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2014
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Conveyor belts are loops of material that move parts or other items from one location to another. They are often driven by variable speed electric motors or by other moving parts in a complex system. These belts are commonly found in factories, grocery stores, warehouses and public transportation centers.

Before the introduction of modern automation techniques, factory workers often had to travel from project to project. The cumulative effect of all this physical motion was additional stress and inefficient use of the worker's time. Conveyor belts bring the project to the worker, instead of the worker to the project. Parts could then be transported by other belts to additional workers, and eventually to the shipping docks for delivery.

Further refinement of the conveyor belt allowed factory managers to create automated or semi-automated production lines. Individual parts could be moved through automated machinery for routine processing, leaving workers free for quality control tasks or other higher responsibilities. These devices also proved useful for transporting heavy or hazardous products, reducing worker injuries.

Many conveyor belts work on the principle of variable speed control. If a particular belt moves too slowly, workers may find themselves waiting for parts. If one moves too quickly, parts may be damaged or workers may become overwhelmed. Much of a factory supervisor's time is spent adjusting the rate at which items move for maximum efficiency. This is especially important in food production factories, where belt speed and proper cooking time work hand in hand.

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The use of conveyor belts is not restricted to factories. Bakeries and pizza shops often use a slow-moving wire conveyor belt to move their products through an oven. Grocery stores use them in their check-out lines to bring items to the clerk and bagger. Airports and other public transportation systems use belts to deliver checked baggage to customers, and warehouses use long ones to offload products from incoming trucks or to load outgoing ones. Escalators found in department stores could also be considered conveyor belts, as are "people movers" or moving sidewalks in larger airports.

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Discuss this Article

Kristee
Post 5

I think that working at a factory on a conveyor belt line would be incredibly stressful. What if I couldn't get finished with the item before it needed to move on? I don't think I could handle the pressure of that setup.

kylee07drg
Post 4

@StarJo – Most conveyor belts at grocery stores will stop running automatically once your items reach the end. I don't know where you shop, but I haven't seen the kind that just keep running no matter what in decades.

I do remember being a kid and seeing some smaller items get stuck under the belt when the cashier would forget to turn it off, though. I'm glad that stores these days have the automatic shutoff feature on their conveyor belts.

There is often a long line of people with carts full of groceries where I shop. Having to wait for the cashier to stop the belt would be a big inconvenience.

StarJo
Post 3

I get annoyed when the cashier at the grocery store leaves the conveyor belt running while checking out the person ahead of me. Doesn't she know that I want to go ahead and put my groceries down?

wavy58
Post 2

Escalators come to mind when I think of conveyor belts. This is probably because I have a fear of them.

Several times, I have tripped and almost fallen on escalators. I can't seem to get the timing right when it comes to stepping on and off of them, and it's especially scary when I get to the top and the sharp metal stair is being eaten by the gap.

I think that escalators are probably the most dangerous type of conveyor belt. What gets me is that people use these every day and never think twice about it! I have used these conveyor belts enough times to know that I want nothing to do with them anymore.

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