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THE REAL COST OF CHEAP WAREHOUSING CHAIN…….  
                              
….Robert Young of Tsubaki explains why the lowest cost
chain is far more expensive for the user in the long run.

The fact that initial lowest cost for a component or system often proves to be the most expensive in the longer term has resulted in a concentration across all sectors of industry on the issue of whole life costs. The issue is essentially a dichotomy, with the OEM on the one side, and the user, the other. The OEM’s objective, to achieve the lowest installed cost for equipment, whilst the user requires improved reliability and longer operating life.

The OEM is all too aware that quoting a high price can cost him a job; yet as experience shows things tend to go wrong sooner rather than later with equipment that is built down to a cost. Unfortunately, despite the many lessons, the cost down philosophy still appears to permeate levels of industrial supply, from bearings, to hydraulic and pneumatic components, drives, gearboxes and chain. What this means for the eventual end user of these products – probably a manufacturer or food processor or materials handling company with deadlines to meet – is a potential time bomb in the production or materials handling system. In today’s world, with downtime a key production indicator (KPI) this is clearly not acceptable.

Increasingly, companies are waking up to the fact that, to achieve increased throughput and realise the full potential of their existing assets, they must achieve improved production efficiencies. However, to achieve these efficiencies downtime must be minimised, which, in turn, means that a whole new approach of adopting components and equipment that might cost a bit more initially, but are fitter for purpose over the longer term needs to be adopted or at the very least its added value considered.

One area that aptly highlights this philosophy is conveyor chain. In the warehousing and logistics sector the predominant type of chain employed is BS specification chain. This often has a low up-front cost, so hardly anyone questions that it might not provide the best solution in all applications. Especially so with alternatives costing perhaps three times more, despite the fact that these alternatives can easily pay for themselves many times by providing up to 20 or even 30- times more operating life. 

Often, the major issues with low cost warehousing chain becomes manifest when problems of chain elongation or even breakages occur. Whereby the chain supplier/manufacturer is not in full control of the key aspects of manufacture such as heat treatment, the manufacturing of vital component parts and quality control. The benefits of these solid manufacturing foundations become clearer when a chain is actually in operation.

With conveying applications using lengths of chain in pairs or multiple strands of chain, length tolerance is really important and no more so than for maintaining an accurate overall length tolerance in attachment chains of which many are employed in warehousing and logistics operations. Utilising lower cost chain not fulfilling key manufacturing criteria can hasten the onset of wear elongation resulting from the constant sliding friction that occurs between the vital component parts, bearing pin and bushings.  This causes chain pitch discrepancies, which can necessitate continual chain adjustment and make frequent replacement inevitable.
                                                                                                                                                            
In amongst all the factors that cause elongation, two of the most common are probably inadequate lubrication, and mechanical wear caused by debris retained in external lubricant. Both are major contributors to reduced chain life, and hence, higher product replacement and maintenance costs.

Tsubaki has developed a means of overcoming these problems with its non-lube Lambda chain. Along with the capabilities of reduced downtime, longer life and the elimination of further lubrication maintenance or actual purchasing cost, the Lambda design offers users another key benefit. The design features specially coated bearing pins and extra durable rollers.  These rollers facilitate super smooth engagement on the sprocket, resulting in reduced wear. In addition, and critically for eliminating elongation, as the rollers are dry to the touch the chain does not pick up surface debris; it therefore goes some way to help avoid the wear problems that finally result in elongation.

Lambda has exhibited its resistance to elongation in many types of industries, from materials handling and food processing through to paper, packaging & utilities. In all these applications it has been employed to overcome the high maintenance costs resulting either from downtime due to regular chain re-tensioning, or the costs of replacement chains and lubricant.

The benefits of Lambda have been proven in real time tests, where competitive chains were fitted to five identical tracks and then replaced each time they failed with the performance logged. Once the cheaper chain had been replaced several times it was replaced by another brand as it had failed to meet the performance target. 

Although just the chain longevity is shown here, the cost of Tsubaki chain, particularly the lube-free Lambda variant was several times that of the cheapest chain; however, this was completely offset by the reduced maintenance, downtime and replacement costs provided by the Lambda chain.

Whole life cost approach delivers lower costs for the warehouse operator over the longer term. In some cases, however, the case for higher cost upfront will always be difficult to substantiate. It is for these instances, in basic conveying mediums, that Tsubaki has introduced its new BS RF series flat side plate chain. This provides users with improved performance and wear life; effectively delivering overall cost savings to the chain user through a whole life cost approach to chain use. In this aspect, every facet of the chain including material selection, manufacturing techniques and heat treatment have been optimised to provide a real synergy of operation over the longer term.       
     
One of Tsubaki’s core strengths, recognised throughout many industries is the capability to supply a huge range of attachment chains to suit virtually any application, and importantly with an on time delivery. Falling into three complementary chain categories: an extended range of stock items covering the majority of standard applications; a ‘build to order’ service for more specialised attachments, also held in UK/European stock; and a ‘made to order’ service where unusual or highly specialist solutions can be delivered on short lead times from Tsubaki’s dedicated state-of-the art factory.  These three supply levels are well documented in recently released literature, The Tsubaki Drive, Attachment and custom made chain catalogues, all of which can be downloaded easily from the Tsubaki Europe website,
http://www.tsubaki.eu.

                           ……………………… Ends …………………………

Contact for reader enquiries: Marketing Department, Tsubaki UK Ltd, Osier Drive, Sherwood Park, Annesley, Nottingham. NG15 ODX. Tel: 01623 -688788 Fax: 01623 -688789       e-mail: sales@tsubaki.co.uk  Web: http://www.tsubaki.eu

For editorial enquiries contact: Roland Renshaw, DMA Europa Ltd, 2nd Floor, Snuff Mill Warehouse, Park Lane, Bewdley, Worcestershire, DY12 2EL Tel: 01299 405454  Fax: 01299 403092 Email: roland@dmaeuropa.com

 


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