An overhead conveyor is a type of material handling equipment used to transport products from one location in a plant or facility to another location. This type of conveyor is characterized by the fact that the transportation path is above the floor of the facility.
Overhead conveyors can be non- powered or powered. Non-powered overhead conveyors require employee (manual) power or gravity force to move products from one location to the next. Powered overhead conveyors transport products utilizing a load-carrying mechanism such as a chain that is propelled by an electric motor, air pressure or vacuum.
One of the most common overhead conveyor systems is the overhead trolley concept. The non-powered trolley conveyor system consists of a tubular enclosed track or I-beam monorail and trolleys with load bars used to move product or carriers along the track or rail.
The powered overhead trolley concept may consist of the same tubular track or monorail and is set up in an endless loop. The trolleys with load bars or carriers are propelled by a power driven chain or rope. The chain or rope is powered by electric motor and sprocket.
Another common overhead conveyor system concept is the overhead power and free conveyor. The power and free conveyor is a non-synchronous system, which means loads can move at different speeds along the same conveyor. Loads can stop and accumulate in areas or even switch tracks or lanes. This is useful when a load needs to travel into a holding area to be inspected, or if it needs to stop for painting while other loads continue to move along the system.
The support for the overhead conveyor system track or monorail can be from the steel or wood ceiling, from the wall or from the floor in which case floor stands or racks are used.
With overhead conveyors the items being transported are suspended below the track using various hooks or carriers determined by the weight and type of item or product
Overhead conveyors are used a very wide range of applications including: Manufacturing and assembly, warehousing and distribution, paint finishing, food handling, and even retail creative displays.
In general, overhead conveyors can prove to be cost effective as they reduce the use of manpower (carriers) and allows large volumes to move rapidly through a process. Since overhead conveyors hang above the ground, they assist in optimizing a given operation's use of space and floor space. Overhead conveyors are used predominately in complex production, assembly, and finishing operations that demand a continuous supply of materials at each work station.
Other common reasons for implementing a materials handling solution that involves overhead conveyors is to reduce noise levels and increase the general safety level in a workplace. The overhead positioning of such solutions decreases concerns over pinch points; further, overhead conveyors may render it less likely that a product is damaged by accident than if it were to be transported via pallet over the floor.