How To Extend The Life Of Your Bulk Material Handling System

Just like other complex industrial systems, a bulk material handling system experiences some wear and tear over time. While repairs and replacement parts can extend the number of years a pneumatic conveying system lasts, this alone won’t stop it from eventually breaking down. Learn how to significantly extend the life of your bulk material handling system with the tips outlined in this article. 


The Main Components of a Bulk Material Handling System

Bulk material handling systems are used to carry various types of materials across stockyards, factories, and other industrial sites. While these machines can vary in size, power, and design, they do have a few main components in common:

  1. Motors: These are what drive the conveyors when moving materials. Depending on the setup, the motor can either be electric, or an internal combustion engine. Some bulk material handling systems are connected to turbines that are powered by flowing water or air (like pneumatic conveying systems).
  2. Gears, rollers or pulleys: Mechanical advantage is achieved through the combination of gears, rollers and pulleys. Both the speed and strength of the handling system can be adjusted with these components. However, one has to give way to the other, so there has to be some compromise. 
  3. Conveyors: These are what materials sit on as they pass through the system. These components are most recognizable as broad rubber belts or metal belts, but they come in many forms, including screw conveyors, which are used for the vertical transport of materials, tubular conveyors, or moving floors. 


There is a variety of equipment used in bulk material handling, including things like stackers, which are large pieces of equipment used to move materials between stockpiles. Other types of equipment used in bulk material handling are bucket elevators, truck dumpers, hoppers, and silos. 

You’ll typically find a bulk material handling system in storage facilities like grain silos or stockyards. In industrial applications, bulk handling solutions are specialized based on the type of product or materials their systems are designed to carry, like mineral ores, for example.




What Materials do Bulk Handling Systems Typically Move?

Bulk materials refer to wet or dry materials that have either chunky or fine particles. Some examples are construction materials like sand, rocks, and cement. Bulk materials may also refer to food items like sugar, grain, flour, and pet food. It can also be larger items, like luggage or compacted solid wastes.

Bulk materials vary in characteristics, such as their lump size, angle of repose, bulk weight or density, particle mobility, moisture content, and abrasiveness. These factors are all important to consider when designing bulk material conveyor systems.

The issues you’ll see on a bulk handling system, and therefore the solutions you’ll need to implement to extend its life, depend on the type of material you’re moving. For example, dry food and pet food can create contamination issues, while wet meat such as bone marrow is highly abrasive, and materials used in heavy industry, such as aggregates and large chemical particles, can be corrosive.


The Main Reasons Bulk Material Conveyor Systems Need Repairs

Bulk material handling systems are mechanical setups that are subjected to various types of forces when operating. Over time, these forces damage the various components used in a system. For example, the bulk weight of the material exerts pressure on the conveyors that can twist and bend them, meaning that eventually, the conveyors will need to be replaced.

One of the most common reasons you may need to replace components in a bulk handling system is due to abrasive wear. Abrasion is most commonly found in a system’s bends and elbows, as these are high impact points. 


[Related: Read our tips to reduce wear in pneumatic conveying elbows]


Additionally, motors are subjected to internal frictional heat, especially when they are working at full capacity, and similar things happen with gears and pulleys. In fact, any extremes in temperature in either direction can harm a bulk handling system. Vibration can also damage some non-rotating or non-sliding parts. 

In fact, even when the machine is not operating, it undergoes wear and tear. Corrosion is one of the silent killers of any mechanical system - and here’s how you can prevent it.


7 Ways to Extend the Life of Your Bulk Material Handling System

The lifespan of a bulk material handling system can oftentimes be extended even beyond its average life expectancy. The key is maintenance, which should be done in six main ways: 

  1. Regular inspection: Machine experts, particularly the designers or builders of the system, should regularly inspect it for any damage, or even potential damage. Identifying a small issue before it becomes a costly, time-consuming problem is key.
  2. Oil and grease regularly: Frictional force and heat among moving parts can be minimized if oil or grease are regularly replaced.
  3. Do not overload: The conveyors, motors, rollers, and pulleys of a system have mechanical limits. It’s important not to subject them to an extreme amount of load as the components could easily break down.
  4. Use appropriate types of loads: Don’t put loads onto the system that are not intended to be carried by the system. For instance, if it is a dry-only bulk handling system, never load wet materials.
  5. Regular repairs: Eventually, some parts may break down and need to be repaired, and some components may need to be replaced. Doing this promptly should prevent further damage.
  6. Use top quality components: Don’t settle for a cheaper price if it means lower quality. Instead, find top quality replacement parts that will ensure longevity. For example, this could mean using a different type of elbow, or treating elbows and other components with ceramic coating or lining to extend their lifespan.
  7. Get the system pressure right: It’s important to get the flow characteristics right, and you can make up or down adjustments as necessary. Make sure you test your system to find the optimum pressure.


Bulk material handling systems are designed to make your operations more streamlined, productive, and efficient. You can avoid or minimize downtime if you regularly maintain your system.

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