Conveying at its Best – For 110 Years

By on October 4, 2017

Conveying at its Best – For 110 Years 

As Flexco celebrates 110 years since formation, Mark Colbourn, Managing Director of Flexco Australia, reflects on the best innovations for maximising belt conveyor productivity.

Productivity, innovation and efficiency. They are the ingredients required for financial improvement in the post-boom era, and it is these initiatives that the Australian extractive industry is focused on when improving their operations.

These operating principles have been around for a long time, especially for Flexco. When company founders George E. Purple, Albert B. Beach, and Phillip S. Rinaldo opened their small
workshop in downtown Chicago, USA, 110 years ago, they did so with the aim to manufacture a metal fastener to join leather transmission belts that did not ruin the belt when it needed
replacing and lasted longer than other mechanical fasteners of the day.

As global production pressure increased, the demand for tougher, stronger and reliable belt conveyor products became critical. Flexco has moved in tandem with the world’s industries, and, as the company celebrates 110 years since formation, Mark Colbourn, Managing Director for Flexco Australia, reflects on the company’s most significant innovations and best practices for maximising productivity, innovation and increasing efficiencies of belt conveyor systems today.

Increase Productivity with Mechanical Belt Fasteners

According to Mark Colbourn, in the early 1900s, Flexco engineers designed a mechanical belt fastener with a joint and a hinge that could be easily separated and re-joined allowing for the lengthening of the belt, for adding new sections, or for on the spot repairs.

“These original design principals are still relevant today. The Flexco® 190 MegAlloy® Fastening System that is widely used in aggregate extractive applications today is based on this original design from the early 1900s; designed to increase productivity in real-time situations, be stronger and safer.”












PHOTO: Alligator® Lacing is applied on a 750mm conveyor belt at the “new” Chicago Post Office in the early 1900s.

A major rock quarrying operation experienced a work-stoppage after a plate of steel fell out of a receiving hopper and jammed into the corner of the conveyor. Before the crew could react, the sharp triangle tip ripped the incline belt. The year-old belt had been in good condition until the 100-metre rip caused it to stop, bringing activity to a halt on site. Replacing the new belt would take too much time and was not in the quarry’s budget. Since the 1200mm belt had already lost 450mm of width, the only solution was a mechanical fastener rip repair.

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“First, workers cut out 450mm of belt to ensure that the belt they were working with was fresh belt with no possibility for additional rips. Several workers then pulled the belts side-by-side and

placed the 190 fasteners approximately 7-10 centimetres apart for the entire length of the belt. More than 1200 Flexco fasteners were used when repairing the belt,” Colbourn explains.


PHOTO: Flexco® 190 MegAlloy fasteners were ordered to stitch the middle of the belt together.

The entire repair job was completed in only three days by a crew that was on hand, avoiding further downtime. The operation is back up and running, carrying stone up the incline to the scalping screen. The choice of MegAlloy fasteners is beneficial to the quarry as the hardened steel is highly resistant to wear and abrasion, making it perfect for an aggregate application.

Increase Efficiency with Belt Conveyor Cleaning Systems

Later that century, extractive operations began focusing not only on productivity but on operational efficiency with cleaner running systems, and at the same time, safety programs were  implemented to ensure a safe environment for workers. Seeing the need for belt conveyor products to increase productivity and efficiency along the entire beltline, the company drastically
expanded its product line.

“We have continually led the field in providing productivity enhancing products for belt conveyor systems,” Colbourn said.

“As shutdowns continue to extend, it is important that our products not only provide superior performance but also last the distance; products like powerful but affordable Y-Type secondary cleaner which provides easy and quick maintenance and is perfect for aggregate applications.”

At the beginning of every shift, crushing operations at a sand and gravel plant would come to a halt for the operators to clean under the discharge belt. The existing primary cleaner was overwhelmed by the amount of material sticking to the belt, so the carryback would build up to the point where the conveyor belt would be dragging through the abrasive material, shortening

the life of the belt and the mechanical fasteners. For operations to run the complete shift, they would shut down the crushing conveyor and dig out the area below the belt with a skid steer
loader or shovel. Both methods presented safety concerns to the people doing the work.

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“The maintenance supervisor on site knew there had to be a better way and turned to Flexco for an answer.  After examining the belt, the Flexco team specified the Y-Type™ Secondary Cleaner with a urethane blade for the belt,” Colbourn said.




PHOTO: The Y-Type™ Secondary Belt Cleaner improves belt cleaning efficiency and reduces routine maintenance tasks.

Instead of shutting down every day for cleaning, the plant now only shuts down once every five days, allowing the maintenance crew to include carryback clean-up in their routine preventative maintenance program. Operators now spend less time under and around the conveyors, reducing the possibility of accidents. The use of urethane blades in the application also helped prevent premature fastener wear.

Looking to the future

“Operations are focusing on improving productivity with current assets; as a company, we are continuing to concentrate on making our customers more efficient and reducing their downtime,” Colbourn said.
“Over the past 110 years, Flexco has been at the forefront of designing and manufacturing innovative solutions for belt conveyor productivity, however, we view ourselves as more than a manufacturer of products, but rather as a provider of belt conveyor solutions and more and more frequently we see the need for custom solutions and innovation onsite.”

As Flexco continues into its second century, the company is poised to meet the challenges of the industry with fresh ideas and world-class innovation.
“While adapting to market conditions, Flexco’s experience will be the foundation for new conveyor system solutions, advanced material science, engineering strategies that optimise operations and predictive conveyor maintenance,” Colbourn said.

One thing is sure – as industries seek out innovative, efficient and more productive systems, Flexco will be ready to meet the demands worldwide.

Flexco distributors include All State Conveyors, Quarry and Mining Engineering and Walsh Group. These distributors supply Flexco products to Fulton Hogan (Tynong), Barro Group (Pt Wilson and Wyndamvale), Boral, Hanson (Lysterfield) and other regional quarries around Victoria.

60 Seconds with an associate member . . .

p31 Laurie Shorten

p31 Flexco_ Laurie Product DemoWhat is your name?  Laurie Shorten

Who do you work for? Flexco Australia

How many years have you beeninvolved in the Industry? I have been in the conveyor industry for over 22 years.

What is your role at the company? Victoria/Tasmania Sales Manager for Heavy Duty products, National Sales Manager for Light Duty products

What are your hopes for the industry? The aggregate industry in Victoria for Flexco in 2017 has been healthy. Some of my customers are experiencing good growth withprojects in new quarries and/or upgrades to existing quarries already completed, started, or due late this year and early 2018. Feedback from clients is that they expect this growth period to continue through to 2018.

What is the best part of your job? I most enjoy building a relationship with clients that is both professional and friendship. I also enjoy seeing the Flexco products in operation. When a customer has a problem, I enjoy working out a solution to fix it, be that with one of our existing products or an engineered solution.

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