Any business with conveyor belts knows that regular inspections are necessary to avoid accidents and to keep production flowing. Currently many companies rely on staff setting aside time to inspect the belts visually (and manually) to determine if the belts are safe to continue running them or if production needs to stop to make repairs or replacements.
Regardless of the materials moving on the conveyor belts, the belts will suffer from wear and tear over time. Additionally, sharp or heavy materials will place additional strain on conveyor belts and can cause belt splices to fail, separate, tear, or, worse yet, rip apart.
Routine maintenance inspections help, but many inspections are carried out by people with other job responsibilities, who might be tired or out sick, or simply decide to delay the inspection to the last minute, increasing the probability of accidents and production downtime.
Technology enhancements in computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI) now offer an alternative or additive solution to dramatically reduce the likelihood of accidents and lost productivity. Available 24x7, computer vision can be always on, never tires (or calls out sick), and the business can better understand potential ways to improve safety practices.
Why Human Inspectors Need Backup
Let’s face it. Humans are..., well, human. We make mistakes, we get tired, and our attention spans are inconsistent. However, we shine on making decisions and taking actions based on various data inputs. Technology can support us in what we already do best by allowing us to instead focus attention where it’s needed instead of looking everywhere and potentially missing something important that’s right in front of our eyes.
Inconsistent, Waning Attention
While many have heard the anecdote about humans having shorter attention spans than goldfish, the average human attention span has long been thought to last about 20 minutes. When you factor in in different inspectors, focal eye ranges, sleeping patterns, and stressful events like pandemics or wars, the human attention span typically declines, according to a research report conducted by North Dakota State University, Department of Psychology professors, Heidi A. Rued, Clayton J. Hilmert, Anna M. Strahm, and Laura E. Thomas.
Turnover and The Great Resignation
The stress of performing inspections can also lead to turnover, and training new employees to identify the need for maintenance, let alone take time to develop tacit knowledge of what’s serious vs. what requires continued observation can also affect the quality of inspections and productivity. With job resignations still up about 23% above pre-pandemic levels, relying on us humans alone seems risky.
Furthermore inspectors can’t exactly fly across a production floor or down a mine shaft to check conveyor belts manually. In fact, they often have to spend time preparing to get where the flaws can occur-- bringing ladders, getting into a harness, safety goggles, and other PPE, making sure hardhats and lighting work-- all activities that translate into costs and potentially increasing production downtime. Often times, those who inspect conveyor belts have other job responsibilities that they stop doing in order to perform an inspection, which adds a lot of pressure to work.
What Happens When Things are Missed?
While safety has improved over time, when maintenance issues result in accidents, the consequences can be downright devastating to employees and to the business.
According to a recent United States Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) report on 459 accidents, 22 were disabling and 13 were fatal; 42 percent of the reported injuries occurred while the injured worker was performing maintenance, lubricating or checking the conveyor. Another 179 (39 percent) of the reported injuries (including 3 fatalities) occurred while the subject was cleaning and shoveling around belt conveyors.
When accidents happen or production stops due to conveyor belt failure, there are several cost impacts:
- Workers’ compensation and civil litigation
- Higher insurance premiums if found at fault
- Damage to the products on the conveyor belts
- Service delays
- Replacing and repairing affected conveyor belts
- Increased repair and maintenance expenses
- Employee stress and turnover after accidents
- Costs to recruit and train new hires
Computer Vision and AI Detect Defects 24x7
Today computer vision technology presents an efficient and cost-effective solution for predicting and detecting defects earlier and with greater efficacy than human inspectors alone can do. Computer vision and AI can detect using:
- IP cameras already in use
- AI platform to analyze and extract insights, looking for defects, tears, and other anomalies
- Real-time dashboards and notifications to security or other stakeholders for immediate response or inspection
- Two-way communications to teams, location, or companywide to stop production in case of pending emergencies to prevent possible injuries or damage to assets
Leveraging computer vision, AI, and the right platform allows companies to operate safer and smarter workplaces while decreasing downtime and risks.
Kogniz provides a library of 25 built-in computer vision detections that can be combined and configured so clients can quickly apply them to solve infinite business challenges and increase ROI, including reducing the:
- Cost of conveyor belt maintenance by detecting problems earlier
- Number of accidents and production downtime
- Cost of the inspections themselves
Talk to us to learn more about how we can collaborate on your specific needs.