Conveyor systems are an essential part of various industries, including retail and transportation. This guide, ‘How Conveyor Systems Work,’ explains their mechanics and applications. Commonly seen warehouse environments, logistics centres, supermarkets and airports, these systems efficiently transport materials and goods. We will explore their design, functionality, and the technology that drives them, providing a clear understanding of how they facilitate the movement of items in different settings.


L-A-C Logistics Automation have designed bespoke systems for a range of industries and if you read this article and think you could use a conveyor system, a member of their team would be happy to give you a consultation on how their innovative bespoke solutions can boost your business.


Conveyor systems overview


A conveyor system is an assembly of different conveyors that are brought together to transport materials with minimal effort compared to doing the transportation of goods manually. Conveyor systems work well in businesses where they deal with heavy goods, sharp items, raw materials, mass moved products such as in the parcel delivery service, and mass-produced products.


Supplier, insight, and tools website Thomas gives the description that conveyor systems are ‘mechanical devices or assemblies that transport material with minimal effort which will usually consist of a frame to move items and will either be a powered or gravity conveyor system depending on what it’s moving.

Conveyor systems - Hermes

Essential parts of how conveyor systems work


A conveyor system has parts that are essential for it to operate just like any other mechanical or technical system. If these parts of the conveyor are not properly maintained it leads to increased chances that the conveyor system will no longer work properly which of course potentially increases risks, incurs costs, and causes higher delays on product output the longer a conveyor system is not maintained.


Depending on the conveyor system you have and what the conveyor system will be carrying will change how your conveyors will be designed. However, all conveyor systems will have the same essential parts for it to work and for the conveyor to do its job of moving what it’s been bought for. We’re going to have a look at these to give an insight into how conveyor systems work


Conveyor belt support


A conveyor belt system is supported by either rollers or a flat pan along its path so the system stays upright and has a structure to its movement. The structure of conveyors is relatively similar to each other in terms of construction with them consisting of a metal frame with rollers at each end of a flat metal bed or having rollers closely spaced on the system if it’s a heavy use application. Rubber conveyor belts are commonly used for items that are oddly shaped and have irregular bottom surfaces or bags of product that would sag between rollers. 


There is an exception to the standard belt conveyor construction which is called a sandwich belt conveyor. This sandwich belt conveyor uses two conveyor belts, instead of the usual one. These conveyor belts are positioned face to face in a way to contain the items in a “sandwich-like” hold.




Belt conveyor systems consist of two or more pulleys in order to operate and these are sometimes referred to as drums. They are what the conveyor belt(s) are wrapped around to give the conveyor belt system a structure and feed the belt back around the system. At least one of the pulleys will be powered so the belt on the conveyor system can move the items to the desired location. The powered pulley is called the drive pulley while the unpowered pulley is called the idler pulley.


Driving unit


This is the driving power or driving unit behind how conveyor systems work and are the mechanical units that allow the conveyor system to run smoothly. Similar to controls and electricals for automation projects, the driving unit is responsible for the conveyor system to run continuously and control the direction of the conveyor system. Essentially it’s the part that provides the motion to the conveyor for it to either go one way or another.

Variable length metal detection conveyor

Conveyor systems specifications to consider


When installing a conveyor into your business, either on its own or as part of a wider system, there are certain aspects you want to consider and factor in. Combining the answers to these questions will give you an idea of what sort of conveyor system you want for your business such as a spiral conveyor, inclined belt conveyor, slat and mesh conveyor, pallet handling conveyor, or plastic conveyor.


We’re going to have a look at these specifications below and if you want to discuss a bespoke designed conveyor for you and your business needs, the L-A-C team is always available and happy to discuss a solution for you.


Load capacity


This is an important part of how any conveyor works and will be a fundamental decision as to what conveyor system you get and what functions you have. When companies like L-A-C are manufacturing valued customers conveyor systems, they will make sure the conveyor is built to the required and custom length which will determine the loading capacity or the loading margins of the conveyor system.


As the required load for the conveyor system goes up, there will be changes to the width, length, and overall design of the conveyor system.


A conveyor system will also have a maximum load capacity and is associated with a load capacity per unit length where the value can be stated for fixed-length purpose-built conveyors. This is also known as flow rate.


Conveyor system speed or rated speed


Belt conveyor speeds are typically rated in foot per minute while a powered roller conveyor speed is usually measured in terms of how much product, package, or volume of an item will be moving over the powered roller conveyor system. The speed a conveyor system works at varies depending on what’s being moved and is a key part to how conveyor systems work due to controlling the speed which can affect other factors such as throughput of the conveyor system.


For example, you’ll likely need a different you’re moving a high volume of small-medium standardised sized items compared to lower amounts of heavy differential sized items.




Throughput is what measures the amount of product that goes through the conveyor system. The throughput capacity of a conveyor system is sometimes referred to as Cases Per Minute (CPM) and is dependent on the slowest speed mainline conveyor and the length of the product that’s being transported. It’s measured by volume per unit time such as cubic feet per minute.


The throughput will also be measured by using the two above parts which will give a better determination of what the throughput of the conveyor system will be and can be subject to change due to individual operational complexities. For example the throughput of a conveyor system that runs on a straight line compared to a conveyor system that needs to be looping left and right and going up and down.


Drive location


Drives are what we discussed above under the subheading ‘driving unit’ and are a key part of how conveyor systems work. They need to be considered in terms of where it’s placed on the conveyor system. Usually, a head or end drive is found on the discharge side of the conveyor and is the most common type. You can also get centre drives which are mounted underneath the system alongside the conveyor system. As mentioned above, drives are used for reversing the direction of the conveyor.


Conveyor systems selection considerations


When selecting a conveyor system for a business, it’s important to know what type of conveyor(s) are being considered to install, which should be made more clear by understanding the above factors, and as part of this, what frames configuration is used whether it’s straight, curved, or z-framed.


Depending on how big the conveyor system is will change the considerations for the conveyor specifications mentioned above. Just using the image below as an example, the throughput, drive locations, speed of different conveyors, and the load capacity will be different to a project where there are only one or two conveyors moving the same item.

Modular Conveyor

Benefits of Conveyor Systems in Modern Business


Conveyor systems are integral to streamlining operations across various industries, offering numerous advantages that significantly enhance business efficiency and productivity. Here are some key benefits:


Increased Efficiency and Productivity


Conveyor systems automate the movement of goods, leading to faster production times and increased throughput. This automation allows for consistent and continuous operation, minimising manual handling and reducing the time taken to move items.


Improved Workplace Safety


By reducing the need for manual lifting and carrying of heavy items, conveyor systems help in lowering the risk of workplace injuries. This not only ensures employee safety but also reduces the potential for compensation claims and downtime.


Enhanced Product Handling


Conveyors provide smooth and controlled transportation of goods, which is crucial for handling fragile or sensitive items. This reduces the risk of damage during transit, ensuring product integrity.


Scalability and Flexibility


Modern conveyor systems can be customised and scaled to meet the specific needs of a business. Whether it’s adapting to different product sizes or integrating with existing production lines, conveyors offer the flexibility to grow with your business.




Over time, the investment in a conveyor system pays off through improved efficiency, reduced labour costs, and lower risk of product damage. L-A-C Logistics Automation specialises in providing cost-effective solutions tailored to your business needs.


Simplified Training and Operation


Conveyor systems are designed for ease of use, requiring minimal training for operators. This simplifies the process and allows for quick adaptation by staff, ensuring smooth operation.


Reduced Downtime


With proper maintenance, conveyor systems are reliable and have a long operational life, which reduces instances of breakdowns and downtime, thereby ensuring continuous production flow.


Custom Solutions


L-A-C Logistics Automation prides itself on offering bespoke conveyor solutions. Our expert team is dedicated to designing systems that are tailored to the unique requirements of your business, ensuring optimal efficiency and productivity.

Training for conveyor systems

Importance of training for conveyor systems


Having a conveyor system installed is only one part of the job when getting the conveyors up and running. Businesses need to invest in the right training to ensure their conveyor system continues to work and does the tasks it designed and built to do. A key part to how conveyor systems work is by making sure that the team operating the system or working on the system understand the different functions, what to do in emergencies, making sure they get it checked and carry out maintenance work when needed, just to name a few.


A benefit to having suitable training in place for a business that uses conveyor systems is arguably the most important fact that they will understand how conveyor systems work and more specifically what the role each part of the conveyor system they have installed does.


There are a number of places people can go to ensure they have the right training including NTT Training where they will get knowledge about the components of conveyors, the problems to look out for and that are likely to occur, as well as reduce risks of accidents and injury.


Final comments on how conveyor systems work


In summary, we’ve examined the various roles of conveyors, ran through the components of a conveyor and belt conveyor system, highlighted the benefits of belt conveyors, and emphasised the importance of training for effective operation of these systems.If you would like more information on how a conveyor system could help your business you can click the button below to send an enquiry, email us at, or ring us on the number provided. A member of the L-A-C team will be in touch to discuss a bespoke solution for you with your business’s outcomes at the forefront of the project from design through to installation.