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What are Conveyor Belts?

Conveyor belts are generally endless loops which move parts or materials from one location to another. Conveyor belts are often driven by variable speed electric motors or by other moving parts in a complex system. They are commonly found in factories, grocery stores, warehouses and public transportation centers.

Before the advent of modern automation techniques, factory workers often had to travel from project to project. The cumulative effect of all this physical motion was additional stress and inefficient use of the worker's time. The development of conveyor belts allowed the project to come to the worker, instead of the worker to the project. Parts could then be transported by other conveyor belts to additional workers, and eventually to the shipping docks for delivery.

Further refinement of conveyor belts allowed factory managers to create automated or semi-automated production lines. Individual parts could be moved through automated machinery for routine processing, leaving workers free for quality control tasks or other higher responsibilities. Conveyor belts also proved useful for transporting heavy or hazardous products, reducing worker injuries.

Many conveyor belts work on the principle of variable speed control. If a particular belt moves too slowly, workers may find themselves waiting for parts. If a conveyor belt moves too quickly, parts may be damaged or workers may become overwhelmed. Much of a factory supervisor's time is spent adjusting conveyor belts for maximum efficiency. This is especially important in food production factories, where conveyor belt speed and proper cooking time work hand in hand.

The use of conveyor belts is not restricted to factories. Bakeries and pizza shops often use a slow-moving wire conveyor belt to move their products through an oven. Grocery stores use conveyor belts in their check-out lines to bring items to the clerk and bagger. Airports and other public transportation systems use conveyor belts to deliver checked baggage to customers. Warehouses use long conveyor belts to offload products from incoming trucks or to load outgoing ones. Escalators found in department stores could also be considered conveyor belts, as are 'people movers' in larger airports.

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