June 23, 2023
June 23, 2023

Conveyor Systems: A Complete Guide

Learn about the different types of conveyor systems, their benefits, and applications in various industries. Learn how the AutoStore system integrates with conveyor systems.


Conveyor systems have become an integral part of many industries by automating the movement of goods and materials in an efficient and cost-effective manner. From manufacturing to food processing to warehousing, conveyor systems are widely used due to their ability to improve productivity and accuracy, reduce labor costs, and enhance overall safety for goods as well as employees.

In this article, we explore the different types of conveyor systems, their true business benefits, how they can be customized to suit your specific industry and current warehouse, and how they can be integrated with the AutoStore system.

What does “conveyor” mean, and what is a Conveyor System?

The definition of “conveyor” is a mechanical device, or handling system, that is being used to move materials, products, or goods from one place to another in a continuous stream or flow within a warehouse or manufacturing facility. 

In the context of warehouse automation, conveyors are an essential component of many automated systems such as AS/RS, helping to transport goods efficiently and quickly, while improving overall logistics operations and material handling. Additionally, conveyor systems can be customized to suit the specific needs of a facility and can range from simple, manual systems to fully automated systems.

Fusion Ports seen from above integrated with conveyor systems
A conveyor is a mechanical device, or handling system, that is being used to move goods from A to B.

Scale your business and reach a higher ROI with a Conveyor System

Manual warehouse solutions are no longer a viable option to follow the pace of today’s digital economy. Therefore, many industries and businesses have implemented conveyor systems, as they offer various benefits to industries and warehouses that rely on them for material handling. Below, I have listed some of the key advantages:

  • Increased efficiency: With the implementation of conveyor systems, material handling becomes automated, reducing manual labor and increasing production speed, resulting in higher output and lower costs.
  • Improved safety: By eliminating the need for manual material handling, Conveyor systems help reduce workplace injuries, which reduces the risk of accidents and injuries caused by, for example, heavy lifting.
  • Space utilization: Conveyor systems are designed to utilize space efficiently, allowing for optimal use of floor space, and also vertical space with multi-level conveyor systems.
  • Flexibility: Conveyor systems can be tailored to fit the specific needs of any industry and warehouse, with customization options to adapt to changing production requirements and existing systems.
  • Cost savings: There are various ways in which a conveyor system can lead to cost savings, such as reducing labor costs, minimizing product damage, and minimizing material handling time. Ultimately leading to higher ROI overall.
  • Increased accuracy: With increased accuracy, both in terms of product handling and delivery of products, conveyor systems reduce the likelihood of product damage, errors, discrepancies, and customer complaints.

In summary, conveyor systems as an investment can bring a wide range of benefits to businesses and industries, contributing to their success and overall profitability. 

Conveyor Systems improve overall efficiency in warehouse operations

The benefits are numerous, but how do you actually experience an improved efficiency? By automating the movement of materials and products through the warehouse, conveyor systems can eliminate manual handling, reduce errors, and increase productivity, while freeing up workers to focus on other tasks.

A worker in an automated warehouse next to an AutoStore FusionPort with conveyors integrated on the sides
Automating the movement of materials and products through the warehouse eliminates manual handling, reduce errors, and increase productivity, while freeing up workers to focus on other tasks.

Manual Conveyor System vs. Automated Conveyor System

As briefly explained above, conveyor systems can be manual as well as automated. While manual conveyor systems rely on human labor to move materials from one location to another, automated systems integrate machines to move materials along a conveyor belt or other systems of connected belts or rollers.

More thoroughly explained, a manual conveyor system typically involves employees pushing carts, carrying heavy items, or using other manual methods to transport goods. On the other hand, automated conveyor systems can be programmed to perform a wide variety of tasks, from transporting goods from one location to another, to sorting, weighing, and packaging alongside other processes.

While manual conveyor systems can be effective for small-scale operations, they are usually less efficient and require more labor compared to automated systems. Automated conveyor systems are generally faster and more efficient than manual systems, and can help companies reduce labor costs and increase productivity.

Both manual and automated conveyor systems have their advantages and disadvantages, whereas the choice of system depends on different factors such as the type of materials being transported, the size and layout of the warehouse or production facility, and the overall goals and budget of your business.

Components: How do conveyor systems work? 

A conveyor system is made up of several components that work together to move materials smoothly and efficiently from one place to another. Though the exact components depend on the specific conveyor system, industry, and materials being transported, the system is usually built up of the components listed below.

Conveyor Belt

The belt is the main component of the system that moves materials from one point to another. The belt moves on a series of rollers or pulleys powered by an electric motor, which will be explained below.


The job of the rollers is to facilitate and guide the movement of materials or products along the conveyor belt. Rollers are typically mounted on a frame, either individually or in groups, to create a series of rolling points, supporting the load and allowing it to move smoothly along the conveyor. Rollers can be powered or unpowered.


Pulleys drive and control the movement of the conveyor belt. They are usually located at each end of a conveyor system, where the belt wraps around the pulleys, contributing to guide and support the belt as it moves along the conveyor. Pulleys can be powered and unpowered as well as the rollers.


Motors are used to power the conveyor belt and control its speed, and they typically run on electric power. Some motors can be controlled by variable frequency drives, allowing for greater control over the speed and movement of the conveyor system. In addition, some conveyor systems can have multiple motors for greater precision and flexibility in the movement.


Bearings are as well essential components of a conveyor system that helps to reduce friction and wear and tear of the moving parts. They are designed to support the rotating shafts of the conveyor's rollers, pulleys, and other components, allowing everything to move smoothly with minimal resistance.


Idlers are cylindrical or spherical components that support the weight of the conveyor belt as well as its payload. Idlers are usually placed in the transition zone where the belt changes direction or runs over a pulley. Their job is to help reduce friction and prevent excessive wear on the belt, as well as to ensure proper tracking of the belt.


The sensors are electronic devices used to detect and monitor the movement of objects on the belt. Additionally, they provide real-time information on the position, speed, and orientation of items on the conveyor, allowing for precise control and automation of the system.

Control systems

Control systems are used to manage and operate the conveyor system, including controlling the speed, direction, and bringing the system to a stop. They typically consist of a central control panel, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), and software to monitor and adjust the performance of the system.


Finally, chains help transfer material or products along the system. They consist of interconnecting links made of metal or plastic and are designed to move smoothly around sprockets or pulleys. As for the other components, the chains come in various sizes and configurations to fit different conveyor systems.

How can conveyor systems be customized to fit the needs of specific industries or operations?

Conveyor systems can be customized in many ways to fit the unique needs of different industries and operations. This customization can include different adjustments such as adjusting the width, length, and height of the conveyor, as well as controlling the speed and direction of the belt. Additionally, various types of belts, rollers, bearings, and motors can be used depending on the specific application, while sensors can improve overall efficiency and safety. Summarized, businesses can create a customized system that meets their specific requirements and helps them to optimize their operations.

How can conveyor systems be integrated with other material-handling equipment?

Conveyor systems have the flexibility to be integrated with other material handling equipment to create a fully automated production or distribution line. To integrate conveyor systems with other equipment, it is important to ensure that the components are compatible and that the system is designed to handle the necessary load and throughput.

Typically, the integration process involves programming the conveyor system to communicate with the other equipment and to ensure coordination of timing and movement of the various components to guarantee smooth and efficient operation. Some examples of equipment that can be integrated with conveyor systems include sorters, palletizers, stackers, and robotic arms.

AutoStore FusionPort Workstation integrated with a robotic arm and conveyors where the robotic arm is picking items into a bin
Conveyor systems can be integrated with various types of equipment, for example, robotic arms.

Conveyor systems are versatile and used in various industries

Conveyor systems are used in a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, packaging, warehousing, and distribution. They are commonly found in assembly lines, food processing plants, airports, and shipping terminals. Additionally, conveyor systems are used in mining and agricultural operations, as well as in the automotive and electronics industries.

Essentially, anywhere there is a need to transport materials or products efficiently and continuously from A to B, a conveyor system can be a valuable solution. Below are some examples of how a conveyor system is used in specific industries:

Manufacturing: In manufacturing, conveyor systems are widely used for the transportation of raw materials, finished goods, and products between different stages of production.

Warehousing and Distribution: In warehousing and distribution, conveyor systems are used to move goods from one place to another. This includes loading and unloading pallets from trucks to a storage location, or moving goods from a picking location to a packing location.

Food and Beverage: When it comes to the food and beverage industry, conveyor systems are used to transport products through different stages of production, including washing, sorting, packaging, and labeling.

Different types of Conveyor Systems

There exist a wide variety of conveyor systems, and below we have listed the most common system solutions. Important to emphasize is that each conveyor system has its own unique features and advantages, making them suitable for different applications and industries.

  • Belt Conveyors: Out of all conveyor systems, belt conveyors are the most commonly used. They consist of a continuous belt that moves over two or more pulleys, rotating in the same direction. They are often used in manufacturing and warehouse facilities for transportation of goods.
  • Roller Conveyors: Roller conveyors use rollers that are mounted on a series of axles to move materials along a path. They are typically used for the transportation of more heavy items such as pallets, drums, and bulk containers.
  • Screw Conveyors: Screw conveyors are designed for the transportation of bulk materials such as grains, powders, and chemicals. They consist of a spiral or helix screw, rotating in a tube, pushing the materials forward.
  • Pneumatic Conveyors: Pneumatic conveyors use air pressure to move materials through a system. They are typically used for the transportation of fine powders, such as cement, flour, and sugar.
  • Chain Conveyors: Chain conveyors use chains to move materials along a path. They are often used in automotive manufacturing facilities, as well as for transportation of more heavy items.
  • Bucket Conveyors: Bucket conveyors use buckets to transport bulk materials, which typically happens vertically. This conveyor solution is commonly used in the agriculture and mining industries.
  • Overhead Conveyors: Finally, overhead conveyors use a track-mounted system to transport materials overhead. They are most often used in automotive and manufacturing facilities for the transportation of different parts.

The three main types of conveyors

Although there are many types of conveyors, the main types of conveyors are belt conveyors, roller conveyors, and chain conveyors, as they cover the majority of the material handling needs across various industries.

A close up image of a conveyor system with cardboard boxes on it
The main types of conveyors are belt conveyors, roller conveyors, and chain conveyors.

What you should be aware of when implementing a Conveyor system 

It is necessary to be aware of certain factors to ensure a successful implementation of a conveyor system. This both includes design, installation, and safety measuring.

Considerations before integration

Before deciding on a conveyor system, it is important to take into consideration the specific needs of your operation in order to select the right conveyor system and components. Thereafter, proper installation and maintenance as well as ensuring safety for employees must be taken into serious consideration.

Additionally, it is important to consider the potential impact on workflow and productivity, as well as any necessary training for employees to get the full yields of the system. For example, it may be beneficial to set expectations and business goals accordingly and compare performance before and after implementation.

Implement safety measures to prevent accidents

Working with conveyor systems can pose various safety risks, such as entanglement, pinch points, and falling objects. Therefore, it is crucial to implement safety measures to protect employees from accidents and injuries. Some essential safety measures that should be implemented when working with conveyor systems include:

  1. Installing emergency stop buttons or pull cords along the conveyor system that can quickly shut down the equipment in case of an emergency.
  2. Installing guards and barriers around moving parts, such as drive chains, pulleys, and pinch points, to prevent accidental contact.
  3. Providing proper training and safety equipment, such as hard hats, safety glasses, and gloves, to employees operating and maintaining the conveyor system.
  4. Regularly inspecting and maintaining the conveyor system to ensure that it is in proper working condition and that all safety features are functioning correctly.
  5. Posting warning signs and labels in visible areas to remind workers of potential hazards and safety procedures.

By implementing these safety measures, companies can ensure the well-being of their employees and prevent accidents, ultimately increasing productivity and reducing the risk of costly lawsuits or fines. 

Exploring alternatives: When conveyors are not the right option

Conveyors may not always be the most suitable choice for a warehouse. Once implemented, it is a relatively static automation system that lacks easy mobility. For example, expanding the conveyor (in the case of a sudden increase in throughput) or making changes to destinations can be a time-consuming and complex process. Therefore, the decision to integrate conveyors should be based on a stable throughput expectation over a significant period. If a warehouse anticipates a consistent level of throughput for an extended time, conveyors are a highly efficient option. If a company is still in need of some flexibility, mobile robots such as AGVs and AMRs can be viable options for moving goods from A to B.

Ultimately, the choice between conveyors and alternative solutions depends on the specific requirements of the warehouse, balancing stability, flexibility, and operational efficiency.

How AutoStore integrates with conveyors

Due to their wide application in the warehousing industry, conveyors are one of the most integrated technologies around the AutoStore system. This is mainly because of the conveyors’ ability to efficiently move goods from point A to point B. Conveyors offer an excellent solution to avoid wasteful practices and promote lean operations by replacing manual labor and reducing the need for people to walk around moving goods. AutoStore integrates seamlessly with conveyors and both systems complement each other very well, resulting in an operation that significantly enhances warehouse efficiency.

AutoStore Modules supporting Conveyors

Conveyors at the Workstations (Ports)

As mentioned above, conveyors integrate very well with AutoStore Workstations (Ports), the Grid and the system in general. Conveyors are often integrated in a way so staff can be standing at a workstation (Port), pick orders and place them directly onto a conveyor belt that transports them to a target destination (e.g. a shipping or packing location). This combination significantly reduces the time needed to fulfill an order.

Conveyors integrate very well with AutoStore Workstations (Ports).

The way many AutoStore workstations have been designed also supports the integration of conveyor belts. There is ample space on the sides of many workstation models, for example, the FusionPort and FusionPort Staging ports, ensuring ease of conveyor installation and space optimization in general. It is also possible to install the conveyor directly on top of some workstations, where the conveyors overlap on each side of the Bin/source opening, removing the need for extra space to integrate the conveyor.

In a warehouse, the goal is always to minimize the distance between the product source (e.g. the workstation) and the target destination (e.g. the conveyor). AutoStore workstations are designed with this in mind, reducing the need for extensive human movement and ensuring quick and efficient operations.

How AutoStore Transfer Cells enable Bin/Tote Conveying

The workstations (Ports) are not the only way to get inventory Bins out of the Grid and onto a conveyor belt. With Transfer Cells, it is also possible to move Bins from the Grid and directly onto a conveyor belt. This is useful if, for example, the inbound station is in a different location than the decant location.

These Transfer Cells serve as an interface between the AutoStore Grid and the conveyor, allowing Bins to be directly transferred from the Grid onto the conveyor. By using transfer cells, inventory Bins can be taken out of the AutoStore system directly at these designated transfer points, bypassing the need to go through a workstation (Port). See how Siemens is using transfer cells as part of their inbound process with AutoStore (empowered by Dematic).


In conclusion, conveyor systems have become an indispensable tool for numerous industries to automate their production and material handling processes. With different types of conveyors available, such as belt, roller, and chain conveyors, they can be customized to fit the needs of specific industries and operations - including yours. Conveyor systems bring many benefits to warehouses and factories, including increased efficiency, reduced labor costs, and improved safety. 

However, before implementing the system, it's important to be aware of the costs associated with installing and operating a conveyor system, their relatively limited flexibility once installed as well as the safety measures that should be implemented when handling them. When implemented properly, a conveyor system can revolutionize the way your business operates and increase its productivity and profitability.

Do you want to learn more about how to automate your warehouse operations to improve efficiency and overall ROI? Let's get in touch today.




What are the three types of conveyor?

The three main types of conveyors are:

  • Belt conveyors: Use a wide belt to transport items.
  • Roller conveyors: Utilize rollers to move goods along a fixed path.
  • Chain conveyors: Employ chains to transport items in a continuous loop. 

How much does it cost to install a conveyor system?

The cost of installing a conveyor system varies depending on factors such as conveyor type, length, complexity, and additional features. It can range from a few thousand dollars for a basic system to hundreds of thousands of dollars for a large, customized setup.

What is the most common conveyor belt system?

The most common conveyor belt system is the belt conveyor. It features a wide belt that moves items along a predefined path, making it versatile and widely used in various industries.

What is conveyor system in warehouses?

A conveyor system in a warehouse refers to a network of interconnected conveyors used to transport goods within the facility. It automates the movement of items, such as raw materials, components, or finished products, from one location to another, improving efficiency and reducing manual handling.

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