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: Conveyor Catch Traps  ( 3879 )
Full Member

Karma: +0/-0
: 154

An upholsterer since 1966

« : February 27, 2012, 06:32:58 AM »

  I have a very unusual request from a potential client. He is involved with a large food processing plant in Portland that has large conveyor belts. These conveyor belts need to have tarps hanging below them to catch anything that drips off the conveyors. He has previously purchased some catch tarps from a company that is a large distance from here.

(Click on the picture to see all 5 of the pictures.)

Those tarps don't fit very well. He is looking for someone in the area to make some tarps that would tarps to fit the conveyors. He said that the tarps would have to be fit around some obstacles, etc. Here is a drawing of the conveyors that need the catch tarps.

He said that he can't find anyone in Portland that does this type of work. I'm located about 1 1/2 to 2 hours away from the plant. He found us on the Internet and wondered if we could do the job. Realistically, it seems I should have said NO right away. But I seem to be a glutton for punishment and something about the job intrigued me. (Maybe I was flattered that someone "wanted" me to do a special job for him) Anyway, for whatever reason, I told him that I would give it some thought. In addition, I like to plan out unusual stuff (part of my thought processes). Here are my thoughts about the job that I have been writing out.

Could you give me some feedback about what I might be forgetting if I choose to do the job. (Or you can tell me I'm crazy  ::) for already putting so much time into the job and that it's not reasonable to even consider doing the job.)

Also, what type of vinyl would you suggest for doing this job?

Thanks for putting up with my nonsense.

Best Wishes,

YaBB God

Karma: +3/-0
: 3177

North Central Florida

« #1 : February 27, 2012, 08:52:45 AM »

What is it about a sloppy job that makes us say, I could do better. And then we take the job just to prove we can.

Stephen, I have no doubt you can do this job. But as you know, whenever we take jobs like this we tend to under bid them. Looks like you have a good game plan I think you'll do all right.

I'm like you when it comes to working up a bid of this sort. I want to give the customer every detail so they will know whats involved. I'll work up a proposal like you did then my wife will come along and tell me it needs to be cut in half. And after I argue my case I cut it down. I would make two work orders, A short one for him and a more detailed one for me.

The time frame is important and 3 months may end the relationship, but you need to be honest as I know you are. If he has used his current system for a while this shouldn't be a problem.

I wouldn't suggest he find someone closer or suggest in any way that you can't do the job or don't want it, unless you really don't.

I always wonder on jobs like this if they are getting several bids and taking the lowest. That usually leaves me and probably you out as we are custom shops and charge for a custom job. So I try not to spend too much time with the estimate. Even though I know this is going to be a complicated job

Me personally. I wouldn't take the job. But each shop is different and you may be better set up to do a job like this.

These are just opinions and do with them what you will.

Good luck and keep us posted.
« : February 27, 2012, 09:04:20 AM kodydog »

There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.
YaBB God

Karma: +2/-0
: 4539

All types of upholstery.....except cars and boats.

« #2 : February 27, 2012, 09:14:21 AM »

I did a similar job at a Rubbermaid plant years ago. They wantd protective covers to prevent any contaniments from falling into their hoppers. There were 18 hoppers, each just a LITTLE bit different. So there was no way of making a template that I could mass produce. But the manager certainly expected a price that reflected the volume of work that he was giving me. I couldn't make him understand that the only discount I could offer him, was on the yardage. But he wanted me to do them one at a time, and he only wanted to buy the canvas as we needed it. We parted ways after I did a couple of them. They ended up just duct-taping some Wal-Mart tarps over the rest.

I'm with Kody. I KNOW that you can do the job. But my guess is that when you're finished, you'll say to yourself "I wish I'd got more for the job".

"Perfection is the greatest enemy of profitability" - Mark Cuban
YaBB God

Karma: +2/-0
: 3171

« #3 : February 27, 2012, 09:30:38 AM »

Who is going to take down the existing tarps?

Who is going to discard the existing tarps?
Who is going to install the new tarps?

If it's you, Stephen, when are you going to take down and install? How much time will it take? The line will need to be shut down for this. How much time will it take? If you are still installing when they want to turn the line back on you will be costing the company a lot of money. Are you required to pay for lost time?

Do you have insurance if a plant employee trips or slips on your tarps while you are installing it? Do you have insurance if the tarp comes loose and causes damage to the conveyor system or to employees?

Do the new tarps need to be 'food grade'? anti microbial, anti fungal. Do the grommets need to be a specific type of material, such as stainless steel, or plastic? What about the type of thread used is sewing?

Do the tarps need to be able to pass through a metal detector?

Do the tarps need to be made in a 'clean area' that has been inspected and approved for making materials that will be used in the food service industry? What will it cost for you to have a clean room to work in and have it inspected if needed?

How are these tarps used? Are the tarps taken down for cleaning on a regular basis?

Do all droppings fall down, or are there areas where some fly out to the sides?

How do they clean the tarp? Air, vacuum, water, pressure water, soap?

What other plant processes go on around the tarp that will dictate how the new tarp can be installed? For example: Are there places under the conveyor system where maintenance workers need easy access and therefore the tarp needs to be lower than at other places?

Why don't the existing tarps "fit very well"? What does this mean? What is it about the existing tarps that have caused this person to look at spending money to replace them? Are they not functioning well? Are they not catching all the drippings? Are they too difficult to clean? Do they look ugly?

He is not looking to spend money just to spend money. He is looking to solve a problem. What is his problem and why does he think new tarps will solve it?

Stephen: "Those tarps don't fit very well." means absolutely nothing. 

He has a problem. He is shopping for prices to fix his problem. The place I would start is to find out exactly what his problem is. His problem may be as simple as someone told him to get 3 competitive bids on installing drip tarps that fit closer to the conveyer system, and there is no intention of ever spending money on new drip tarps!

If there is indeed a problem with the existing tarps, he may not know all the details himself. I would get permission to talk to the line workers, the maintenance workers, and anyone else who works around this conveyor system. I would find out where the idea to replace the tarps first came from and talk to that person.

For me, today, in my lowly position as 'pop' in a 'mom and pop' upholstery shop without the 'mom', i.e., a one man band, I would send the guy a letter with a few business cards, thanking him for his inquiry, explaining that I do furniture upholstery, and ask him to give my business cards to anyone who might be looking for a furniture upholsterer.

Good luck.


« : February 27, 2012, 10:09:01 AM gene »

YaBB God

Karma: +0/-0
: 3996

« #4 : February 27, 2012, 09:38:55 AM »

Those buckets catching runoff are very haphazard!  Not a good collection method at all, IMHO.  BTW, if there are liquids dripping, your seams across the tarp will probably need to be heat-sealed.  That may be why the tarps they have hung there now are straight.  The collection of liquids should be from an inserted drain in the center of the tarp at low points, not off the edge - something like the scupper on a boat, with a hose attached underneath that can be secured and funneled away to a tank (or garbage can like they have now).  I think off the edge is just too trouble prone.

Personally, I'd run away from that, but that's just me.  I'd think an awning company that's used to working way off the ground and has heat-sealing gear would probably be their best bet - assuming you choose not to do it.  Maybe you could take the job and outsource the heavy work to an awning company?

If you take it on, I'd love to see your progress pics!


"Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people."

     W. C. Fields
YaBB God

Karma: +1/-0
: 1006

« #5 : February 27, 2012, 07:30:29 PM »

June- I'm not to sure the buckets are to catch drips from the tarps, I think the buckets are in the background? My guess is the tarps are to catch random crumbs, not liquid.

 I agree with the "runaway" thoughts of the others but I know if this guy called my boss I would be making these tarps. I've made other 'industrial fabrics', never this particular kind, but other stuff of this ilk. It's not as impossible as a first glance might lead you to think. Certainly working around all the factory workers/equipment would suck. Does that sort of assembly line come with schematics? I'd think I'd try to work from measurements and drawings and keep my patterns simple.

 I also wonder if you could sew a border (6"? 12"?) to either side of their existing tarps with a hem and grommets. I bet you could make it hang a lot better that way. Maybe put reinforcement in the hem? Wire or battens? But as Gene says, what's wrong with these tarps? Saggy baggy is hard to change. Maybe he needs eavestrough?

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YaBB God

Karma: +3/-0
: 3177

North Central Florida

« #6 : February 27, 2012, 08:14:26 PM »

Ya know, what are those guys making anyways. Doesn't look like food. Kinda looks like cloth. Maybe OR smocks?
Sterile environment for sure. Maybe the tarps are to catch oil and grit coming off the conveyer belts.

There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.

Karma: +0/-0
: 21

« #7 : February 27, 2012, 08:16:16 PM »

That looks exactly like banner material that a sign shop would use, which is available in long rolls.

If you added more grommets to the material, and sloped them to scuppers at strategic points, I imagine you could turn this into a profitable job since the banner material is already hemmed and water proof. 

Shorter ropes, with more attachment points means you can move the fabric closer to the machinery for better collection of drips.  Perhaps PVC crossbars (think hammock) would help to slope to the suppers.  (The current system looks like more runs off the sides than collects in the tarps.)

I would price it high enough that if you get the job it is worth your while to work outside your comfort zone. 

Don't NOT bid on it, even if you are ridiculously over-priced, because that will close a door for you that might lead to an entire new avenue of revenue in the future when this guy (or a peer) needs something else.

Jr. Member

Karma: +0/-0
: 88

I'm a llama!

« #8 : February 27, 2012, 08:50:14 PM »

Looks like a catch 22 tarp would do.
I'd make a channel in all the end seams and insert a flexible tube ( 1/2" platic conduit ) it would bend easy and require less supports to hold it up keep things straight.
How and how often do they clean the traps?
Looks like you'll need a crew to hang it as well.
Good luck.Jeffin Pa
YaBB God

Karma: +2/-0
: 2233

Mainly furniture. Tarpon Springs Fl.

« #9 : February 27, 2012, 09:01:57 PM »

  I would never turn this sort of work away. It is just the type of challenge I like. That said and after reading you plan of attack so to say. I wouldn't give the client all that information on a proposal. There must be someone in charge of plant maintenance. Visit the plant, talking to the maintenance supervisor or manager and discuss what you will need to complete the project. If a lift is needed and they don't have one by all means rent one. Safety is paramount. Take some overall measurements just for yardage and go back and figure the best way to do the job. Present the proposal like any other estimate. Explaining the final cost, what will be used as far as materials used, down time for removal, and installation, disposal of old unless the manager states they will dispose in writing. Take ownership of the project. After all they want to hire you not help you.
  You're plan of attack is great they don't need or want to know all of it. Just the bottom line and what the tarps will look like.
  Step one get an eyeball on it. ASAP. Don't make them wait.

Minichillo's Upholstery

Karma: +0/-0
: 21

« #10 : February 27, 2012, 09:19:52 PM »

It might even be possible to sew this on-site if you have a portable machine, which would make the patterning and fitting a lot easier.  Even casters on a conventional sewing table would work.

Move the tarps up closer to the belt, use grommets and rope, or webbing and slide buckles or D-rings (easy removal for cleaning) and go for it.  Roll of butcher paper and a scissor lift (likely already one on site judging by that equipment) and it would pattern out in no time.

As haphazard as the current tarps are, how can you NOT make a better set?

I agree about providing too much information in your proposal.  I would explain your lead time, your requirements for downtime on the machines, and access to an area to perform the sewing.  (The proposal you have written so far does not demonstrate confidence.)  They just want nice tarps, they don't care what goes into it -- just how long and how much.

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