Silo management for grain mills and their customers

Simone Hadraschek
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A win – win situation:

In Germany alone there are more than 260 large flour mills, in Asia the grain market is significantly greater and a very important industry. All around the world the situation is similar: Well-planned routes and carefully calculated stock levels are vital to achieve max. cost optimization during the material delivery process, however these are more than often jeopardized by daily reality. Bakeries, the customers of the mills, often place their orders to late and the mills are faced with having to supply material immediately in order to avoid production stop at the bakeries. This leads to unnecessary logistics costs caused by multiple deliveries and ultimately to an increase in costs for sides, the supplier and the customer. This is obviously in no one's interest.

But why are we confronted with these “fire-fighting” situations and how can they be avoided?

Lack of storage management in bakeries

Even bakeries with multiple storage silos often do not have an automated level monitoring system to control their inventory levels. Therefore these stocks have to be checked manually on a regular basis and an order has to be triggered to the flour supplier on time. Due to unforeseen fluctuations in demand or simply by not having verified the stock levels sudden emergencies arise that lead to unplanned extra tours for the mill.

Just the installation of sensors for level monitoring in the silos of the bakeries would bring a partial improvement. In this context often the willingness to invest is lacking because “it´s working as it is” regardless of the fact that it is a very costly and inefficient way to do it. But the ideal solution would be that the mills take responsibility of the level monitoring centrally for their customers and offer this as a special service thus optimizing their own material and delivery disposition and at the same time reducing the administrative effort involved. Of course the cost question arises immediately - who should pay?! Or maybe does it pay for itself?

In fact, closer analysis shows that the mill’s investment would amortize itself in a relatively short time due to the cost savings brought about by the optimized supply chain process.

Central-level measuring for mills

The UWT GmbH considered these difficulties of the grain industry sectors and has provided a made-to-measure solution that is economical and practical: a central level-remote system for flour mills.

On each silo of the bakery the maintenance-free lot system Nivobob® 4000 is fitted for level monitoring.

For easy mounting, just a standard 1.5 inch threaded socket in the silo roof is necessary. At the bakeries the level signals are bundled by the UWT software Nivotec® combined with a Wago WebController and the information received is passed to the Internet using an Ethernet connection via a routed IP address. The mill can securely access this information (password-protected) via any internet browser at any time of the day over a pre-defined IP address). It is possible to include any number of other customers in the visualization system - without additional hardware or costs for the mill.

If the priority is to keep installation at the bakeries to a minimum a GSM modem can be used to remotely access the data. In this case for the data transmission no Ethernet connection is required, but only a SIM card in the WAGO to pass the modem. This modem collects all level signals and sends them in an encrypted log via mobile phone over the Internet to the appropriate controller in the mill. As only small amounts of data are being sent is a low priced SIM contract sufficient for this purpose.

The current silo levels can be displayed at the mill control center using the UWT Nivotec® visualization software which can be accessed via the Internet browser on any Ethernet PC. The controller can see the real-time status of the silos because the visualization controller is directly integrated into the Ethernet system.

Advantages and benefits of the level-remote system:

The benefit of the whole system is the simplification of the material disposition processes leading to a reduction of costs for all parties involved.

The installation of the system in the bakery as well as in the mill is straightforward and can usually be carried out by the mills own service engineers

Control cabinets only have to be set-up once; afterwards no additional IT support is necessary.

All silo levels can be visualized at the same time -> material planning security

The system can be dismantled at one customer and installed again at another -> no new costs when customers change

The mill is able to hold the correct material in stock according to the customer’s material requirements and can optimize the logistical routes and schedules. Simply the availability of the required information which can avoid the need for express deliveries or empty runs can reduce the administrative effort dramatically. On the customer side, at the bakery, the task of manually checking the material level within the storage silos is eliminated and production bottlenecks due to a lack of material are history.

The material flow now follows a standard process with much greater planning security: Last but not least it naturally leads to a more harmonious working relationship and increased satisfaction on both sides which ultimately mean a stronger partnership between customer and supplier.

Experts in Level Measurement

UWT is known in the industry as one of the leading manufacturers of level measurement technology on the world market. UWT has been providing reliable level measurement solution for over 40 years now. In the past the company’s principal focus was the field of bulk solids but are now keen to expand into the liquids market with their newly extended product range. Its head office, development and production facilities are located in Germany. With an additional production facility in Malta and its own sales subsidiaries in the United States, United Kingdom, Russia and in the growth regions of China and India, the company can meet the needs of the world market with the greatest flexibility that customers expect. The company is certified ISO 9001:2015 and constantly expands its portfolio of product certifications (ATEX, FM, CSA), particularly with regard to the international markets. All UWT products stand for easy handling, high reliability and long service life.

Efficient level visualisation
Efficient level visualisation

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