Feed Mills That Run Themselves

By IBT Inc

October 01, 2004

Engineering

Running a feed mill can be a pretty complicated process. There is grain to receive and store. Ingredients to be processed, mixed, weighed, and transported through the plant. There are recipes to be coordinated, equipment to be monitored, and records to be kept and analyzed. And, there is finished feed to be moved out so it can be put to good use fattening up the stock.

In the old days, running a mill meant moving to the various locations, activating the switches, watching the processes, manually logging the results, and working hard to stay ahead of the equipment.

That was then. This is now.

IBT has developed a new feed mill automation program: Auto FEED. It has been designed and built to offer feed mills – both exisitng plants and new construction – all the advantages of the latest in automation, computerization and control. The IBT system will allow the mill to almost run itself.

“With our new Auto FEED System,” engineering manager James Hofer reports, “things will be much more modern, efficient and easier to control. A single operator will be able to run the mill from one location by using an integrated system. And things will not only be easier, they’ll be better, to boot.”

Auto FEED is fully automated and plenty fancy. It integrates equipment, control and procedures. The system utilizes programmable logic controllers (PLC), personal computers (PC) local area networks (LAN) and fieldbus communications. The resulting system constructed of these components is modular, reliable, and easily adapted for expansion and to include new technologies.

Using a Windows-based computer, an open system, and a modular approach to installation and implementation, Auto FEED, is flexible, highly user-friendly and extremely easy to modify, update and adapt for changing mill requirements.

The mill will even operate in automatic, semi-automatic and manual modes.

As an automatic system, a personal computer will execute control logic using softPLC application software. The operator will monitor system performance and have controls that will allow him to use graphical user interfaces to alter process setpoint, select material destinations and perform other system control functions.

In semi-automatic, the operator can turn motors on and off, open valves and slide gates, divert material and activate any other system equipment.

As a manual operation, the computer control is not used. A central control console provides hardwired control of all system equipment and devices. All system capabilities will be available in the manual mode.

Here’s what Auto FEED will do:

Receiving:
Raw materials are received, routed, cleaned and transferred to storage bins.

Inventory:
Materials are logged in and tracked. Sensors like level indicator, scales and the sensing devices keep track of actual quantities on hand, where they are and what state they are in (raw materials, work in process, finished goods)

Batching:
Controls transfer, weighing and mixing of ingredients. The user can create and edit recipes, schedule and execute batches, record the history of the batch process and generate reports.

SPC:
This module will display, monitor an analyze data using SPC methods. Data values will include average, standard deviation, control limits and process capability.

Loadout:
Finished goods will be stored or loaded onto trucks.

Processing:
Whether it is equipment that is flaking grain, adding water/enzymes, heating in a steam chest or assessing grain moisture ranges, the process is maintained under continuous and automated control.

Management of Energy:
With today’s emphasis on energy efficiency and reduced energy usage, this module is particularly important. It will monitor and control electrical loads, collecting data on current, voltage, KW, Kvar, Kva and power factor.

Auto FEED completely controls and manages the process. Data analysis tools allow the user to improve energy efficiently and reduce costs by lowering peak demand, correcting power factor, and shedding loads by a priority factor.

Monitoring equipment is only one part of sound energy management activities. The other half is the use of efficient equipment. “IBT has drawn upon a number of suppliers of equipment, computer hardware and computer software”, Hofer observes. “We use Wonderware’s software, PLCs by Siemens and Industrial PC fro Industrial Computer Source. We have specified energy efficient equipment: motors by Siemens, AC drives from Magnetek, solid state starters made by Motortronics, couplings, gear boxes and belts by Dodge, KF, Dayco, Goodyear, Stober, Foote-Jones and Master-Reeves.”

Of course, all this efficiency and automation requires Information Management.

Auto FEED collects extensive data, prepares reports based on the information it manages, allows for operators and managers to view that data, and then creates archived information for future planning and management uses.

“With Auto FEED, mill operators gain in several important ways,” Hofer notes. “They improve the consistency and accuracy of their operations through automation. They reduce their energy consumption through efficient equipment. They increase the recordkeeping effectiveness. In general, they take major steps to reduce the cost of bringing stock to market weight by lowering the cost of feed mill operations.”

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