With fuel costs climbing, plant managers and fleet managers have had to readjust their strategy for keeping silo bins full. Key to maximizing the availability of material at the lowest possible delivery cost is studying the efficiency of the bulk material deliveries. Managers can't do much about cement plant haulage distances, or even local traffic volume. But they can have filling strategies.
These include off-hour transporting and unloading, buying additional filled standby trailers and even installing continuous inventory monitoring systems to help schedule deliveries.
Another approach has been to install electric blowers at each unloading point to eliminate using tractor-mounted units. This has an additional benefit: allowing the truck to haul more product.
While all of these initiatives could yield positive results, producers could benefit exponentially if they could be combined into one system. Employing a high-tech system that can help eliminate driver error and, most importantly, provide the plant manager a keep-filled situation would work best.
At the last ConExpo, Richard Weeks unveiled some modifications to a proven unloading equipment technology that meets this objective. His company, Automated Cargo Transport Systems, West Chester, Ohio, introduced a system that Weeks believes makes the task of unloading pneumatic tankers automatic and 100% consistent.
His unloading system includes a series of measurement plant-mounted devices by which an independent process controller can automate the unloading. The system eliminates the need to have a tractor and driver present. Through proper measuring, the unloading process is automatically controlled, ensuring no plugged lines or overfilled silos and eliminating the need to wait for silo capacity.
Weeks says that producers who have updated their unloading practices with his system have reported an almost 30% increase in delivery efficiency. “Our system frees the tractor and driver to deliver to other sites for pickup, often during non-peak traffic hours, almost providing an extra load a day,” he says.
But Weeks says the system has other benefits, such as eliminating driver errors and overfilled silos.
Yet the real benefit comes when the producer links the delivery area to the keep-fill system. Weeks' company sells an online inventory/process control software program that can provide instant status notification and silo level information.
Key to the system is the radar level sensor. This level sensor is also flexible, so a producer can employ it as an integral component of the full automatic unloading system, or a user can utilize it as a separate item. Weeks says the sensor has a proven track record in dusty and corrosive environments.
Producers that are using Weeks' system have benefited because batch operators feel they have better control of the whole operation. “They say the system is an effective way to view real-time silo levels and tanker status at the batch house, dispatch office, and on the Internet,” he says.