Bulk Handling Automation from BE&E

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Manufacturers who process biomass often rely on wheel loaders to move and feed the material. It’s a laborious process that’s intensive not only in terms of employee time but in cost, especially since the price of diesel has skyrocketed. (The average cost of diesel in the US was $3.61 on January 3, 2022. By June 19, it reached $5.82.) Beyond fuel, manufacturers must also pay for insurance, maintenance, repairs to damaged infrastructure, and, of course, the wheel loader itself. These expenses can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars for a large wheel loader that manufacturers run continuously through the year.

It’s also increasingly difficult for employers to find employees willing or able to operate these machines. The unemployment rate in the US is at a near-historical low of 3.6 percent, and fewer adults are looking for blue-collar work than in the past. Low immigration rates into the US also mean there are few people arriving to fill the evaporating pool of unskilled or semi-skilled laborers.

Automated Bulk Receiving

Due to these challenges, more manufacturers are looking to automate their material-handling processes. Those who wish to do so have several options. Rather than receiving material on the ground and using wheel loaders to pile it, they can receive materials into a mechanical system that will autonomously deliver them to the storage area. Examples include live-floor pits and receiving stations for live-floor trailers, both of which BE&E supplies.

Manufacturers can use the same technologies to semi-automate the receiving processes. For example, they may have deliveries dumped on the ground and use a wheel loader to load a bin or pit, which feed material to a concrete pad. Thus, although they’re still using wheel loaders, they are certainly reducing their use.

Automated Bulk Infeed

Similar solutions are available for feeding materials to processing systems. To accomplish full automation, manufacturers must store material in a silo or on a concrete pad with some sort of automated reclaim system, such as a live floor or a stacker-reclaimer.

BE&E supplies neither stacker-reclaimers nor round silos outside turn-key projects, but we do offer horizontal silos, which are ideal for biomass and other materials with poor flow characteristics. These we construct using SMART Containers or SMART Floors. SMART Containers are storage cubes manufactured from one or more intermodal containers. They feature strokers equipped with flights that push material out of the container before retracting and sliding under the material pile. This action ensures that material flows through the unit in first-in, first-out fashion.

Because shipping containers are designed to be stacked, we can easily increase the capacity a of SMART Container by increasing the height to three units high and placing the containers side-by-side. SMART Containers arranged in this fashion enable manufacturers to segregate materials and blend them upon discharge into a common conveyor.

SMART Floors are the stroker-based systems we place in the SMART Containers. These we can also place on a concrete pad (fresh or existing) to automate reclaim from bunkers and other storage spaces.

Like SMART Containers, SMART Floors are modular and can be arranged to suite the customer’s requirements. We can place the floors side-by-side increase system’s width or arrange them to feed a centralized conveyor to increase the depth (each stroker’s length is limited to about 36′).

While manufacturers may use SMART Floors to fully automate their infeed process, they can also use them to semi-automate their infeed processes, as one of our customers does in the Pacific Northwest. This manufacturer uses a wheel loader to pile enough material on their SMART Floor to feed their process for several hours. While this solution doesn’t eliminate the company’s wheel loader, it reduces the operational costs associated with the wheel loader and frees up the machine’s operator to perform other tasks during his shift.

Automated Waste Handling

BE&E can likewise automate material handling post-processing. Depending on what they produce, manufacturers will sometimes also store these materials in piles, and they’ll again use wheel loaders to manage the inventory. Such is done in the ethanol industry with DDGS, a byproduct of ethanol production used as animal feed, which manufacturers almost ubiquitously store in steel buildings.

The outfeed process can be automated much like the infeed process by directing materials to storage with automated reclaim or to a clam-shell bin, which will directly feed trailers.

BE&E’s SMART Containers and SMART Floors can likewise handle material on the outfeed side of an operation. BE&E also offers trailer-loading systems, which customers can use to fill trailers directly from their manufacturing processes.

For transporting material to the load-out area and other processes, BE&E offers its market-leading SMART Conveyors™. These conveyors have been used to handle many materials besides biomass, such as horse feed, bird feed, grains, DDGS, ground tires, treated sewer sludge, miscanthus, and pellets. Their design makes them suitable for a variety of bulk goods, both organic and inorganic.

For more information on BE&E’s products and services, visit our Engineering Services page at https://beande.com/services/. We offer complete material-handling lines and individual machines for bulk handling. Contact us to discuss your challenges today.


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