New load-out system designs address modern challenges

Design-engineer firms are tailoring feed mill load-out systems to meet the labor, transportation and efficiency demands of modern feed production.


Behind every successful feed mill are great employees, and behind the latest trends in feed mill designs is the goal to appeal to great workers and optimize their workday. From spotless production floors to low manufacturing costs to pre-loading systems and robotic weigh lorries, design engineers have taken on today’s industry challenges and are producing state-of-the-art solutions.

“Feed mills are losing people with industry knowledge — encouraging more automated systems,” says Weitz Vice President Gerald Leukam. He adds that today’s feed technicians are more interested in using technology and don’t want to work in dirty, dusty conditions. By designing clean facilities that are free from dust, rodents and bugs, mills can attract high-caliber employees. A nice work environment also helps to lower the employee turnover rate.

“People want more comfortable places to work and they want safer places to work,” Leukam says.

Design engineers are making this happen while still helping mills to cut back on manufacturing costs and maintain efficiency.

“We understand today’s workforce as well as the mills,” Leukam says. “When you understand this, you can make design changes that can greatly reduce manufacturing costs.”

Turning up automation

Along with a changing workforce is the challenge to find enough truck drivers to haul feed. The American Truck Driving Association reported a shortage of more than 50,000 drivers in 2017 — a number that is expected to grow. 

To help solve this challenge, engineers have designed systems that maximize the time trucks spend on the road and minimize the time trucks are idling in the parking lot. For example, an automatic ticket system (like the drive-up at the bank) allows truck drivers to stay in their truck and receive the scale ticket for their load through a tube that comes right to their truck window. This cuts back on the amount of time a driver spends getting in and out of the truck to get the scale ticket, and increases the amount of time they can spend hauling loads.  

Utilizing preload systems

More advanced designs allow mills to pre-load a truck in eight or nine overhead compartments that will then fill a truck simultaneously — this cuts the load-out time of eight to 10 minutes to less than 60 seconds. As soon as the pre-loader empties into the truck, the hoppers begin filling for the next truck.

The system works best for large, single-species mills that have a fleet of trucks that are uniform in size (the system is able to discharge into one size of a trailer). Because the system requires more height, it is added on as an expansion instead of an addition to an existing load-out system. Young Love Executive Vice President Loren Field says that a time and motion study shows that a pre-load system can generate a return on investment as early as six months for some mills.

Field explains that while the unloading equipment has stayed the same, it’s the changes in design that make the equipment more efficient.

“What we’re doing isn’t rocket science, we’re just working our way through a problem to find a solution,” Field says.

Faster bulk loading robot

Another technology is a bulk loading robot that collects feed from the silos, weighs the feed and travels back to the contra set or trucks. The robot uses laser positioning to find the hatch on the top of the contra sets or truck and unload the feed. Because of the laser positioning, the robot can accurately unload in different size trucks. Van Aarsen senior engineer Frank Verscheijden designed a robot to be up to 30 percent faster, and to use up to 20 percent less energy by regenerating the energy back to the grid instead of losing it in the breaking resistance when it stops.

“This idea comes from necessity,” says Van Aarsen Product Manager Hans Boonen. “We needed to design a solution to collect feed that is fast — but that doesn’t use a lot of power.”

The robot can collect up to 6,000 kilograms, and includes features such as sample taking and gentle product handling. Boonen says the robot allows mills to increase loading efficiency without sacrificing feed quality and driving up energy costs.

Finding the right solution to your challenges

While the industry trend is to increase bulk loadout efficiency, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Design engineers prefer working with each individual mill to find a tailored approach to meeting their goals — whether that is to retain more qualified employees, cut down on manufacturing costs or increase the number of truck loads. Each mill has its own unique set of challenges that needs to be addressed individually. Companies, like Weitz, Young Love and Van Aarsen, specialize in designing solutions to meet each individual challenge.


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