Date Created: January 20, 2020
Those of us who have worked in the feed milling industry for a long time have seen that technology has been slow to come to our industry. Basically, we have used the same processes to produce feed and our mills have not dramatically increased in performance over the years. Part of the reason for this is that our mills have remained manual or have used PLC driven automation for the last 20 or so years. People generally go at one speed and can only do so many things at once and PLCs are very sequential in nature and the basic technology has not fundamentally changed. That is until now.
Repete, an automation and controls company in Sussex Wisconsin, has taken the step to bring current state of the art technology to the feed milling industry. So how do technology and the feed milling industry come together? They come together in a new product called FLX (Pronounced “flex”). So how does that help us old feed milling guys? Well, let us count the ways:
First, with FLX your control system can get more done at once. We designed FLX with a unique ability to perform many tasks at once. We can set up each of your process steps, so they can be performed in parallel or overlap each other. By doing more things at one time we can compress the overall time it takes to produce your feed. This can be done to a limited degree using traditional techniques in a PLC. But with FLX we can take this to a whole new level. For example, we can establish routes while weighing up ingredients for a batch. Or have any number of batches in flight at one time, therefore maximizing the utilization of your equipment. When your base control system offers an endless ability to do more things at once you quickly find ways to keep as much equipment in use as possible at one time. That, in a nutshell, produces faster feed production.
Compared to manual milling, we have seen production times become very stable and consistent for a given feed type while reducing the time of production by up to 40%. For traditional PLC implemented automation we commonly see between 10 and 20 percent improvement. Having more stable and predictable times is a real bonus for feed milling and will allow operations to better predict product times and delivery schedules for your customers.
The second way FLX brings technology to feed milling is its ability to isolate all the work that happens in each of your process areas. This concept, while a little hard to get your head around, is really about allowing the greatest number of actions to be performed at the same time while not allowing any one of them to take down the whole mill. More simply said, if a hardware field failure occurs in the receiving process area, it will not impact operations in the batching, pelleting, blending or shippingareas. Keeping the mill running in auto is a big deal and avoids all the record-keeping problems caused when a mill is forced to shut down. More consistent uptime means more “In Control” time, which translates to a better production number for you. A side benefit to this type of technology improvement is a provably better and safer end product. We do this by avoiding human intervention and having operators make decisions about how to handle process area outages.
And finally, FLX brings a new concept to feed milling and that is “Auto Recovery” Auto recovery means that FLX knows where all feed ingredients are in the process of a feedstuff being made. Therefore, using the features above if a hardware field failure occurs, you simply remedy or temporarily bypass the issue if it will not affect feed quality and simply tell FLX to continue. FLX will dutifully pick up production and continue production under its control without the worry of contaminating feed. Manual intervention if the most common cause of feed contamination and quality issues. By allowing the FLX system to maintain control, and only have the operator indicate that the hardware issue is resolved or can be bypassed, FLX can ensure that no feed contamination will occur. Better feed safety and better production performance translate into a world-class production facility.
You’ve heard a lot lately about how automation is going to change the world. Automation is the key to doing more with less in your factory. I was recently in China where even there they are adopting automation as a way to lower cost.
At Repete, we have pioneered a reusable system that allows you to reduce overhead and increase product quality. Again, automation is the key to a future of cost savings and making your business more competitive. We have enjoyed a season of great business, but undoubtedly the time will return when markets will downturn and bring pressure to the feed milling industry. When that time comes, be prepared. If you invest in the Repete FLX system, you will be positioned to lower costs via automation and maintain profits. Let Repete show you how.
I’ve only touched on a very small part of how FLX can bring technology to your feed mill. If you would like to know more, just give us a call. One of our business development managers or application engineers would love to give you a demo and help you see how the merging of new technology and feed milling can change your life and lower your feed milling risk.