Friday 22nd Jan, 2021

Evolution of a silo manufacturer

Nelson Silos has undergone a number of gradual changes to adapt to emerging market needs and provide reliable, custom products.

Nelson Silos has undergone a number of gradual changes to adapt to emerging market needs and provide reliable, custom products.

Eric Nelson, director of silo manufacturer Nelson Silos, says to build a product that is fit for purpose, it must be built to the customers’ needs from the ground up, not just adapted from existing stock.

“We start with an indicative proposal and basic drawing of what might be required and then send it through to [the customer]. After this, we will often visit the site to determine what kind of design and equipment is required,” he says.

“We use consulting engineers that have a broad knowledge of all the different industries and the various techniques and designs for silos to safely store and unload the material from the silos.”

Different conditions at sites are to be expected, and each project takes this into account. For example, the installation of a silo in a built-up urban area may require the installation team to work in a more compact area. A site’s soil test may indicate the foundations can be built with piling or may need a floating foundation over a deep concrete slab.

Related stories:

Infrastructure at a site is also something that must be taken into account. At industrial facilities, there is often established infrastructure that must be straddled or incorporated.

The material itself also plays a major role in the design of the silos. Nelson says the company has extensive experience in handling notoriously difficult to store materials, such as mill runs – a waste product from the flour milling process.

“Mill run bridges and seals up right across the diameter of the vessel,” he says. “To solve that, we used a combination of vibrating cones and compressed air. This design is also popular in the tea industry to create blends.”

“Many of these solutions can be found in other industries, meaning our designers can look to what has worked elsewhere to find a solution to almost any problem.”

Materials can also present safety risks for storage, particularly if a silo will be used to products like flour or ammonium nitrate. In these situations, Nelson Silos ensures the proper vents, sacrificial plates and spark-proof materials are used.

Following the design of a silo, the engineers work in conjunction with the manufacturing team at one of the company’s three production facilities. For larger silos, they are built in sections to minimise on site erection, reducing installation cost where possible.

Nelson says transport plays a large part in the business, with a number of people working full time delivering silos around Australia.

“We’ve delivered silos to Darwin, Port Headland and Kalgoorlie ourselves,” he says. “We don’t use contractors because it gives us more control over the customer experience. Our delivery team can also do the installation side of things, with staff in the pilot cars for heavy transport vehicles able to get out and build them.”

Nelson Silos began in 1962, founded by Lindsay Nelson to distribute one of his inventions, one of the first transportable grain silos. The product proved so popular that Nelson was gradually forced to develop a multi-million-dollar engineering company to keep up with the demand.

The company has evolved significantly to provide a full range of silos capable of storing anything from grain, to plastics or chemicals for the mining industry. And while COVID-19 has limited the amount of site visits, the company has adapted by offering its services via Zoom meetings.

“Technology has also become a vital part of the monitoring and manufacturing side of things,” Nelson says.

“Our equipment is now PLC controlled and laser cut to provide the precise, reliable equipment we need.”