Agribusiness & Food

Harnessing the science of bulk solids

Australian family-owned business Kotzur is testing materials and drawing on a wider knowledge base to design fit for purpose material handling equipment.

Designing effective bulk storage for non-free-flowing materials often requires scientific and engineering know-how.

Without it, issues like bridging, arching or ratholing can begin to impact the flow of product.

While some products, such as vibrators or air hammers, break the material up to restore flow, Andrew Kotzur, Managing Director of Kotzur, says reliably designed infrastructure can eliminate the need for them entirely.

“Understanding the behaviour and design principles required for different bulk solids is critical in constructing appropriate solutions important to build the proper solutions,” he says.

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Based in Walla Walla, New South Wales, Andrew runs the family business with his son Ben, who is a design engineer. The company manufactures a diverse range of products, from climate controlled stainless-steel silos for the agricultural industry to specialised industrial storage for the mining, plastics and defence sectors.

One of its key strengths, according to Andrew, is the company’s robust approach to materials testing. Kotzur has strong relationships with a number of technical specialists and this provides a wide and well-established knowledge base for material research.

When working with a new material, the company will undertake a number of tests to learn more about its properties, such as wall friction, internal friction, angle of repose and bulk density, to design the optimal solution.

Ben explains that Kotzur takes note of key details, including location, when designing new materials handling equipment.

“Location is important for a number of reasons, as Australia has a vast array of different environments,” he says. “In a marine environment, corrosion will need to be taken into account. There are also differing wind and seismic regions across the country, with some seeing seasonal cyclones.”

“Materials also differ from industry to industry. For example, agricultural grains are relatively well understood, as they are free flowing and rarely cohesive, meaning the engineering goes into controlling biological and quality-based factors.

“For the mining industry, some materials will cake and absorb moisture or are sensitive to temperature fluctuations, so there are a number of approaches we need to take to maintain reliable quality and flow.”

The company’s diversification has not only seen it expand into new markets, but also develop its internal design and engineering capacity. Kotzur has also recently invested in improving the manufacturing technology it uses, implementing advanced machinery to improve product quality.

While primarily based in Walla Walla, Kotzur maintains three other footprints in Toowoomba, Moree and Perth.

Andrew says the geographic and market diversification has improved the company’s stability in times of economic uncertainty.

“Around 15 to 20 years ago, all of our eggs were in one basket. We’ve seen how COVID-19 has affected some sectors of the market, but in other sectors there’s been a significant increase in demand,” he says.

“We’ve maintained our entire workforce during the lockdown and are working hard to ensure our customers can continue to look to us for support.”

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