Agribusiness & Food

Kilic Engineering delivers the goods for CBH harvest

Craig Dennis explains how Kilic Engineering navigated lockdowns, border closures and supply chain interruptions to deliver machinery to create vital storage capacity for grain cooperative CBH.

Craig Dennis explains how Kilic Engineering navigated lockdowns, border closures and supply chain interruptions to deliver machinery to create vital storage capacity for grain cooperative CBH.

The country’s 2021 winter crop harvest was expected to break records, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).

The government forecaster found a combination of sufficient rainfall and mild temperatures over spring improved crop prospects nationally. Production was expected to hit new heights in Western Australia, with New South Wales and Queensland recording their second largest harvests on record.

According to Craig Dennis, General Manager of Kilic Engineering, virtually every grain-growing zone in the country had favourable weather after years of drought – which is usually not the case and can create issues with storage.

“Typically, it’s rare for growers across the entire country to have optimal growing conditions,” he said. “For example, if Western Australia is doing well, New South Wales might not be.”

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“In 2021, that wasn’t the case. Almost every grain-growing zone around the country came good, especially in WA.

“In theory, there’s enough storage capacity in Australia to handle such a massive harvest, but the theory and reality are very different.”

Dennis said that storage capacity was spread out, meaning certain areas didn’t have the infrastructure to store the grain that had just been harvested. In these situations, bulk grain handlers often build emergency storage sites, compacting land and erecting walls to use as overflow bunkers.

In Western Australia, the CBH group receives and exports around 90 per cent of the state’s grain harvest. With a network of more than 100 grain receival sites and four export terminals, the grain cooperative moved to establish emergency storage to handle the excess grain.

However, it needed additional equipment to properly fill the bunkers.

Dennis says simply dumping the grain from trucks would be suboptimal – proper stacking equipment was required.

“It’s not just about storing lots of grain on site,” he said. “It needs to be separated into different grades to ensure you can get the best price for it.

“If high quality grain is mixed with a lower quality product, the blend will sell for a lower price. In addition, if grain isn’t stored properly, it can be contaminated by bugs or pests.”

CBH has designed two machines to help manage its bunker storage: a Drive Over Grid Stacker (DOGS) and a Multi Loading System (MLS). The DOGS allows truck drivers to tip grain into a receival grid, where it then moves through five horizontal augers and five incline augers. The augers lift the grain to a traditional stacker conveyor, which then goes over the bunker wall and discharges onto the grain stack at around 500 tonnes per hour.

The MLS assists with the out loading of grain from bunkers or sheds. A front-end loader can deliver grain to the MLS, which has a large hopper intake connected to a drag chain conveyor. This lifts the grain up and out of the bunker, onto a truck for removal.

The machines are designed to be extremely robust, as bunker storage is often built on rough terrain. A remote control and automation integration allows drivers to operate the machines as they arrive to deliver the grain.

CBH selected Kilic Engineering to manufacture and deliver three MLSs machines and five DOGS machines to ensure it was ready for the upcoming harvest.

Dennis said the company had contingency plans in place if staff couldn’t travel from its South Australian offices to the sites in Western Australia.

“We have built relationships with several companies in WA that we trust to look after our gear,” he says. “We made sure we had a plan and built up experience in providing remote assistance through video platforms.

“This let us walk around the machines with the help of someone on site – very useful for when we needed to look at the electrics and hydraulics but couldn’t send someone over.”

Kilic managed to get most of the machines over to CBH without an issue. However, COVID-19 border restrictions threw a wrench into the works. Working across two sites, the business now needed to deliver and assemble the three machines while facing interruptions from global supply chains and government restrictions.

“When New South Wales locked down, we had a full batch of vital drives that were stuck in a warehouse nobody could access,” Dennis said.

“With a significant administrative effort, we collaborated with our supplier and managed to get them to ship it to Melbourne, where they could finish the assembly.”

Conveyor belts for the machines were also stuck in a shipping container in an Asian port, which would have made hitting the deadline an impossibility.

“We worked with CBH to find a solution as soon as possible,” Dennis said. “They hunted through their own stock to see if they had any spare belts, and luckily were able to send them to us.

“When we did eventually get our stock, we made sure to replenish their spares.”

The key to Kilic’s delivery was its good relationship with several WA contractors. The company has worked with several businesses in the state that could help if strict border restrictions were reintroduced.

Subcontractors were introduced to the equipment at CBH sites and were sent detailed instructions and troubleshooting information to help with the build process.

Kilic was also available virtually to help with the first machine.

“We were on the other side of the phone for about 60 per cent of the on-site process,” Dennis said. “We want to make sure that everyone has the confidence in the quality of the end product.

“Kilic will continue to take on and market to the grain sector. We are still working closely with CBH and want to grow our business with that customer.

“We’re also looking to hire more qualified tradespeople and retain the people we have to keep our capacity growing.” 

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