Equipment & Technology

Making storage smarter

Endress+Hauser is using sensors and cloud solutions to allow companies to understand what is happening to the material they’re storing inside a silo.

Endress+Hauser is using sensors and cloud solutions to allow companies to understand what is happening to the material they’re storing inside a silo.

To somewhat state the obvious, storing material inside a silo hides it from view. Of course, this in turn makes it difficult to know when things have gone wrong.

Bulk solids, especially those high in moisture, can bridge and rathole, slowing flow and reducing profitability. Manually inspecting the inner workings of a silo can be dangerous, as staff will often need to climb atop the tall structures to investigate.

Gustavo Queiroz, Industry Manager at Endress+Hauser Australia, said this situation is one his company plans to eliminate.

“Safety is one of the highest priorities for us, which is why we have developed instruments that can help users understand what is happening inside a silo with no risks of falling,” he said.

Endress+Hauser’s ‘Smart Silo’ concept aims to measure all the key processes parameters in one place and make them available online. This means users can access all necessary information for inventory management and quality control.

“Using our instruments, we can help you understand what is happening to the material in the silo,” he said. “This can give you a greater understanding about how the silo and materials behave.

“This data can then be sent to a cloud-based solution to assist with procurement, site management and the overall decision-making processes, such as rescheduling deliveries or avoiding material unavailability.”

Grain silos can use this technology to assist in controlling the temperature and moisture level of the stored material. Currently, many farmers at grain terminals use timers to activate dryers, which can be an inefficient use of energy.

Using Endress+Hauser’s smart silo technology can help them to understand the conditions inside the silo and set the moisture and temperature to the exact level required.

Endress+Hauser has incorporated machine learning into its cloud solution, which can help forecast equipment failures or predict the facility’s dynamics. The cloud ecosystem can be scaled up for more sophisticated inventory management, or a basic version tailored to the client’s needs can be provided.

Information sent to the cloud is encrypted, with safeguards in place to ensure there is no risk of cyberattacks. Accounts can also be granted certain levels of restriction, allowing operators to have access to the level measurement data, while management can access configuration settings and security.

Queiroz said the company’s customers can see the value in automating measurement processes and “having all the information they need on their smartphones”.

“The feedback has been great. Customers see the value of not having to climb onto their silos, saving them time and money, but more importantly keeping them safe throughout the process,” he said.

The Swiss–German company has offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth, and will visit customers to run live demonstrations. If there is a group of customers in the area, the company also hosts webinars or business lunches where invitees can learn about how the technology can improve their operations.

Queiroz said Endress+Hauser plans to continue investing into the Internet of Things and will use feedback to refine the company’s offering.

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