Sterling Systems & Controls, Inc. custom designs and manufactures the highest quality automation control systems for virtually any process or a complete facility. Sterling Systems & Controls has designed and provided equipment and software for a customized Automated Feedmill Control System using an Allen-Bradley PLC and desktop PC’s running Sterling Systems’ customized Windows-based Automation Software. Sterling’s forty-five plus (45+) years of Feedmill process and Feedmill automation experience ensures quality and efficiency in both hardware and software.
Included in this Automated Feedmill Control System is the control and automation of Batching, Grinding, Material Receiving/Transfer, Pelleting, Truck Scale and Loadout processes. Two (2) desktop PC’s are provided. One runs the Batching and Grinding systems, the other runs the Truck Scale and Receiving systems. These PC’s are configured to be back-ups for one another in case one fails. Nightly database backups to the server computer, optical drives, and plant server occur.
Other items provided by Sterling Systems include a common PLC Control Panel, Server PC, Server Rack Panel, Uninterruptible Power Supplies for the PC’s, and the Truck Scale Light. The PLC Control Panel includes the main common PLC, Schlagel distributor controllers and the two weight indicators (one Major scale, one Minor scale).
To make the Automated Feedmill Control System even more complete and comprehensive Sterling Systems & Controls, Inc. includes its WebCentral remote supervisory application software. This allows the Feedmill automation system to be accessed remotely through a web browser for any corporate computers that are connected to the same local area network as the automation system PLC Control Panel computers. The capability is provided to edit formulations, bin tables, and view and print historical data in the database without interrupting production and without requiring additional software to be installed on the corporate computers.
Operation of Automated Feedmill Control System
Operation is simple. Using the standard Windows pull-down menu or the toolbar shortcut icon buttons, the system only displays the necessary functions that the operator requires at each level of the process. Formula data entry is fully programmable with sequencing of dry ingredient additions along with the hand add additions, which are all programmed by the operator under a security code. When actual processing is in progress, the pop-up dialog box displays the batching status information continuously. Alarm conditions, should they occur, are also displayed on the alarm screen.
Overview of Automated Feedmill Control System
The Automated Feedmill Control System controls and monitors the truck scale, receiving, grinding, and batching systems as previously mentioned. A SQL database incorporates formula/recipe management, ingredient receiving and vendor tracking from the truck scale, grinding ingredient tracking to prevent cross-contamination, inventory control, and lot tracking for the ingredients that are received. The system interfaces with the grain moisture tester and captures the test weight, moisture %, and fills in the grain ticket.
Receiving/Loadout Truck Scale System
This system operation is divided into three parts: 1) receiving a full truck of raw ingredients at the truck scale, 2) truck returning to truck scale from unloading a raw ingredient at the pit, and 3) truck arriving at the truck scale to load finished product. The operator follows his operating sequence that accurately tracks incoming and outgoing trucks as well as maintains ingredient and product inventory with the automated Feedmill control system. The truck scale computer provides reporting features that show all pending truck ID’s that still need to be loaded or unloaded at the facility. It also reports truck ID’s that have been successfully processed and completed. Reports can be printed.
The Receiving/Transfer system transfers, monitors, routes, and verifies ingredient unloading and bulk storage destinations. This system includes the operation of the rail car and truck pit and transferring of incoming materials into storage bins, ingredient bins, and the warehouse. On-screen Manual-Off-Auto (MOA) and Start-Stop switches are provided.
The PC running the grinding system has the task to handle the transfer of raw ingredients from corn storage bin to hammer mill, or bulk wheat bin to roller mill, then transferring to the ingredient bins or finished feed elevator. Automatic routing is performed in this system as well. A grinding transfer start time can be enabled as an option and defined to automatically start a transfer of material based on a predefined source and destination. Onscreen Manual-Off-Automatic ( MOA) and Start-Stop switches are available. Mill monitoring is also done by this system so that material transfer to the mill can be stopped if a high amp condition exists.
The desktop PC that is primary for the Batching and Grinding systems controls and maintains formulas/recipes, ingredient inventories and usages, bin assignments and ingredient locations, and formula schedules. The two scales, mixer, and batcher controller have the capabilities to simultaneously weigh both scales while the mixer processes hand adds, liquid additions, and mixing times for previously started batches and formula setup. Finished mix feed is then transferred to the designated load-out bin or house bin. This applies to automatic mode, and only if all Manual-Off-Automatic (MOA) switches are set to Automatic.
Not all Feedmill operations include a Pellet Mill, often the feed is batched, mixed and not delivered as in pellet form. This specific Feedmill did not include a pelleting operation. However, when needed the Sterling Systems Pelleting software application controls the pellet mill operation, including feeding, throughput, output and monitoring the operation of the mill.
The finished product load-out process starts when the mixer is ready to dump into the mixer surge. Before the mixer dumps, and depending on what the load out destination is, the automated Feedmill control system will confirm that distributors are set and conveyors are running. High level sensors will also be monitored to prevent overfilling the bins. This applies only in the automatic model with all MOA switches in the automatic mode. The automated Feedmill control system monitors the running status of any conveyor and the position of the distributors. If an alarm occurs the equipment will be shutdown sequentially from the mixer gate to the destination load-out bin.