Animal feed movement: Less loading time, fewer night drivers

Animal feed has to go from A to B, so that means transportation time. Our clients are evaluating their trucking time and seeing that they spend 20 minutes or more in the loadout bay for each load. Wouldn’t you rather have them on the road to the farm or actually unloading the feed?

We have recently seen loadout systems constructed only 7 years ago that seemed like a decent system. A shuttle conveyor that travelled back and forth to load each compartment on the truck and the truck never moves. It seems we spent too much time thinking about not moving the truck and didn’t check the total time to load, in this case 21 minutes for a 24 ton load. We need to fix that and here is why.

For every mill, even though they are all different, there is a solution. Photo: Emmy Koeleman
For every mill, even though they are all different, there is a solution. Photo: Emmy Koeleman

A feed mill that does 200,000 tons per year in 250 working days needs 33 loads per day. This corresponds to a total loading time is 660 minutes or 11 hours! Regardless of how many trucks you have, it takes this long just to load the feed. The current solution is to add trucks, add loading bays, extend hours/night delivery, etc. Manpower, manpower, manpower! If we can cut loading time to 5 minutes, we save 495 minutes or 8.25 hours per day in trucking time. Sounds like we need one less truck per day. And this also means we don’t need to hire that extra person for night deliveries. Sorry for going through the math but we had to establish the reason for correcting the problem. For every mill, even though they are all different, there is a solution.

The challenges might be:

  • the length of the current scale,
  • height of the loadout bins,
  • loadout bin configuration, or the
  • current loadout conveyors.

Here are a few improvements to consider:

  • Larger gates on the loadout bins. Simply cut off the bin higher and re-install new gates and spouts.
  • Eliminate the scale under the truck and scale the feed before it goes to loadout. Load cells under the surge bin? Works only if you have multiple loadout bins.
  • New and larger conveyors or belts in the loadout system. Scale them up to save time.
  • Multiple loading hoppers over the truck to simultaneously load all compartments in less than 3 minutes! We have seen several variations of this.
  • Use gravity! It is amazing how fast a loadout bin can dump to a truck if you create the right type of fall with large spouts.
  • Automate the process. The computer can do it faster than people and more accurately.

I know you just read this and snarked that you have a better solution. Good. Use it. Again, different mills, different solutions. But innovate an improvement, do the math to justify it, and implement. Then quit hiring night drivers.