AutoPilot4Feed - Feed and Grain Control System
AutoPilot4Feed is a process control and information system designed specifically to provide automation of feed and grain plants. This includes the intake and transfer of raw materials, blending and mixing of batches, pellet press / extruder control and bulk outloading / packing. Click on a menu option above for more details on each area of plant control.
It is simple and intuitive to operate yet provides highly sophisticated techniques to optimise production and allow unmanned operation where possible.
AutoPilot4Feed is fully configurable and built from a number of modular blocks to control the required areas of production. The system is fully scalable and can be configured for the smallest to the largest of plants. It may be used to control one area of a plant initially and then extended as circumstances permit. Many modifications can be made remotely to the system while production is running. Advanced users can even perform some modifications themselves.
The system is based on one or more standard Microsoft Windows 7 Pro PCs (Microsoft Windows Server for bigger systems) and readily connects to most common PLC and IO systems e.g. Mitsubishi, Allen Bradley, Siemens, Telemechanique, Wago, Pamux Opto 22. Redundancy is built in by using a second standby PC. Support is available 24 hours a day, 364 days per year. Data is stored in an open but secure SQL Server database.
Comprehensive management information is recorded and is accessed using on line viewing programs or printable reports which may be customized using the Crystal Reports package. All data is stored in an open SQL Server database.
AutoPilot4Feed has additional options to help further improve the efficiency of a plant including full traceability, bar-coding, order scheduling, moisture measurement, manual weighing, maintenance scheduling, email, power monitoring, driver operated modes, office integration, bagging and Pocket PC facilities. Extensive management information is provided and is accessed using on line viewing programs or printable reports which may be customized using the Crystal Reports package. All data is stored in an open SQL Server database. The system may be integrated with many types of commercial systems including SAP, BMS, CAL, Format International, Pegassi, FMS, Perito, Agris and Microsoft Dynamics AX.
AutoPilot4Feed has additional options including French / Spanish language, full lot traceability, bar-coding, order scheduling, manual weighing, maintenance scheduling, email, power monitoring, driver operated modes, office integration, bagging and Pocket PC facilities.
In summary, AutoPilot4Feed is a comprehensive, advanced, configurable and simple to use control system to help you get the most out of your mill.
AutoPilot4Feed intake control is designed to be very simple to operate, prevent mistakes, reduce keying and provide comprehensive operational and stock information.
All intake operations are logged to the audit trail and all intake transactions are logged to the database. Viewing and reporting tools may be used to view this data. The database can also store the details of trucks, hauliers and suppliers.
AutoPilot4Feed may be configured to control multiple tipping bays and very complicated routes to bins. A mimic of a simple intake system is shown below.
AutoPilot4Feed can be connected directly to a weighbridge eliminating double keying and operator errors. The system readily connects to Avery, Shering, Lucid, Precia Molen and Bilanciai weighbridge indicators. This information may also be received from an office system to reduce keying and mistakes. Quality check and truck previous load details on a material basis may be entered with the load details.
Advanced features include:-
- Truck follow-on facility allows trucks with the same raw material as the previous truck to tip without the need for a full cleanout.
- Cross contamination checking. This may be used to prevent non-GM materials following GM materials without a flush.
- Automatic flushing allows an intake route to be flushed by routing a neutral material from a designated flushing bin for a time.
- A designated redress bin will force the first part of a tip to this bin in the event of a contamination.
- Driver operated intake option allows the driver to start the intake at a small panel near the pit with an assigned magnetic card, key or 4 digit number. This reduces labour and prevents mistakes. A picture of a typical installation is shown below.
The driver initially reports to the weighbridge to take the truck's first weight and assign their badge, key or 4 digit number. The driver then proceeds to the intake pit.Traffic lights at the pit guide the driver to when to reverse on to the bay (amber) and when to start tipping (green). A light beam may be used to detect a truck on the pit and prevent tipping on top of a previous load. When the drivers badge, number or key is accepted at the station the route to the correct bin is automatically started. Should the bin go to high level during filling, the route to the alternate bin is started automatically without the driver even being aware. The driver returns to the weighbridge to get a second weight.
AutoPilot4Feed has a facility for supervising the filling of raw material bins manually e.g. filling carousel bins with bags. This enables stock control of these type of bins and prevents the wrong materila being tipped. Typically a PC workstation is positioned near the bin lids. The operator will scan the barcode on the bag and the system will then either automatically unlock the correct bins lock or monitor the limit switches to ensure the correct bin is opened.
AutoPilot4Feed has the option of optimising the pre-grinding operation by predicting ground raw material requirements. It does this by looking at the current production schedule. If the production schedule is not available, AutoPilot4Feedreverts to its history of raw material requirements thus always ensuring that it grinds to the optimum without operator intervention.
AutoPilot4Feed includes advanced control for batching and weighing. This can be implemented as a stand-alone system or as part of a plant wide control system including intake, press control and out-loading modules. It can provide the following benefits:-
- Plant optimization through innovative control techniques
- Minimise operator workload
- Comprehensive logged information
- Intuitive and easy to use operator interface
Production schedules may be imported from an office system or typed in manually line by line. Planning can be made more efficient by using the Plan4Feed option. Batches may be scheduled for production in the order they appear or automatically scheduled to optimise production on the press lines. The AutoPilot4Feed production programme has the facility to 'explode' the raw material requirements on a material or bin basis. This will highlight when the stock of an ingredient is expected to run out.
Cross Contamination / Automatic self flushing
An advanced cross contamination matrix can be set-up to prevent a batch being made or to automatically flush the plant by holding back a small non-contaminating part of the last batch to self-flush the plant. Cross contamination checks are made down each mixer line, production line (press line) and finished product bin.
Weighing Accuracy and Speed
Weighing is performed accurately in accordance to a formulation that may be entered manually or imported from a formulation system. Advanced weighing algorithms attempt to optimise the speed and accuracy of the weighing systems. This includes Intelligent In-Flight (IIF) compensation, automatic jogging, pre-discharging, multiple feeders, weigher load balancing and intelligent feeder speed control.
Bin and material substitutions are automatic where possible. Standard substitutions may be set-up to enable production to continue when stock of an ingredient has run out. The substitutions can be configured with up to 5 alternative materials with their percentage values and can be enabled on a per contamination group basis.
Hand Additions / Manual Weighing
Hand Additive stations typically have a display adjacent to the tip point to show the list of ingredients to tip. This can be a simple text VDU or a PC workstation giving access to the AutoPilot4Feed mimics, alarms and menu system. Hand additive stations may be attached to a scale to check weights before being tipped. A barcode reader may be attached to scan bag barcodes and record with the batch record. AutoPilot4Feed comes ready to read many types of barcode including the standard 22 digit premix barcodes. A facility is provided to configure new barcode types if required. A barcode check utility allows a barcode to be scanned and the material code, expiry date, bag size and lot number be displayed. AutoPilot4Feed can also generate it's own barcodes for bags that do not come with one on.
The speed batching system can help optimise production around the grinder by reducing the clean-out time for like batches and implement a small gap between routing products to the mixer.
This facility allows a batch to start discharging as soon as the low level probe covers in a hopper. This is typically useful to allow the first batch to start grinding ealier.
Full batch records, material usages and production records are logged to disk. Viewing options and reports may be used to print, view and analyze this data.
AutoPilot4Feed's pellet press control module is designed to:-
- Optimise pellet quality
- Eliminate blockages
- Reduce downtime
- Reduce operator workload
- Reduce mistakes
A typical display is shown below. This includes a mimic (normally one per pellet press line), alarms window and trend. Most normal operations are performed by simple point and click. All items of equipment may be overridden by clicking on the graphics (password providing). Additionally, all variables e.g. feeder speed may be opertated manually for maintenance purposes (again this is user level protected).
Mimics may be resized and positioned by the operator and shown over multiple screens if required. The trends give a handy representation of how the presses have been performing over say the last 15 minutes. A historical view of the trend is also available.
To start a pellet press line is simple; simply click on the go button, select a destination bin (or bins) and click on start. The liquid inclusions are all calculated automatically from the formulation. The press control is tuned using a profile which may be assigned to one or more similar products to save tuning the control for every product. Some parameters within the profiles may be modified by the operator if required e.g. they may reduce required throughput if the product is known to be difficult to make at the time. Other profile settings are locked for modification by trained personnel. The profile settings may be configured to either default to those used for the last run of the same product or the profile master setting.
To optimise the pellet press line AutoPilot4Feed control includes the following advanced features:-
Automatic start - press lines can be enabled to automatically start when product is detected in the pre-press bin. The destination bin is assigned when the production is entered in the blending day programme.
Cold start - when a press line has been off for a while the press profile will be adjusted automatically to slow the ramp up to full control.
Anti-blockage - the press is continuously monitored for blockages and action taken automatically. This action may vary from site to site. Typically the press feeder will stop for a time and then start ramping up again from it's idle speed. The throughput may be automatically reduced if blockage conditions are repeated a number of times. The conditioner may be automatically jogged to get rid of blockage material.
Layered change-over - When a press bin goes empty, it is possible to start the next product immediately with out a cleanout time in between. This is only allowed if the product passes all contamination checks and is the same type of product. The changeover point is tracked through the system, changing steam, molasses and fat levels at the appropriate point. Finally, when the required amount of the first product has been transferred to the finished product bins, the system automatically changes bin to start routing the second product.
Automatic Press Flush - It is possible to automatically pellet a flush if a press bin exists that contains material suitable for flushing out the press line.
Every press run is logged with the following information:-
- Summary and totals for each run
- Details of tonnage to each bin
- Reference to batch numbers
- Liquid inclusions
- Quality results (if entered)
- Details of each run logged every, say minute, typically these would include temperatures, press loads, throught put
Viewing tools and reports are available to list and graph this data. Reports may be customised using the Crystal Reports software.
All configurations of presses, extruders and expanders are catered for:-
- Single pellet press
- Double pellet press side by side
- Double pellet press in line
- 3 pellet presses per line
- Up to 8 pre-press bins per production line
- All forms of conditioner
- Long term conditioner/sterilizer
- HFC / BOA conditioner
- Fats spray at the die (or downstream)
- On-line pellet tester