Yo! It is time to put an end to climbing bins. Knowing the volume and value of what is stored in grain bins is surprisingly simple and inexpensive. Installing a solution that measures grain bin levels automatically and lets you access to inventory from your phone or computer can improve inventory accuracy, save time, and keep employees safe.
Sensors measure eliminating the need to scale a ladder
BinMaster’s SmartBob sensor is an automated weight-and-cable tape measure that has been one of the most common technologies for grain level measurement for about 25 years. These sensors work by periodically dropping a weighted cable into the bin. When the weight reaches the grain surface, the cable retracts and measures by counting pulses that are converted into a distance by the electronics.
The SmartBob remote is ideally mounted one-sixth from the outer perimeter of the bin to provide the most accurate volume for a center-fill, center-discharge bin. It is programmed to take measurements at predetermined time intervals, generally ranging from once an hour to once a day. Measurements can also be taken on demand when needed. It is accurate within 0.25” (quarter mm) and highly reliable as it always takes the measurement in the same spot, unlike a person who may not drop the tape measure in the same spot consistently. SmartBobs are highly dependable, simple to operate, and have a long service life.
Connecting SmartBobs to software
SmartBobs and other types of continuous-level sensors are relatively simple to install. Most grain storage facilities install the sensors themselves without the need for bringing in an electrician or contractor.
A great inventory management system includes sensors and software. It was not that long ago, an IT department or an engineer might be needed for installation and setup. BinMaster software has been designed for user simplicity using an intuitive fill-in-the-blank user interface.
For those with multiple silos or bins, a daisy-chaining wiring scheme saves setup and cost. A daisy chain entails multiple sensors wired together in a ring. This allows a single wireless gateway to send level data for multiple sensors seamlessly to local software or the cloud for processing.
BinMaster also offers wireless transceivers and gateways to eliminate the need for running long spans of wiring. LoRa or long-range communications can be used for distances up to one mile with an unobstructed line of sight.
Monitor bins on-site or remotely
Measurements from SmartBobs or other types of level sensors are monitored on a computer or phone via an internet connection or a local area network (LAN). BinView® is a web-based application that allows you to set up your bins and monitor levels in real-time, while Binventory software installs on a local network. It is compatible with sensors using either a 4-20 mA output or Modbus RTU. Its intuitive interface is used to set up bin parameters, such as height, diameter, material, and bin location for easy identification. A graphical interface displays inventory levels for each bin. High and low-level alerts can be set to automatically send a text or email when bins are nearly full or empty.
Measurement data can also be accessed from a push-button console called the C-100 which eliminates the need to go to a control room to check available space in the bin. During harvest, drivers can access bin data to know which bins have space available to unload grain for winter storage. Your facility can optimize storage capacity with a system that knows when bins are full.
Beyond the Bob
Beyond the bob, there are other types of level sensors used for inventory management of grain. Non-contact radars provide continuous level measurement in very dusty environments. They measure a single point in the bin with very high accuracy and update very quickly. 3DLevelScanners are the best solution for large-diameter storage bins or those with multiple filling or emptying points. The scanner can detect irregular grain piling, cone up or down conditions, and sidewall buildup. A 3DLevelScanner is also the only type of level sensor to generate a three-dimensional image of the bin’s grain topography.
Perhaps the most essential, economical, and simple solution for grain storage facilities is the rotary level indicator. The rotary is the workhorse of the point-level indicators and is used widely throughout the grain industry. The rotary is used as a high-level indicator to know when to stop filling a bin to prevent overfilling. It is often used to turn an auger off or is wired to a light or horn as an automated alert. It can also alert to low levels when a bin is almost empty when mounted at the bottom or in the cone of a bin.
Rotaries are also used together with SmartBobs or other types of continuous level sensors as a redundant point level indicator for added protection against overfilling bins. A rotary can be configured for top or side mounting and with a variety of paddles, including a convenient collapsible paddle that can facilitate installing the rotary without entering the bin. For top mounting, the rotary can be extended down into the bin up to 84 inches to prevent filling to the very top of the bin and potentially damaging a continuous level sensor or other equipment or structure in the bin.
Take the first (or next) step
Installing a grain inventory management system is not expensive or intimidating. Start with the sensor, connect sensors to the system, choose software or console access (or both), and top it with a rotary for added protection. A quick consultation and quote are all that is needed to make grain inventory simpler and safer.