Inventory management is, by far, one of the most complex and tedious jobs for processing businesses of any type or size. Inventory mistakes can be costly at any level and are especially amplified when errors cumulate and impact corporate financial statements. Storing inventory that you cannot see – in bins and silos – can be particularly risky if manual measurements and estimations are used as the basis for calculating inventory value.
Fortunately, there have been great strides in automating the measurement of solids and powders stored in silos and most recently, in the software that processes and presents the measurement data. Level sensors now measure reliably and accurately, even in dusty and harsh conditions. Software has become significantly more intuitive, is graphically friendly, and can be accessed wherever there is internet. Level measurement and software team up together to bring plants a host of benefits.
Wouldn’t you like to?
Inventory management doesn’t need to be a reactive process. Time and money are wasted by interruptions that can be avoided with visibility and foresight. Reduce supply chain costs by avoiding rush charges and emergency deliveries. Increase inventory turns, slash safety stock, and maximize cash flow.
Walking around with clipboards and inputting data can be a drag on your day. By the time you get data entered and tabulated, material has been used or deliveries have been made. With a corporate-wide system, all personnel can have access to the same data at the same time, ensuring accuracy and eliminating a flood of emails.
Get real-time data.
Level sensors update measurement data continuously or at preset time intervals and revise your inventory throughout the day. With remote access from a smartphone or tablet, you don’t need to be at your desk – or even in the plant – to keep tabs on inventory data. If you’re curious, log in on the weekend or before you get to work, and be prepared for what your day has in store.
Hate coming to work on Monday morning to a headache of material outages and jostling production schedules? Sharing inventory in real-time between purchasing and production personnel allows people to get ahead of issues associated with rush orders and last-minute deliveries that can run up costs, create inefficiencies, and erode margins.
Eliminate the need for manual physical inventory and walking from silo to silo. At the same time, benefit from reduced safety risks from climbing silos. Replace tedious, time-consuming tasks with an automated system that does the calculations for you.
Let history help.
Looking at the past can help to predict consumption in the future. Maximizing storage capacity and understanding usage trends can help you schedule deliveries and reduce safety stock. Historical reporting can assist in planning, budgeting, and financial reporting.
How Cloud-Based Systems Work
Level sensors take measurements continuously or at timed intervals. Data is sent to a gateway and transmitted to the cloud for processing. Users log into the web-based software to view inventory data. Customized views can be role dependent showing individual silos, groups of silos, or silos at a single location. Users can make ordering decisions and generate reports to optimize their inventory.
Let remote monitoring do the heavy lifting.
Cloud-based software, often referred to as Software as a Service or SaaS, features a user interface that is very intuitive and easy to learn. Dashboards present inventory information in a simple, easy-to-use graphical interface. Depending on the level of access granted by an administrator, users can see inventory by location, silo, and material type. With one click, they can view details for each silo such as the time of the last measurement, how much headspace remains, its percentage full, or volume.
A SaaS is generally an annual subscription with a modest cost based upon the number of silos and gateways. As the software resides in the cloud, updates to the software take place automatically with no need to upgrade of install anything to a computer.
The User Experience
Each user can customize their views to the data they need displayed and save their views for future use. Instructions for using the software are built into the user interface and are displayed by simply hovering over an information icon. For critical actions in an application, popup warnings help to ensure information is not unintentionally deleted. Also, user access to specific information in the system can be controlled by an administrator to prevent unauthorized or unneeded changes to the system.
Software is optimized for viewing while in the field using responsive designs that adapt to the smartphone or tablet being used to view the data. Silo, location, gateway, and account information are also available on mobile versions and simply presented for quick viewing.
More Accuracy, Less Stress
- Remote monitoring via smartphone, tablet, or PC
- Real-time visibility from the plant, office, or remote locations
- Accurate, reliable level information updates automatically
- Graphical color-coded alerts to low or high levels
- Automated alerts via email or SMS text message
- Wireless sensors and gateways simplify installation
- Scalable for one or many vessels or locations
- Eliminates manual monitoring to save time and enhance safety
- Sort silos by location, material type, or alert status
- Historical reporting optimizes purchasing and logistics
- Administrative controls limit data to authorized users.
Level sensors take care of the measurements.
There are a variety of technologies that take measurements continuously and update quickly to ensure inventory is always current. Material characteristics, silo size, measurement frequency – and of course budget – all factor into sensor selection.
Level sensors measure the level of resins in a silo very accurately with repeatable results of within 0.2”.
Now Trending: NON-CONTACT RADAR
Non-contact radar has quickly gained popularity in powders and solids since the introduction of 80 GHz radar. This powerful frequency cuts through dust, focusing the beam in a narrow 4° angle making it ideal for silos up to 393 feet tall, narrow silos, or silos with obstructions that could interfere with the radar beam. It comes in a variety of models including a metal-jacketed flange and a plastic horn antenna. Many mounting options for angled roofs and beam aiming make it extremely versatile for almost any industry. A 1-1/2” NPT mounted option is ideal for maintenance engineers who want a sensor that is easy to install in an existing opening.
Get to Know Bob: SMARTBOB SENSORS
Also known as weight and cable or yo-yo type sensors, SmartBob simply acts as an automated tape measure. It drops a weight to the surface of the material and instantly retracts upon impact. It measures the amount of cable dispensed on its descent and double-checks the measurement upon retraction. SmartBob takes measurements at scheduled intervals or on demand. This technology makes minimal contact with the material, is immune to dust, and is highly reliable with a long service life.
No Power, No Problem: BATTERY-POWERED LASER
The latest technology is a wireless laser level sensor. As it doesn’t require wiring, it is easier and less expensive to install. With a three-year replaceable battery, it is also maintenance free. This sensor has a built-in transceiver that is easily connected to an internet gateway, so it’s simple to setup and connect to a software service. This sensor is best suited for low- or no-dust environments and silos no more than 98 feet tall.
Ride the Wave: GUIDED WAVE RADAR
Guided wave radar provides highly accurate, continuous level measurement utilizing time domain reflectometry (TDR) to measure the distance, level, and volume of material stored in silos. Use it in silos up to 100 feet tall constructed of fiberglass, cement, or steel and in materials with a dielectric as low as 1.3. It performs reliably and is immune to dust, humidity, temperature, pressure, and bulk density changes as well as noise that might be present when filling or emptying the vessel.
Solutions for Every Industry Monitoring Silo Inventory
Automated monitoring systems using sensors and software can be used across a wide variety of industries. Sensors measuring powders and bulk solids, as well as those monitoring liquids, can be integrated into a single system. Here are some examples of live, real-use cases of remote monitoring.
- Measuring calcium carbonate used as a filler in the polymers industry.
- Monitoring levels of feed additives across remote rural locations.
- Concrete plants monitoring inventory of fly ash, sand, cement, or slag.
- Maintaining adequate levels of fertilizers at chemical companies or farm cooperatives.
- Detecting when wood chips and shaving bins are full and need to be emptied.
- Keeping track of inventory of valuable organic seed.
- Taking stock of nutrients and additives at animal feed processing plants.
- Measuring grain bin levels across multiple locations and consolidating results.
- Ensuring resin silos have adequate supply for processing needs.
- Measuring fat levels in rendering tanks to prevent overfilling.
- Recording use of liquid feed additives for broiler chickens.
- Auto manufacturers using plastic resins to mold car parts.
- Valuing the inventory of different types of wheat at a storage facility.
- Fuel and fuel additive monitoring at numerous plant locations.
“THE RIGHT DATA AT THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME”
Every business is a little bit different, but they all share the challenge of properly managing inventory. No matter what system you select, you can use this checklist to help make your system complete.
- Inventory tracking. The system must account for incoming deliveries and ongoing use of material.
- Security. Administrative controls, the ability to limit data access, and protection against lost data.
- Scalability. A system that can easily expand across silos or locations and adapt as business needs change.
- Reporting. Ensure an efficient and seamless workflow using historical, trend, and predictive reports.
- Automation. Reduce manual work and put all inventory data into a single system accessible to the users who need it.
- Consistency. Apply the same best practices and ensure users are working from the same information.
To learn more about Inventory Management Systems for your silos, visit our website. Better yet, call our team for a personalized demo.