safe and efficient operations
Automation of grain processing facilities not only leads to improved efficiency by freeing up staff to focus on tasks other than equipment monitoring, but it is also an important risk management tool. Electronic monitoring of equipment status provides continuous feedback about the process, and enables the automatic shutdown of unsafe conditions. In fact, the fire code mandates that certain pieces of high risk equipment, including bucket elevators and belt conveyors, be provided with instruments to reduce the risk of a fire or explosion.
Many of the recent facilities we've designed have automation systems that include both an HMI (usually a desktop computer), as well as remote monitoring capability. Owners can see the status of their plant from their phones, and even manage some functions remotely. Similarly, equipment vendors are able to troubleshoot problems and provide operational support without ever having to travel to site.
My university thesis involved the automation of our family seed plant, and I worked as an engineering consultant in the automation field following graduation. While the hardware is faster today, and the interfaces are fancier, the principles of good automation remain the same.
As part of the process design, we document both the electrical and automation requirements of the facility, and then typically work with one of several Western Canadian panel integrators who provide the final hardware and software solution for a project.
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