Integration of Bulk Material Filling System to Legacy Process Improves Operator Efficiency and Batch Accuracy Despite Facility Structural and Layout Limitations
Plant layout challenges, including: limited integration accessibility to legacy, downstream equipment, structural restrictions in ceiling height, and tight doorway dimensions were factors well suited for this bulk material processing project to be managed by NBE engineer-to-application (ETA) project execution.
The project owner, aware of the unconventional nature of the application, immediately recognized the particularly relevant advantages that NBE ETA project delivery would bring to this project. The proactive, on-site application analysis, done by NBE as part of the ETA requirements framework, identified operator ergonomic factors as well as material dust release issues as important design considerations along with the plant layout and structural restrictions. Throughout the design engineering phase, feasibility tests were run to prove-out the functional performance of project-specific design innovations. Material supply to the NBE bulk container filling sequence, previously a labor-intensive, manual operation, is now provided from an NBE integrated, low-profile bulk bag discharger. Although the process material will generate dust during open handling, the material flow path from the bulk bag discharger to the container filler remains completely enclosed. The displaced air generated during processing is filtered through an application-specific dust collection system that collects the material fines for reintroduction to the process flow. Because the process material tends to slightly clump during storage, the bulk bag discharge supply hopper uses mechanical material agitator plows to maintain consistent material supply to the solid-core, clean-in-place transfer conveyor. To enable the transfer of the discharged material to downstream, legacy process equipment, a semi-automatic drum cart was designed and developed by NBE. The drum cart is mechanically docked to the container filling and weigh station. Once docked, the drum deck on the cart automatically raises to establish tare weight and begin the filling sequence. When each drum is filled to its target weight the drum deck automatically rotates to position the next drum for filling. When all four drums are filled, the dock automatically releases the drum cart to the operator for manual transfer of the filled drums of material to downstream equipment.
As part of the NBE ETA requirements framework, a full-scale factory acceptance test (FAT), with full-functioning controls and automation, was run to confirm operating sequences and target run rate. Subsequent to the successful FAT, project installation was implemented using modular construction methods to accommodate the restricted plant access conditions at the customer site. Following start-up and commissioning, the NBE bulk container filling project immediately began to contribute significant process advantages. The bulk bag discharging sequence greatly optimized operator interaction and eliminated material dust release into the work area. The NBE integrated automation of the container filling and weighing sequence improved container fill accuracy; reducing material waste and increasing batch accuracy.