Top Challenges With Silo Levels

by Haleigh Rozier | Apr 26, 2018

A wide variety of industries depend on vessels such as bins and silos to store bulk inventory. No matter the material or the industry, it is almost always necessary to either continuously or periodically measure the amount that each vessel holds. The amount of inventory may change throughout the day or week depending on how often the bins are filled and/or emptied. Before deciding on a weighing system, it is important to first understand the top challenges in silo levels.

The first obstacle is deciding why you are measuring to begin with. Typically, there are two avenues to decide between at this point. Are you in the business of processing and/or batching? Or are you in the business of inventory control? Either way, you need a weighing system that can help regulate and automate inventory management. This is very important to decipher early on because it greatly impacts whether you are a good fit for point level measurement or continuous level measurement. If you already have a weighing system but it is not providing accurate results, it could be the wrong type for your application. It is also important to decide if you want to measure when the silo is almost empty (low level) or almost full (high level). Level instruments can lose measurement while the silo is being filled or emptied due to varied angles, funnel flow, and material property

Another challenge that many face in silo levels is the environment. No one can control it, but the environment constantly effects how material behaves and how it is discharged from the bin. There are two aspects of the environment to consider: exterior and interior. The temperature and moisture in the environment outside of the silo can cause the material inside to swell and the level to rise. When the temperature or humidity changes and condensation builds up, the measurement tool can give a false alarm. Similarly, dust build up on the interior can give the measurement tool a false sense of the silo level.

The properties of the material itself such as bulk density, hydroscopic characteristics, reactiveness, and particle size can be a challenge when accurate and reliable level measurement is required. Depending on the density level, signal can be absorbed. Variation in bulk density affects how material will pack into the bin. Products with less density may leave empty space between particles while material that is denser will pack tighter. When a material has tendency to absorb moisture, such as sugar, the flow and measurement of the material is greatly impacted. Material that has a reactive property to temperature, chemicals, or pressure will present a challenge to the silo level. Finally, the size of the particle, big or small presents challenges in silo levels. Fine powders could encounter the radar or hinder sensor techniques. However, larger particles may not contact the surface of the probe enough and large aggregate particles with sharp edges can damage some sensor probes.

Several factors that make silo levels a challenging to get accurate are the application itself, whether the right tool is being used, the environment outside and inside of the silo, and properties of the material being measured. It is very important to understand exactly what you are working with to obtain the measurements that will be most beneficial to your business.

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