Monitoring and managing silo stocks: what are the challenges we face today?
In an agricultural enterprise as well as in the industry and the service sector, the issue of logistics and stock management is a central concern. Is the stock situation sufficient? How can storage costs be reduced? Why monitor your silos with a sensor? When should grain deliveries be made? These are all questions that farmers and cooperatives may ask themselves, and for which they do not always have the appropriate solutions.
The first step to successfully solving problems related to grain storage management is to understand them. The lack of precision in the information collected is often at the root of the various problems encountered. But other elements are also a source of difficulty or inconvenience for farmers, such as the time spent assessing the level of stock or security issues.
Grain stock level measurement can be too approximate
In order to optimize deliveries and to always have sufficient stock, without exceeding the capacity of the silos, it is essential to know the exact quantity of grain stored. However, this measurement of the available stock is often inaccurate, either because it is done visually or because the level sensors installed inside the silo are subject to humidity, water infiltration, temperature variation and the presence of dust, which skew the data.
It is true that modern inventory control solutions, such as sensors and other connected objects, have gradually improved measurement accuracy. But the most accurate of them are not always the easiest to implement in the field or the least expensive. When it comes to installing a system under the feet of a grain silo, this must be studied before installation or extensive work must be done before it is installed on an existing silo. Precisely measuring a stock level is therefore possible, but not within everyone’s reach!
Data accessible at intervals that are too far apart
Farmers who are not equipped with the latest connected technologies face another problem: they do not have real-time stock level data. Without a sensor, they have to go to the silage sites to check the stock of products remaining inside the silos.
However, precise knowledge of the stock at a given moment makes it possible to avoid stock shortages and emergency deliveries. Conversely, it is also the guarantee to avoid the return of trucks in case of full silos.
This is essential to anticipate and at the same time reduce costs by optimizing the loading of trucks or by giving priority to deliveries during the week according to needs.
These actions can also be automated using a function built into the connected solutions to replenish silos before the amount of grain reaches a critical level.
On the other hand, when data is only available once a week, for example, or when you forget to take an accurate inventory, inventory management can quickly become complicated and require emergency measures, which are stressful, time-consuming and costly compared to upstream management.
Stock control can be a waste of time when it’s not automated
Without the right tools, the time spent monitoring the silage stock can also put a strain on the farmers’ work. Having to move around in the field, especially when the grain is stored in different locations, means that many hours are lost over the course of a year, when they could have been spent on tilling the land, caring for the animals, managing the business financially, etc.
Similarly, performing sometimes complex weighing and calculations and spending time managing orders that could be automated are administrative tasks that many would like to do without. However, it is impossible not to know the level of grain stocks when you have livestock to feed throughout the year!
Here again, the answer to the problem lies in the use of connected products, which are capable of providing useful information remotely. They thus improve productivity by allowing you to concentrate on your core business, rather than on ancillary activities.
Climbing on the silo to measure the remaining level can be dangerous
Safety is another critical issue when determining the amount of grain in storage structures, whether underground or above ground. Indeed, the traditional method of climbing onto the silo to carry out a visual study of the stock level on the surface of the silo is not without risk and can prove fatal.
The major type of danger is the fall in height inside the silo during the sampling and measurement of the remaining grain quantity. Falling into a silo can also lead to burial due to run-off or agglomeration of the grain. Moving parts in silage tanks also cause serious injury.
Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that the risk of explosion is very real in silos, especially because of dust and deposits on the walls which can quickly ignite in the presence of a spark or under the effect of a rise in temperature.
The identification of risks, the training of agents and farmers and the implementation of adequate measures greatly limit accidents. Nevertheless, the best way to avoid them is to keep away from these giant structures, by benefiting from a complete study on the stock level, density and state of conservation of cereals thanks to data transmitted by connected devices.