10 November 2020 - With feed producers having limited resources, manufacturers are doing everything they can to maximise revenue, advancement in technology, and the digitalization of feed mills. This means there are new opportunities to increase feed efficiency to a greater level than ever before.
Kemin Industries is adopting some of these developments as part of their millSMART programme which aims to optimise feed mill efficiency. We sat down with Kemin experts, Raf Snoekx, Business Development Manager Product Application and Tom Verleyen, Global Platform Director for LiquiSMART and Nutrition, to better understand developments in this area and what Kemin is doing in this field. We first wanted to learn why with all the pressures faced by feed mills, feed processing efficiency is important now more than ever.
“Feed production is all about ensuring that feed is produced in a profitable, safe and sustainable way,” Tom Verleyen explained. “We know feed manufacturing is an expensive operation and to maintain profitability during feed production, it is important to ensure that all aspects of the manufacturing process are optimised. Feed mills have continuous improvement programmes in place, but also need to provide consistent quality and productivity as output criteria, which can be a challenging combination. Every feed mill has additional ways to increase profitability in their feed production by focusing on their feed processing operation.”
“Two recent industry developments have meant feed efficiency improvements are vital. Firstly, pushing volumes through a feed mill is traditionally an important driver to reduce the fixed costs. As the volume drivers have been under pressure over last months, the impact on the bottom-line has been impacted. Most feed mills have tremendous opportunities to increase efficiency and save costs here and through securing an efficient production process, a competitive advantage can be generated. The second driver is linked to advances in technology which allow digital tools to capture additional value and optimise processes.”
With these factors impacting feed mills around the world, Kemin created their millSMART programme which is a total solution to allow their customers to run feed mill processes more efficiently.
“Through our programme offering, we bring a total concept and solution to the mill,” Tom Verleyen told us.
“This consists of a milling aid based on a unique set of surfactants, in combination with a complete service offering including product application solutions, laboratory services and technical support. The product application service is a cornerstone which includes customised equipment, services and training for our customers to ensure the liquid products are optimally utilised to reach desired effectiveness. We have experts designing and manufacturing tailored application systems, supported by a team of local service engineers to be within a close proximity of our customers and to oversee installation, on-site training and maintenance.”
“The concept of millSMART starts in the mixer where we prepare the mash feed for the next processing steps. There is a substantial potential here to improve ‘preconditioning’ practices which results in higher performance. While hot mash conditioning (steam conditioning) is normally understood and used, the role of cold mash conditioning (preconditioning) is often non-existent or ignored. The consequence is that feed is traditionally pelleted at sub-optimal moisture levels. Through a preconditioning step in the mixer, KPIs are significantly improved.”
“The advantage of proper preconditioning practices is a complete and efficient steam transfer which results in better pelleting conditions and impacts productivity as well as improving starch gelatinisation, pellet quality, and feed safety. The moisture content of the mash feed, together with the feed particle size affects the time needed for steam to reach the centre of the feed particle and proper preconditioning in the mixer will reduce this.”
A key focus of the millSMART programme is optimising and standardising feed processing conditions by impacting moisture levels. We wanted to understand why this was so important and what can be done to tackle this and Raf Snoekx was happy to explain.
“Feed mill operators are underestimating the variation in moisture in their processing, both within and between batches and this impacts the performance of the mill. An important variable is the moisture level, as moisture levels in raw materials vary between batches and during the year. This means there is a huge variation in the moisture level of the mash feed in the mixer, which leads to variation in the remainder of the feed processing parameters including the moisture in the final pellets. By reducing the variation both within and between batches in the mixer, the operators can run their operations to their full potential related to the improvements seen in their productivity, quality and safety, impacting both the profitability and sustainability.”
“By installing a fast reading sensor in the mixer, the moisture level can be monitored in real-time during the dry mixing. This sensor is linked to our application system, which immediately adjusts the amount of the preconditioning surfactant solution to be sprayed in the mixer. Through this real-time monitoring technology linked to software and hardware, we can manage process variability in feed mills and in turn improve efficiency.”
Utilising technology has been a key factor for Kemin in developing their offering in this area. They have invested in new methods and products to ensure they can maximise feed processing efficiencies.
“We recently developed an automatic sampler to take representative feed samples out of the mixer,” Raf Snoekx said. “The moisture sensor requires calibration and validation through the official wet chemistry analysis. The automatic sampler allows us to take multiple samples from the mixer in a safe and convenient way to ease the calibration establishment. Customers not only use the automatic sampler for the calibration, but also to measure the coefficient of variation of their mixer. Our objective is to implement the millSMART programme without disturbing the daily feed mill activities and focus. This creates a seamless experience for our customers while taking advantage of the process optimisation.”
On the digital side, there have been new advances in technology to improve efficiency as Raf Snoekx explained.
“Over the last year, we have focused on building the digital journey for our application services. In several regions, we are gradually rolling out KEMINCONNECT™, a new cloud-based solution to connect our application systems. We have several modules being tested currently and the initial feedback from our customers is extremely positive. Initial modules include advanced digital dashboards, modules on predictive maintenance and bulk tank inventory monitoring. An additional advancement is the module where the millSMART programme is further linked into feed processing. Through this digital connection, datapoints are continuously mapped and can be easily visualised and trend lined for analysis and reporting.”
“Through the connectivity of our systems, we provide remote troubleshooting to customers. This is specifically advantageous in times when access to the mills is restricted. The digital connection allows us to progress with the commissioning of new systems during events like COVID-19, as through the remote connectivity our software engineers could start up the system from their home office. We see great opportunities for this digital journey to add value to the feed mills.”
With developments already under way and the offering of millSMART being continuously improved, Kemin will continue to utilise new digital tools to further expand feed processing efficiency.
Tom Verleyen said, “We know that in feed processing, there are many variables interacting with each other and that they are constantly changing. The consequence is variability in the process and variability in the end results. The critical takeaway is that the possibilities for improvements in feed manufacturing are endless and we are just at the start of this journey. Changes and advances made in feed processing technology and conditioning techniques will significantly impact feed mill profitability and standardised product output in the future. Therefore, a key component of any improvement programme is to ‘identify and quantify’ the distinct variables and make appropriate changes to eliminate variation. Through additional sensor technology and connecting this data in an IoT platform we believe such a solution will be achieved.”
“In today’s world, all improvements which can be made to optimise the bottom-line in feed production through introducing interventions for process improvements, are welcomed by feed manufacturers. These improvements can have a direct effect (e.g. reducing energy consumption in the feed mill and production output) as well as an indirect effect (e.g. improved pellet quality, durability and safety). The millSMART programme continues to develop through incremental innovation additions and efforts in the production process. Our vision for the feed mill of the future is to sustainably transform feed processing with our products and services, contributing to a happier, more healthier and prosperous world.”
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Published in association with Kemin