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3 Considerations for Interfacing Effective Storage with Bulk Bag Unloaders

Gus Carrington

Gus Carrington About The Author

Sep 9, 2020

From hoppers to day bins, there are many ways to implement storage into a material handling process. At AZO, we believe that key considerations for interfacing these storage types into a process will make a bulk bag unloading process more effective. For instance, the right storage capacity implemented directly below a bulk bag unloader will ultimately give manufacturers flexibility in their operations.

There are limitations (such as facility footprint and headroom), but we’ve compiled a few concepts to keep in mind so as to make the most of the storage utilized with your bulk bag unloader:

How to minimize changeover time when continuously unloading

If you're unloading bulk bags at a near-continuous rate, then you want something to feed a process. If that process demands product at a nearly continuous rate, there's going to be some switchover time in between getting a bag off the unloader and another bag in place. 

There are a couple of ways to minimize this changeover time: 

  • Implementing multiple bulk bag unloaders feeding the same system (this ensures that you always have product in the line).
  • Creating a “wide spot” in the pipe at the very beginning of the process. 

While the latter has the potential to “starve” the system, if the bag is preloaded with enough material, by the time it’s storage capacity is exhausted, another bag could be put in its place. Essentially, an operator would be unloading a bag into the storage vessel at a rate greater than the bag itself is being used in this scenario.

This gives the operator enough time to replace bulk bags without “starving” the system of material that is required. If there is no storage capacity below the bag or along the process, then the margin of error becomes more narrow. 

If an operator minimizes the amount of storage capacity they have, then they essentially will have no room for air. Inevitably this will interrupt a process.

What ergonomic considerations with storage keep operators safe

Another item that should be considered when relating storage and bulk bag unloaders are the ramifications of certain ergonomic actions. For instance, implementing a large hopper below an unloader will raise up the interface. The clamping device’s relativity to the floor will change, and so it could be necessary to build a platform with steps to allow for easy dismantling. It’s always critical to ensure that operators can do their jobs with their arms below their shoulders (not so low that they’re continuously bending down, but in a “sweet spot” to ensure ergonomic success).

Though the act of implementing automation like a bulk bag unloader will reduce worker pains overall, physical problems can arise over time for those that handle the bulk bags if ergonomics are not considered upon system setup. Specific regulations from industry to industry also must be considered as part of design considerations on the front-end. For example, two items that tend to vary are:

  • How high a platform can be built
  • After how many steps will a handrail be necessary 

How storage can affect overall budget

When keeping industry-specific ergonomic requirements in mind, it is helpful to take into consideration how a project’s budget will also be affected. It can be greatly beneficial and even noble to include multiple storage bins or silos and to build various platforms and handrails. Still, when left unchecked, these additions can eat away at budgeting costs. 

Even small details add up in the material handling world, just as any consumer’s trip to the grocery store might after a combination of smaller purchases. We have seen firsthand how some projects have made it back to the drawing board because a company decided to double their amount of capacity for convenience’s sake, only to then realize how these decisions add up in cost overall. 

This is why at AZO we weigh the pros and cons of various conclusions in the material handling process. It’s our engineers’ duty to work out the fine details of a system’s requirements to bring an end-result that meets our customers’ needs. AZO has seven decades of experience in handling raw materials and shaping ingredient automation along the way. Feel free to contact our sales team for any questions on how to help your plant and processes run smoothly. We also offer a thorough Bulk Bag Unloader buying guide available for free on the AZO Inc. bulk bag unloading site. 

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