MKC Loads First Shuttle at Canton Grain Terminal
In late December, MKC (Mid Kansas Coop) loaded the first shuttle at their Canton Grain Terminal.
Engineers from Kasa Controls & Automation were on-site to witness the successful transfer of grain from bins to 109 hopper cars that arrived early in the morning to be loaded. Typically, 110 cars are loaded at a time to deliver to facilities in the Gulf Coast, Pacific Northwest and elsewhere. The Canton Grain Terminal includes a loop track that has room for up to 120 hopper cars.
From Bins to Train
The day began with a 15-minute safety meeting at 6 a.m. that included seven MKC employees and three employees from the Kansas Grain Inspection Service (KGIS). The plans for the day were reviewed and the group dispersed to complete the first task.
The task: bottom hoppers of all 109 cars in the shuttle had to be sealed to guarantee the quality of the product and avoid losses while enroute to the final destination. In this instance, numbered zip tie style seals were used to secure each hopper from tampering. Each car in the shuttle had three hoppers to be tied off. This process was completed in just under an hour by two MKC employees.
The train was then moved into position for loading. Loading of the first car began at 8:15 a.m. and completed at 8:19 a.m. The car contained roughly 4,000 bushels of grain. Four minutes from bins to a hopper car. It took roughly 35-40 seconds to move the next car into position. Shortly after 4:00 p.m., all 109 cars were completely loaded.
What’s Really Going On
Although it sounds pretty simple, there are multiple tasks being completed behind the scenes to ensure the end customer receives exactly what they are expecting from MKC.
Once it is determined what the customer wants, the facility confirms the commodity is in stock. The commodity then has to be blended out of the facility to the exact specifications of the customer. For this first shuttle load out, there were seventeen different bins of sorghum to choose from to meet the customer’s needs. The grain was blended and conveyed at over 60,000 bushels per hour into the rail cars. Even a small misjudgment in the blending process could have created a big mess in a short amount of time. Level 4 Automation prevents this from happening. One minute at the wrong blend amounts to over 1,000 bushels of grain (think of slightly more than a full semi-truckload) that would not meet the customer’s specification.
During this first shuttle load out, one employee operator was dedicated to controlling the blend of the grain as it was pulled from the bins and blended into the shipping leg. He was able to move throughout the facility, the main office, the truck unload control area/KGIS grading room and the rail load out control room throughout the shuttle loading.
There were four additional Canton terminal employees with specific jobs.
The train driver had the complicated task of moving the train cars into position under the load out spout to receive the blended grain. The driver also had the critically important job of listening closely to commands from the load out controller and the rest of the crew. The biggest time issues related to his task came from managing the knuckle-slack. Every time the train is moved, the hopper car connectors (knuckles) tighten when the train moves forward and loosen when it stops. As the cars are filled, the weight of the load is changing continuously which increases the difficulty of properly positioning the hopper cars. This part of the process needs the most adjustment. Kasa engineers believe that the terminal operators will be able to get this part of the process smoother and achieve a 3 minute 30 second load out per car very soon.
The load out controller (who also runs the scale), operated the console that controls the conveyor and load out spout. This is where the grain is transferred from the shipping leg to a covered conveyor and into the car through the load out spout.
There are also employees who are referred to as train runners. Their task was to open and close the lids on the cars as they were being filled and completed. Once each car was filled, the lid was closed and sealed. The next car was then moved into position under the loading spout.
Once the team finished loading, the train was parked until the railroad picked it up and delivered the hopper cars to their final destination.
Controls & Automation
Kasa Controls & Automation engineers provided Level 4 Automation for the new grain handling facility located in Canton, KS. The terminal is now considered to be a “state of the art” terminal. Level 4 Automation provides advanced features such as remote access, hazard monitoring, historical data-tracking for alarms, power monitors, bin temperature cable monitoring and advanced aeration for control. Kasa Controls and Automation provided the design and engineering with startup for this project. (Video and more information about the MKC Canton project.)
Hazard monitoring is viewable at one location, with real-time trending. This means that if bearings are repeatedly overheating, they may eventually fail. With real-time and historical trending, preventive maintenance can be performed instead of reactive maintenance.
The conveyance system is not permitted to run when the dust collection system is off. The dust collection system mitigates the potential for an explosion.
Equipment status issues such as amp readings or gate positions can now be viewed inside the terminal, instead of going out in the field. This not only provides a safety factor due to weather conditions, but an efficiency factor as well.
As the employees become familiar with the new capabilities, it is expected that the efficiency at this terminal will increase. Equipment status can now be viewed on screen at one location and the following are expected to drive efficiency measurements:
- Distributor position
- Bin temperature cables
- Utilization (amp readings on leg for flow adjustment)
- Bearing, rub and speed sensors
- Hi-level sensors (for bins)
- Magnahelic gauge (tells you when dust socks need to be replaced)
- Radar level sensors (% of bin levels for inventory)
- Equipment running at capacity – (bucket fill)
- 4 to 5 employees can run the facility
- 24/7 remote support provided by Kasa Controls & Automation
The new terminal has loaded out one train a week since January. The MKC terminal was using two legs at 80% usage and one leg at 50%, with the fourth leg not being utilized at all. They have a considerable way to go before maxing out the newly installed system but they are working to increase the usage. During the second shuttle load out in January, they managed 4 minutes per car. They brought the 80% usage of the two legs up to 90%, with the third leg remaining at 50%, again not using the fourth leg. Currently, the last four trains have been loaded in under 7.5 hours.
The Canton terminal’s goal is to make small changes on future load outs, measure the effects, then either adopt the changes or try other changes to focus on the overall goals which include:
- Ensuring employee safety
- Improving employee efficiency
- Improving shuttle load time
- Providing additional profitability to their customer owners
Kasa Controls & Automation will continue to support MKC as they strive to achieve those goals.
The MKC Canton Rail Terminal was featured in a recent issue of Grain Journal. Read the full article here.