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Kasa Automation Delivers Excellence in Efficiency for Rail Terminal in Kansas’ Biggest Wheat Producing County

Automated high speed grain elevator in Milan, Kansas can complete a shuttle train loadout in 5 1/2 to 6 hours compared to the traditional 16 to 20 hours.

The grain industry continues to grow in the U.S., requiring more storage and facilities. As farming practices have improved, yields are greater. That means those in the industry are busy building new facilities with the most up-to-date technology. This is especially true in wheat producing country, centered in Kansas. 

In Milan, Kansas, a rail loading terminal was opened in May of 2017. Producer Ag LLC, a joint venture between CHS and Team Marketing Alliance (TMA), created the facility, which has upright slip form concrete storage and a 4.5-million-bushel flat storage building. The terminal accepts canola, wheat, corn, soybeans, and milo, and is under the operation of Mid-Kansas Cooperative (MKC). This project was completed in 12 months, and during that time, MKC sought out many partners to ensure both facility efficiency and effectiveness.

One major element to these goals was finding a reliable automation system. They tapped our team at Kasa Controls & Automation to deliver this segment of the project. 

What the Milan Facility Does

The new facility receives some grain from nearby farmers, but most of the grain that makes it to their facility is from other elevators across south-central Kansas. The grain is stored here until it is loaded on a train and sent to the U.S. milling market or to port elevators to be exported to other countries.

There are many facilities like this all over the country; however, the Milan facility is unique in that it can load a train much more quickly than most with a 100,000 bushel loadout bulk weigher. Typically, a load train takes 16 to 20 hours. At the Milan facility, the same load can be accomplished in 5 ½ to 6 hours resulting in tremendous cost savings.

An Automated Conveyor System Moves the Grain Faster

To achieve these faster times and reduce manpower, an automated conveyor system was key. With fewer manual functions, the risk of injury is also reduced considerably.

Automation systems are vital in operating a modern grain elevator facility. With our system, all the motors and equipment in the facility can be controlled autonomously to convey and condition grain in the storage facility.

Heath Roker, Kasa Project Manager and Sales Engineer said, “The Milan facility is large and high-speed. The process of receiving and shipping grain requires a lot of equipment. With our automation system, speed is maintained and accuracy is improved, reducing errors while maximizing output.” 

We worked with MKC, TMA, CHS, Inc., and Producer Ag on previous projects, including a large grain terminal and two smaller facilities over the past six years. When it was time to develop this new project, they relied on our innovation to create a streamlined custom system.

How We Developed Our Automation System

Newer grain facilities are being designed for automated operations to keep in pace with modern technology. Older facilities, where some form of automation did exist, delivered some benefits but lacked integration. We wanted to get to the root of what would alleviate some of the day-to-day concerns of operators. This allowed us to fine-tune and optimize our automation system so that it would provide the most value. We developed conveyor and equipment automation panels, programming templates, as well as the standards for conveyor equipment operation in grain handling structures. With a design based on feedback and interviews of many grain facility managers, operators and IT personnel, our graphic interface features a plethora of capabilities, ensuring user-friendly functionality.

How the Automation Works 

As a leader in automation specific to grain handling for years, we’ve partnered with MKC (Mid Kansas Coop) to provide automation systems and hardware for several of their large grain terminals. This kind of specific expertise has provided us with the ability to create specialized solutions for the grain industry. Our advanced grain handling software with automation and data collection delivers the features and capabilities facilities need, all integrated into one easy-to-operate system.

Heath said, “The technology in a grain handling facility can be complex, and there are lots of different systems at work; integrating them together makes everything more user-friendly.”

Why They Chose Us

Because of our long history with the project stakeholders, they knew they could count on us to meet the quality and specifications they had in mind. Integral to their selection for the project, the main benefits that the customers found with our product include:

  • Prevention of mixing or comingling of commodities
  • Maximization of throughput of trucks through the pits and rail loadout operations
  • Automation of source to destination routing
  • Commodity checking and verification
  • Simplicity in operation, entailing less manpower

Our ability to overcome many of the challenges these facilities face outweighed the capabilities of our competitors. First, many in the industry don’t offer service and support after the install. Our service and support are unmatched in the industry, and we always deliver on time. If anything happens, we’re here for our customers 24/7 with support services.

Second, most other comparable products don’t have the ability to commodity check, preventing operators from mixing or comingling grain. Putting grain in the wrong storage bin can be a costly mistake.

Third, most other automation systems don’t have the automated source to destination logic, allowing grain to be routed through the facility automatically from the source to the final destination, i.e., from a truck receiving pit into a bin, or from a bin to rail loadout. A facility that depends on workers to do this process manually will eventually experience human error, causing a bottleneck that could lead to downtime and clean up.

Fourth, there is the data component, which others don’t offer. With our system, we track everything for the customer and log it into a database. A snapshot is stored every 60 seconds. Should an issue occur, users can track both the automation system and operator functions retroactively to find root causes. Further, all hazard monitoring sensors, amperages on motors, and bin inventory are logged. This data allows operators to understand operations better and make adjustments when necessary to improve efficiency.

Finally, we offer detailed alarms with priorities and tools to filter and review historical alarms and alarm statistical metrics—a capability competitors don’t provide. And high priority alarms trigger alerts so that problems can be addressed immediately.

We Deliver Automation

We are proud to work with grain handling facilities as well as other industries. We have developed automation systems for the aerospace sector and the world’s biggest automotive brands such as GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, and Mercedes-Benz. Our objective is to simplify any industry operation, delivering efficiency and effectiveness to improve bottom lines.

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