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The challenges that today’s feed producers face

New digital services helping feed customers reduce waste, optimize production, improve profits, and cut energy consumption.

Patrick Guster
Product Manager
Bühler AG

Feed producers work to tight margins. Even minor percentage gains in the production process may have a significant impact on profitability. Maintaining process parameters at an optimum level is a challenge for any operator, especially in view of the vast variety of feed formulas processed today. The aim of every operator is to maximize the nutritional value of the pellets produced while minimizing raw materials and ingredients usage so as to achieve the highest possible feed conversion rate. Feeds lacking the correct nutrients content reduce animal growth and performance. Erring on the side of caution in order to avoid this may prompt feed producers to use expensive ingredients that increase operating costs. The optimum lies somewhere between these extremes.

Ideally, an expert would be standing by the machine all the time, checking and continuously adjusting the moisture, protein and fat levels. But this is not realistic. Tougher market conditions have forced many factories to downsize their operating staff, with less time left to monitor and fine-tune processes. With too little information and too much time between adjustments, creating the perfect pellet profitably has become a true challenge!

Digitalization and automation support feed producers
Traditionally, feed producers control and monitor their processes manually. Though moisture sensors and automation have improved processes, new advanced cloud and connectivity technologies are now available to help them reach the next level. Continuous real-time data support the operator in making critical decisions. These new digital solutions enable process parameters to be optimized on the basis of intelligent data, real-time monitoring, and continuous feedback. Cloud-based platforms leverage the power of the latest digitalization technologies to fine-tune highly automated production processes, linking up the operator to a company’s total wealth of process know-how.

Internet of Things (IoT) increases profitability and sustainability
As the continuous stream of product passes through the feed mill, KPIs such as moisture, protein, fat or temperatures are analyzed using an IoT- and cloud-based data storage architecture. These data are then relayed to the machine control software for automatic process alignment. Algorithms immediately and continuously optimize the moisture content, eliminating the potential time gaps typically associated with manual sampling, testing, and machine control. Full automation boosts the sampling frequency, ensuring that the product adheres more closely to the target parameter settings. IoT technology enables customers to remotely access critical production data virtually in real time. It also allows users to diagnose and solve system malfunctions remotely, thereby slashing wasteful downtime.

Examples from the marketplace
One such fully digitalized and automated solution is the Multi NIR Inline system offered by the Bühler Group. It takes readings of the moisture, fat and protein contents and controls the moisture throughout the value-adding production chain. On the other hand, the Bühler Insight platform is a cloud-based digital platform backed by the Microsoft Azure cloud computing service enabling production equipment to be connected to the internet. The machine readings are transmitted to the cloud for analysis. Depending on the specific digital service required, the production process may be optimized in real time and the complete analysis displayed.

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