Effective Silo Volume Measurement Can Create Cost Savings and Improved Inventory Control

Traditional methods of inventory measurement of bulk solids inside silos and warehouses include either single-point level measurement technologies such as capacitance switches and mechanical rotary paddles, which are used as alarms switches, or continuous level measurement such as ultrasonic, radar, laser, plumb bobs (manual or electronic), and ropes. These technologies yield estimates of the levels of stored bulk solids but provide unreliable measures of volume, especially in large silos and warehouses.

Due to the limitations of basing estimates on sampling a single point on the material surface, these technologies have inherent accuracy error that can be on the order of 20% or more, and which may translate into higher investments in safety stock, excess ordering costs, and non-optimal usage of storage capacity. Nuclear technology has been used for real-time inventory measurement, but has rarely been adopted because of major on-site complications related to licensing, safety, material deterioration, and other factors.

These limitations are overcome by acoustic volume mapping instrumentation, which utilizes 3D scanning technology to provide precise silo volume measurement. The CONTOURTM acoustic volume mapping device from Magnetrol, accurately detects random surface irregularities and material build-up on silo walls, enabling the visualization of true consumption over time.

More importantly, the accurate volumetrics generated by acoustic volume mapping allow inventory managers to realize cost savings from two sources: the reduction of stock levels, which can decrease inventory carrying costs; and the removal of labor-intensive inventory management processes.

Reducing Stock Levels

Many companies deploy inventory policies that maintain a minimum stock over a set period of time. These minimum inventory levels cushion against demand spikes and supply disruptions. If real inventory drops below the minimum without being measured as such, the chance of stock-out is higher than the supply chain was designed for.

To avoid this situation, the minimum inventory level is inflated by the maximum possible positive measurement error, guaranteeing that any stock-outs are not due to measurement error. This scenario of overcompensating with higher levels of safety stock clearly illustrates the disadvantages of imprecise level instrumentation technologies applied to the task.

Therefore, better awareness of inflows, outflows, and current stock levels would allow companies to reduce required safety stock, while protecting them against supply chain changes and loss of inventory while providing greater accuracy in reporting bulk material assets. With its ability to significantly improve the accuracy of volume measurement in a wide range of inventory environments, acoustic volume mapping technology can decrease carrying costs of safety stock.

Furthermore, by reducing average inventory levels, utilization of existing storage space can be further optimized, allowing for additional capacity to increase production.

Reducing Labor Costs

Implementing acoustic volume mapping eliminates the need for manual volume measurement, which is the case in a variety of bulk solids and powders inventory scenarios where traditional process level instrumentation is used currently. For example, if one manual volume measurement is taken every day in each of two silos, it would take two man-hours per day, or 730 man-hours per year. Assuming a cost of €15 per hour for a technician to perform this function, the annual labor cost would equal €10,950. Acoustic volume mapping’s ability to provide automated real-time measurement removes this cost entirely.

Additional Benefits
A number of qualitative benefits arise from moving to the precise volumetrics of acoustic volume mapping, resulting in a holistic inventory management solution. Among them are more accurate accounting, better awareness of yields, and alerts to unexpected inventory changes (as experienced from theft or damaging events).

For more information about Magnetrol’s new CONTOURTM acoustic volume mapping technology, visit contour.magnetrol.com.

About Magnetrol

Magnetrol International, is a global leader in level and flow measurement instrumentation. The company manufactures innovative level and flow instrumentation for a wide range of process market applications. Magnetrol pioneered liquid level instrumentation for industrial applications in 1932 and continues to provide advanced measurement and control solutions across a wide product and technology portfolio. Magnetrol’s strategic global network includes manufacturing facilities on four continents, linked by a distribution, sales and support system with 125 locations worldwide. For information, visit www.magnetrol.com

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