Micro Ingredient Systems: What considerations should I keep in mind when designing my Micro System?
So, you are considering a new micro ingredient system. Each system is unique to the specific business and not always within “standard” sizes. We have listed below a few guidelines and good predictors you can use to formulate what your micro ingredient system could look like.
“We would love a micro system, but there is no way we can fit it into our facility”. This is a common hurdle to get over, as part of the micro system design process, with existing facilities. And because the answer is not always easy, we are able to draw out your exact facility and how the micro system would fit into place. This ensures everything will fit. A micro system can come in many different configurations, bin sizes, and heights. Do you want to walk right on it, walk underneath it, or even drive a forklift under it?
While custom solutions can be created, the easiest way to change how much room the unit takes up is how many small and large bins you will have. One
micro “slot” can hold two small individual bins or one large bin. You can customize whatever slot configuration you may need for how many bins you want.
Another factor in your ideal micro configuration is how many sides you will have bins on.
Is your area long and narrow, then maybe a system with just one side (pictured) would be the best fit? Or you can have it wide but short. (pictured)
Physical space for the micro system in an existing mill is not always easy to overcome. At Easy Automation, we are happy to come onsite to ensure a design that both fits and works.
Budget is always a top consideration when deciding on a new micro ingredient system. The ROI can be realized through both labor savings, savings from having the ability to buy ingredients separately, or the ability to custom formulate for each batch so you don’t overuse expensive ingredients in some formulas, and underuse in others. With this, we see a micro system often paying for itself in 1-3 years depending on the operation.
Different types of micro systems also help to fit the budget depending on usage. A micro constructed using poly bins and a weigh hopper helps to decrease the cost, while still having stainless steel at the different wear points. A complete stainless-steel system, on the other hand, does cost more but has a longer lifespan and is built for more heavy use.
Many of our customers have had wonderful success with funding assistance through government grant programs or other low-interest loan options. The best place to start your search for this opportunity, is to contact your local USDA office or county extension office. They may have their own resources and can point you in the right direction. While the grant writing process is time consuming, the return can be worth a lot for your business. And when considering cap ex budgets, it’s important to factor in how much money that asset will be able to make for your company.
How many ingredients are you putting in via hand add?
The amount of ingredients an operation is putting in via hand add, will start the discussion on how many bins are needed. While it doesn’t always make sense to put every ingredient in a micro bin, it does depend on how often it is used. Is the ingredient used in every batch, 50% of batches, once per day? With mills making feed for one species, it is usually easy to identify how many hand-adds there are, and at least get 95% of them in micro bins. However, for commercial mills that are making feed for many different species and customers requesting many different types of micro bins, the 80-20 rule comes into play. If you can’t fit or afford the number of bins necessary for all the formulas and batches, identify those that are used 80% of the time, and see how much labor that will save you.
How many species am I serving?
Depending on the variation in the species that you are planning to serve, this will be a factor in your bin decision. With each species you add, it typically adds more bins because each species will need different micro ingredients. A typical swine integrator micro ingredient system will need about 16-24 bins. Poultry specific operations normally have about 8-18 bins. Multi species sites can have anywhere from 32 to 50, to 80+ bins for their systems. When there is a facility that is making premix, it’s a decision of how much you can afford and how big of a space you have.
Is staffing a limiting factor in your area?
In most of our customer locations, labor is not easy to come by. When you add using expensive and regulated ingredients is even more difficult to find qualified trustworthy team members. The more bins you have, the less ingredients you are still going to have to add by hand. Micro bins do still need to be filled but not as often. Every ingredient you don't have a bin for is added by hand.
What are the inclusion rates for your ingredients?
It’s a great practice to list out all of your ingredients along with their average inclusion rates. Typically, if an ingredient comes in bag form and the inclusion rate is under 50 lbs. (depending on density), a micro bin is going to be a great option. For the ingredients that are more than that (100lbs.+) you might want to look into a tote system. This system will make sure your weigh up time is fast and accurate and will limit the handling of smaller bags.
Storage Capacity/Daily Usage
Depending on the bulk density of the product, our 4.6 cu ft (smaller) bins hold 175-300 lbs.
of product, where our 9.2 cu ft (larger) bins hold 350-600 lbs. of product. As described above, space will often times be the deciding factor as to how many large and small bins you can have. You should also look at how much daily usages you have. Do you want to have enough to last several hours, all day, several days? If you see yourself using more than 400 lbs. of product per day, it might make more sense to have the micro bin be refilled via a bulk bag unloader. (Pictured), or a separate bulk bag system all together.
Are you using ingredients that require strict record keeping practices?
Drugs or expensive ingredients require precision and iron-clad record keeping practices.
You can incorporate a true
loss-in-weight bin (pictured) , use inventory scales, or “weigh backs” (Pictured) to get real-time inventory of your ingredients. Pair the Loss-in-weight bin with EAI’s controls for perfect record keeping, especially if the situation comes up that you need to show exactly what was put into each batch, when, and where it went.
How Many Scales Do I Need?
How many scales your feed mill needs, is a topic that is it’s own conversation. However, as it relates to a micro system - you want to make sure that it does not end up being the bottleneck of your facility so the rest of your mill is waiting on the scale. To eliminate that bottleneck, you don’t want to have more than ten micro ingredients within the same formula, to be required for an individual batch per scale.
This could mean you have 24 or even 40 ingredient bins on an individual scale, but
you would only want eight to ten of those being used per formula. If your formulas commonly call for more than ten micro ingredients per batch, you may want to spread the bins over two scales so that they can be weighing up simultaneously, therefore increasing mill capacity.
Our sales team has been working with micro ingredient systems for years and the best advice is to lean on them for their expertise. They can help guide you along the process to get the right system for your facility. Contact us today to discuss your unique needs, space restrictions, and budget requirements so we can design a system that is just right for you.
Are you a millwright with a customer
looking for a micro system? Let’s partner together to combine your experience with the facility and working with the customer, and our experience with micro ingredient systems to create a solution that meets or exceeds your customers’ expectations!