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January 6, 2021
Silo Cleaning
Cement silo shows product buildup with a heavier concentration on one area of the silo wall and ratholing. These characteristics lead to asymmetric flow.
Problems of Delayed Cleaning
When it comes to saving costs on your silo cleaning, it doesn't pay to wait. There are few things as expensive as unplanned downtime. When silo cleaning isn't part of your facility schedule, you run the risk of reduced storage capacity, lost stored material, blockages and potential structural damage. All of these issues cut into your bottom line. As product builds up inside your silo year after year, the lost product write-offs add up. This product buildup also means that you have less and less room in your silo to store product. While this damage to your profits is evident over time, potential damage to your silo structure remains hidden.
Cement storage silos are susceptible to both product buildup or compaction and hydration. Cement hydration resulting from leaks or ambient humidity causes the stored product to solidify in the silo. Particularly in the case of stored cement, silos must be watertight. Even a hairline crack can allow water intrusion that can damage stored material and lead to buildup and blockages. The resulting expansion of the material added increased pressure to silo walls. Silos are designed to have equal pressure on both interior walls as materials flow in and out of the silo.
Proper material flow through the silo is critical to the longevity of the structure. Poor material flow can create a range of problems in loading/unloading efficiency and uneven internal loading. The silo internal concentric strength is based on even pressure from the loaded material on the inside of the wall. Poor internal flow can cause material to accumulate on one section of the silo wall interior, known as asymmetric flow. If left unchecked, asymmetric flow can exceed the wall's concentric pressure and create a potential for cracking and eventual collapse. In short, material flow issues don't just hamper productivity; they can also lead to silo damage or failure.
The longer the issue continues, the more difficult it becomes to remove the material buildup and restore proper silo function. As your profits decline from the lost product and lost capacity, the project cost and necessary downtime for cleaning increase.
Simply put, postponing silo cleaning does not save you money. There are, however, a few simple steps that can help you invest wisely in your silo cleaning and save big in return.
Stick to a Schedule
The regular cleaning, inspection and maintenance of your cement storage silos should be built into your existing facility plans. This allows you to pick a time that makes the smallest impact on your production goals. Choosing to plan ahead saves you money. It also keeps your silo at peak performance for both storage capacity, material flow and product quality. Working with the silo cleaning company's schedule can also help reduce mobilization costs.
Planned downtime is far less expensive than unplanned downtime in terms of both production time lost and the costs associated with emergency mobilization of a silo cleaning company. Regularly cleaned silos are typically a faster project — less downtime and fewer days on the job.
Routine vs. Emergency
How often a silo should be cleaned can depend on several factors, including how often your silo is emptied. When silos are kept topped off, they are more likely to experience material buildup, compaction and hydration issues. Regular silo cycling can be used as a preventive maintenance measure to help prevent these common issues. If, however, you notice restricted material flow or decreased capacity in your silos, then it's time to schedule a cleaning before matters get worse. It is generally good practice to plan yearly cleanings, especially as routine cleaning is far cheaper than emergency cleaning.
Routine cleaning is necessary to remove the buildup inside the silo of residue, reducing the volume of new product the filled silo can hold. In all silos, cleaning removes old product residue, which, in turn, helps maintain the quality of newly introduced product. Every silo benefits from a regular cleaning schedule.
Silo Cycling
Bring in a Professional
While it's essential to have your silo regularly cleaned, it's just as important to make sure the job is handled by a professional. Relying on a professional cleaning company for your annual silo cleaning ensures continued benefits that outweigh the initial cost. In addition to preventing costly unplanned downtime, professional silo cleaning helps keep your production schedules on track by keeping silos at full capacity and efficiency.
Using untrained workers to clean silos or remove blockages not only risks the integrity of the silo itself and necessitates costly repairs, it also puts lives in danger. Unskilled laborers often employ dangerous methods to attempt silo cleaning. They may lack the tools necessary to safely clean the silo from the exterior and break confined space entry requirements to attempt removal of material buildup. Any damage to the silo structure, either as a result of the worker or falling material, can cause catastrophic structural failure, endangering the lives of those in and around the silo. Similarly, attempting to dislodge blocked material risks injury or death from falling debris.
Choosing the Right Company
Silo cleaning companies often use mechanical cleaning methods that allow them to remove buildup safely from the outside. For cement storage silos, dry-method mechanical cleaning is recommended as it prevents additional hydration and allows recovered product to remain useable.
To remove stubborn material buildup, professional silo cleaning companies often use a remote, dry cleaning system. This specialized equipment does not require confined space entry or compromise safety. When choosing a silo cleaning company, it's important to look for a company that can move more material per hour to reduce downtime and days on the job and lower your silo cleaning costs.
Types of Mechanical Silo Cleaning
  1. Enhanced Pneumatic — The Boss
    1. The most powerful system available in the US is a unique clean-out head known as The Boss. This system removes more material buildup in the least amount of time, making it an efficient and cost-effective cleaning system. The Boss is the fasted cleaning system on the market. When compared to pneumatic or compressed air systems, it uses 65% more power. In combination with the advanced cleaning head, the Boss can quickly and effectively remove a variety of material buildup. This reduces downtime and shortens time on-site to provide substantial cost savings, especially when compared to whip systems.
  2. Pneumatic
    1. Less expensive to run than hydraulic systems. Pneumatic machines use compressed air with specialized heads to remove material buildup inside the silo.
    2. Whip 85-100 PSI
      1. The slowest cleaning method available, particularly in the case of hardened buildup often seen on cement storage silos. Whip machines are not as effective at removing buildup.
  3. Hydraulic
    1. Hydraulic whip systems are powered by liquid, typically oil, rather than air. Like pneumatic whip systems, they are not as effective at removing buildup. Leaks in the system can cause additional problems, such as hydration.
Bundle Your Silo Services
Combining the cleaning service with your regular inspection using a full-service company is another way to reduce travel costs and possible downtime. Choosing a full-service company helps you bundle your routine silo maintenance into one trip.
  • Most efficiently planned downtime
  • Repairs at the same time as your cleaning and inspection
  • Inspection of a thoroughly cleaned silo help prevent hidden issues
By choosing to invest in proper silo care through routine cleaning, efficient and professional silo cleaning services and combining necessary silo services when possible, you save money and earn peace of mind.
While it's easy to look at regular silo cleaning as an expense, the truth is that it is an investment. Silo cleaning saves you money. Short-term savings from silo cleaning can be seen in the recovery of impacted material that can then be sold for profit and the restoration of the silo's full storage capacity. These savings alone can help off-set or recover the cost of silo cleaning. Yet a regularly cleaned silo also continues to provide long-term savings by increasing the silo's useable lifespan, reducing the risk of unplanned downtime – especially during peak season – and minimizing the chances of silo damage or failure, which necessitate costly, emergency repair.
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