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Tuesday October 12 2021

Silo Servicing – How to Keep your Silo Fully Functioning

As onsite, bulk storage solutions containing vital materials, silos are integral to your business operations.

Silo breakdown, or worse still complete failure, can therefore have severe and costly consequences.

It is for this reason regular servicing is essential. That way, potential issues can be detected and sorted out before they become big problems or expensive, extended shutdowns.

But what does a good service schedule look like and what should it include? In this article, we take a look at how to keep your silo in top working order, to avoid failures and shutdowns.

What is silo servicing?

Silo servicing is a form of preventative maintenance. It is about proactively assessing the condition of every aspect of your silo and fixing any issues arising before they become problems.

Although all silos need to undergo regular inspections and servicing, it is particularly important for those storing powdered products. Residues from animal feed product, flour, sugar, salt, grain, powdered chemicals, and cement soon build up to a point where the mechanical aspects of the silo can cease to work.

Equally, silos used to storage fats and oils can become clogged if not regularly inspected, impairing performance or causing shutdowns, as the mechanical aspects of the silo fail.

This can lead to extremely serious consequences. At the very least having a silo fail is a major inconvenience, but if you’re supplying vital feed for animals or ingredients for a human food manufacturing, or your construction project is already behind schedule, it can be devasting.

Thankfully, with some planning it is easily avoided. Regular inspections underpin silo servicing as they enable bins, hoppers, filters, tanks, and other ancillary equipment to be thoroughly cleaned, as well as worn parts to be replaced before they fail.

Who is responsible for Silo service and maintenance?

The broad answer to this is everyone! Everyone who has anything to do with the silo should report any issues they discover. However, it is not enough to rely entirely on this. A proper silo service and maintenance plan must be put in place to ensure it is kept up and running at all times.

In-house inspections

There are a number of inspections an in-house team can carry out to look for cursory issues such as build up of material residues or mechanical parts not working as they should.

These include:

  • Roof condition

The roof is an integral part of a silo, keeping out potential contaminants like rainwater.

As well as contaminating the silo ingredients, water can also cause corrosion of the metal silo parts such as roof beams, which if not address could eventually cause the roof to collapse. As the roof beams weaken, water can pond on the roof, increasing the pressure and hastening its failure.

When checking the roof, in-house teams should use binoculars to look for cracking and peeling of the rooftop coating, as this is the first sign work is needed to be carried out.

However, in-house teams should only look for obvious roof damage. A fuller inspection of the roof may involve working at height and should therefore be left to professional silo servicing contractors.

  • External surfaces

Silos usually have a hard working life being regularly emptied and then filled by heavy plant machinery. They are constantly in operation. It is no wonder, therefore, they need to be inspected regularly.

Cracks in silo walls and linings, corrosion, buckling, and any other sign of deterioration and damage should be noted. These need to be reported to a professional silo maintenance company as they are major issues that could need immediate action.

  • Mechanical parts

Moving parts such as hoppers and pressure relief valves also need regular checking because failure is likely to put a silo out of commission. With long lead times for certain parts, this could become an extended shutdown.

In-house teams need to check that parts are moving freely without resistance, are not loose, and are not making any unusual noises. Any that are not should be noted and reported to your service and maintenance partner.

In-house inspections should be carried out every three to six months with any issues discovered noted and observed more regularly.

If an issue looks particularly serious, a professional contractor should be contacted immediately and any required worked undertaken at the earliest opportunity.

Professional service and maintenance schedule

Whereas it is essential to carry out regular in-house checks on the condition of your silos, working with a professional silo service and maintenance contractor is also necessary to ensure they remain continually operational.

Professional, annual inspections should take place once a year to take a deeper look at the condition of your silos. An experienced service and maintenance partner will be able to identify the preventative maintenance requirements and resolve any issues before they cause problems.

Silo servicing should include the complete emptying of the silo as this enables the service contractor to assess the condition of entire structure, top to bottom. It also serves an operational function too. Silos that are regularly emptied are less likely to suffer from the build-up of residue that cause blockages.

Checking the airflow system and the condition of the pressure release valves are also essential aspects of an annual silo service, as well as a thorough cleaning of the silo when it is required.

Visual and auditory testing

When assessing the overall condition of the silo structure, an engineer will look closely over the exterior of the silo with a pair of powerful binoculars. This will enable him or her to see any damage, even if it is towards the top of the bin.

Assessing the condition of the interior is often done via an audio process which looks to identify any ‘dead spots’ in the walls, which could be a symptom of delamination.

If exterior or interior damage is identified during this process, steps must be taken to remedy this as soon as possible as weak spots in the bins are a serious problem and could lead to total failure.

Other aspects a professional silo servicing contractor will look at include:

  • Discharge cones

Discharge cone failures are a frustrating and common problem with silos, but one that can easily be avoided with routine inspections.

However, in depth inspections should be left to professional contractors as a number of factors need to be taken into consideration such as cone design, use, material stored, flow rate, and worker safety.

  • Roof issues

Although a cursory roof inspection can be carried out by an in-house team, a more thorough inspection requires a professional contractor as it involves working at height.

Silo service engineers will take a close look at the structural integrity of the roof, roof beams and roof beam bearings. They will also investigate if there is excess load on the roof from puddled water which can lead to the roof failing or worse, the entire silo collapsing.

  • Material flow issues

Reduced material flow can be down to issues such as ratholing in the silo and an asymmetrical flow of material. This can cause increased pressure on one side of the silo and that can lead to buckling, cracking, or even the total failure of the walls. A professional silo servicing partner will be able to identify this and take the necessary steps to correct it.

Minsterport – your Silo service partner

Minsterport has a long track record of silo cleaning, silo health and safety checks, and providing expert advice on how to get the best from your silo.

Our remote silo monitor platform, MySilo, also brings significant efficiencies to a business by enabling silo operators and business managers to be in complete control of their silo levels, making for better forecasting, less deliveries, and less vehicle movements on site.

To find out more about how we can help with all your silo needs get in touch.