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Improving supply chain efficiency with bulk material handling

In a recent study by Gartner, supply chain organisations identified their primary focus areas as driving commercial growth through the supply chain, and enhancing real-time supply chain execution. It’s clear that efficient supply chain management is crucial for businesses, to meet customer demands and maintain a competitive edge. But, what is less widely known is the importance of bulk material handling in achieving these aims. Here, Stephen Harding, managing director of Gough Engineering, explores the importance of bulk material handling and how it can help manufacturers address various obstacles in their supply chains.

Bulk material handling refers to the process of moving and managing large quantities of materials such as powders, grains, liquids or solids — but it extends beyond basic transfer operations. It plays a vital role in maintaining the quality and value of products throughout the supply chain.

For instance, bulk material handling systems are vital for the sugar industry. They facilitate efficient transfer and management of sugar products, ensuring a smooth material flow, meeting customer demands promptly, increasing productivity, improving supply chain performance and maintaining product quality.

However, to achieve these gains, bulk handling relies on the use of specialised equipment and systems that can efficiently transfer, store, and distribute these materials within various stages of the supply chain.

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Big bag dischargers 

The first step in efficient bulk material handling is the use of specialised equipment such as big bag dischargers. These machines enable the seamless movement of materials by transferring products from within a contained or suspended bulk bag, restoring them to their original refined or processed state for use in the customer's product production. The bags can be discharged using hoists, hooks, motor drives, pendants, or forklifts, depending on the specific requirements of the manufacturing process.

When dealing with bulk materials handling, an important variable that arises at the outset is determining the geometry and capacity characteristics of the physical bag to be used, as well as analysing the product and its behaviour within the bag.


Now, let’s look at how bulk material handling systems are vital to quality assurance. Gough Engineering’s material handling systems integrate value-adding processes, such as product screening and in-line metal detection.

A differentiation with some of Gough Engineering’s competitors who may focus solely on material transfer, Gough can incorporate screens and metal detectors enhancing the overall quality control process. By assessing the delivered contents of big bags for oversized or undersized materials, manufacturers can ensure the consistency and integrity of their products as a feedstock to their processes.

This is particularly crucial in sugar manufacturing, where screening and metal detection are essential, before transferring sugar to other stages of production in order to guarantee finished product quality for sale to the end user/customer.


Efficient product transfer rates

A UK-based sugar beet supply company, processing approximately eight million tonnes of sugar products annually, sought a turnkey solution for its logistics and operations functions to meet the increasing demand for refined white granular sugar. Gough Engineering, known for its expertise in big bag discharger systems, vibratory screening technology and fast product transfer solutions, was approached for a comprehensive solution that would incorporate the necessary integrated quality control measures.

To ensure efficient product transfer rates, the system needed to handle a throughput of 15 tonnes/hour with controlled product flow. Variable bag sizes were to be handled using forklifts and secured in a big bag discharger frame, allowing bags to be untied or re-tied as required. Quality control measures included the removal of oversize or agglomerate particles and the elimination of ferrous metals from the product. Additionally, an elevating system was required to transfer the product into road tankers while adhering to safety standards and environmental considerations.

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The result was that Gough Engineering successfully designed a comprehensive system to meet the client's objectives. The solution included a twin big bag discharger unit, operator access features, agitator paddles for optimal product flow, an untie chamber, pneumatic valves for flow control, Gough Vibraflo® GVF6 vibratory screens for particle separation and Floveyor F4 aero-mechanical solution for elevation, and an automatic detection and separation unit for ferrous metal removal.

The modular design allowed for the reliable and safe flow of 30 tonnes per hour, per tanker — a great improvement for the customer. The system also included complex electrical controls measuring and monitoring the system, as well as pneumatic process management.


Real-time supply chain execution

Effectively designed and built material handling systems provide manufacturers with the confidence to meet customer audits and industry standards. Furthermore, bulk material handling enables the efficient transfer of products from one stage of the production activity supply chain to another, ensuring the integrity and quality of the materials.

Experts offering bulk material handling systems are critical for customers within the manufacturing of supply chain management. By employing specialised equipment suitably engineered to provide required delivery performance, such as big bag dischargers, and integrating quality control measures like screening and metal detection, manufacturers can streamline their operations, ensure product integrity and meet customer requirements.

As the importance of bulk material handling continues to grow, businesses must invest in these solutions as part of their integrated supply chain. In addition, to paraphrase Gartner’s report, these technologies can help manufacturers drive commercial growth through key supplier partnership within their supply chain to enhance their overall real-time supply chain execution.

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