Details Matter: A Bulk Material Engineer’s Perspective

April 10, 2014

We all want our plant or process to work as intended, yet project planning and execution are not always conducive to the end goal.  If you’re reading this, you know that the flow properties of a bulk material dictate the geometry and hence the flow pattern within a silo. This geometry and flow pattern in turn dictates the material-induced loads on the shell and internals (if required).  Let’s assume the flow properties have been measured and the silo functionally engineered so we know basic size, hopper angles, and feeder details.  We also know the loads.  So far, so good.  Now what?  Someone needs to take this information and detail it.  Sounds simple, but all too often this is an area where the project starts to deviate from the end goal.  The structural engineer can’t detail a weld for the defined geometry, so he changes the geometry (we just did this yesterday…).  A problem?  Maybe, maybe not.  If it doesn’t affect flowability, then no harm.  But if it does, then the flow pattern and loads will likely change, which should result in a change in the details.  If the project is run by the same engineering group, this change is more likely to be made.  If the project is handed from one company to another between functional and detail engineering (and by extension from detail engineering to fabrication), my experience has shown it’s more than likely to be missed.  Once operating, problems in the field could be very minor, or catastrophic equipment failure could result.  You’d better hope your project is not the latter!

A cynic could say the above is just to maximize work for Jenike & Johanson, such that we are involved in your project from testing through functional engineering through detailed engineering and equipment supply.  I would argue that the best solution for any client always results the larger the contracted project scope to one group.  Ultimately the fewer groups on a project, the better likelihood of project success, so even if you don’t contract our services I hope this article resonates with you and that you pay extra attention to all details on your next project.  The success of your project, and the safety of all workers, depends on it.



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