The RailSpreader is an innovative piece of railcar loading equipment designed by the bulk flow experts at Pneumat Systems. Dry bulk shippers across agricultural, mining, and other industries have utilized the RailSpreader to safely load more dried distiller’s grains (DDGs), protein meals, salts, and other bulk commodities into their hopper cars while reducing transportation expenses, staffing costs, and risk exposure. By adding the RailSpreader system to their loadout process, facilities avoid the void and have saved millions of dollars in transportation costs as a result.
Using the RailSpreader railcar loading system allows facilities to load more product into their railcars by reducing the voids that are created as a result of the loaded material’s angle of repose. Instead of falling directly into the center of the car and creating a cone, the RailSpreader’s rotating slinger disk flings the material outward, filling the railcar from the outside in.
It adapts to various loadout configurations, leveraging your existing chutes, conveyors, and drops without manual shoveling and re-topping of cars. The system is controlled by an operator from a safe location and can also help remediate dust issues when linked with a dust collection system.
How It Works
The RailSpreader fits neatly into Pneumat Systems’ suite of dry bulk commodity flow optimization systems. While visiting many different types of bulk handling facilities to help install silo cleaning equipment or conduct industry-leading silo cleanout services, Pneumat Systems recognized a common set of challenges faced during the railcar loadout process. In an effort to make life easier at these facilities, a team of engineers and experts set out to develop a comprehensive solution to these problems.
The RailSpreader system includes a robust hydraulic power unit to drive its lift system and slinger disk. Explosion-proof motors and electrical components come standard. RailSpreader functions can be programmed into existing PLC controllers for full automation. The system can be operated from a stationary control panel or with a convenient wireless remote control – allowing workers to position themselves for maximum visibility and safety at a control room, platform, or catwalk out of harm’s way.
Different loadout facilities have different layouts and equipment configurations. Determining the best approach for optimized railcar loading requires careful analysis of a variety of factors, such as:
- Positioning of the railcar and spout
- Gate and conveyor activation
- Starting, filling, and stopping flow rates
- And more
Typically, each railcar compartment can be filled with only two movements of the spreader. The benefits of the RailSpreader system are especially pronounced at the ends of the railcar, where large voids can form with traditional loading methods.
In the most common loadout scenario, the RailSpreader operator will position the spreader disk at one end of the comb and then lower the hood assembly until it is resting on the railcar, with the bottom of the spreader disk extending inside of the hopper. The operator then activates the spreader and fills the car until the material has reached the top of the opening. At this point, the compartment will be nearly full.
The operator then raises the hood assembly and repositions the spreader disk to a new location at the unfilled end of the railcar, lowers the hood onto the railcar, and resumes filling until the compartment has been filled to capacity. Depending on the railcar being filled, the middle compartments are often small enough to fully load from a single fill location.
The RailSpreader has been designed to help maximize the loaded fill weights of railcars while reducing manual labor and protecting worker safety. A RailSpreader installation is especially beneficial to facilities loading products with a low bulk density and a high angle of repose. These are the conditions under which it can be extremely difficult for facilities to achieve target fill weights. In the United States, underfilled cars cost dry bulk rail shippers thousands of dollars every day as they pay rail carriers to transport empty space.
Facilities shipping a high volume of railcars typically see a rapid return on their investment when automating their loadout operations with the RailSpreader. Pneumat Systems provides a railcar freight transport savings calculator that can help give you an idea of how significant your transportation savings could be.
The RailSpreader has been shown to be highly effective on many different kinds of dry bulk commodities, including:
- Soybean meal
- Canola meal
- Corn gluten meal
- Minerals and metals
- Pelletized products
DDGs are a problematic material to handle and transport, especially when it comes to railcar and truck hopper unloading, but thanks to the RailSpreader, many ethanol plants and other facilities loading and unloading DDGs into railcars find that making weight is no longer a concern.
Note that the spreader disk is engineered with sloping fins to redirect the material flow as gently as possible. Even breakable grains like barley intended for malting have been sent through the RailSpreader with virtually no breakage or damage. The system’s hydraulic manifold also allows operators to make adjustments to the rotational speed of the slinger disk to optimize performance and reduce breakage, spillage, or dust generation.
Exploring Seven Ways Your Company Can Benefit
Reducing transportation costs and improving worker morale and safety are among the top reasons facilities consider adding a RailSpreader system to their dry bulk loadout operations. The transformative value of this equipment has been proven at dozens of ethanol plants, oilseed crushers and processors, plastic manufacturers, and mining operations across North America. The benefits of the system include:
1. Easy Installation
The RailSpreader is a flexible solution, designed to adapt and integrate with your existing loadout equipment and control systems. The RailSpreader has been integrated into:
- Single-conveyor systems
- Multiple drops
- Flexible or retractable spouting
- Lowering conveyors
- Retractable drag and screw conveyors
- Rail loadout system with truck loadout pass-through
- Unique custom loadout configurations
2. Improved Air Quality
Depending on the product being loaded, air quality in a loadout facility can become a significant health, safety, and visibility concern for workers. The RailSpreader incorporates a hood assembly that remains lowered onto the railcar during the fill operation, helping to contain dust and improve air quality throughout the facility.
The RailSpreader also includes dust control access points, allowing it to be integrated with dust collection systems of all types. These features have allowed facilities to dramatically reduce or eliminate dust issues and protect the health of their employees.
3. Less Mess
Loadout facilities can be messy and unpleasant areas to work in. Many facilities find that automating their loadout operations with the RailSpreader helps reduce the amount of dust that escapes the system as well as reducing product spillage. Cleaner loadout means less time spent shutting down for cleaning tasks or dealing with environmental compliance concerns.
4. Increased Safety
The RailSpreader eliminates the need for workers to perform labor-intensive leveling tasks in awkward, hazardous positions like manually spreading material around inside the railcar using scoop shovels and other tools or methods. A few of the risk exposures that can be greatly reduced or eliminated by implementing an automated high-density hopper-filling system like the RailSpreader include, but are not limited to:
- Back and musculoskeletal injuries
- Working at heights or near moving equipment
- Engulfment hazards
- Slips, trips, and falls
5. Boosted Morale & Retention
Recent staffing challenges have highlighted the importance of providing a work environment where employees feel comfortable and safe. By eliminating laborious, difficult, and unsafe job duties, the RailSpreader has helped many facilities improve working conditions and boost employee morale and retention. In doing so, massive benefits and cost savings have been recognized thus further eliminating staffing, training, and productivity losses associated with high turnover rates.
6. Maximum Longevity
Pneumat Systems designs and manufactures all of their bulk material handling equipment with long-term reliability in mind. There are RailSpreader systems that have been in continuous operation for over a decade, making them a solid investment for the facilities where they are installed.
Consideration surrounding making a capital expenditure on this kind of industrial-grade railcar loading system requires keynote individuals like production and plant managers, purchasers, and engineers to seek out a partner who stands behind their equipment and promptly caters to the customer when needing:
- Replacement parts
7. Cost Savings
For facilities that don’t load very many railcars or are dealing with products with a high bulk density and low angle of repose, the RailSpreader may not be the best way to achieve lower transportation costs. However, for high-volume rail shippers dealing with void-prone materials, there can be substantial cost savings that more than justify the price of the system. Typical loaded fill-weight increases using the RailSpreader range from 2%–5% or more. If you can put 5% more product into a railcar, it’s like every 20th car ships for free.
RailSpreader owners also realize savings in the form of higher throughput, productivity, and accident prevention. Experienced industry professionals understand the devastating financial impact workplace accidents can have on a company in the form of workers compensation claims, fines, legal action, higher insurance rates, and a hurt reputation, and they are always seeking to engineer hazards out of their operations through safer equipment and processes.
Are You Ready to Take Advantage of the RailSpreader?
If you work at an ethanol plant, elevator, transloading terminal, soybean processor, or other facility moving high volumes of product and struggling to fill railcars to capacity, the RailSpreader may be a valuable addition to your operation. Contact Pneumat Systems to speak with a railcar loading expert and get all of the information you need to determine whether the RailSpreader might help you meet your safety and production goals.