by Roger Gilbert, Publisher, Milling & Grain


Industry and World Food Programme install emergency grain storage facility for Africa

In 2010, the company was invited by the FAO to discuss a World Food Programme for storage facilities in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and which was put out for tender in 2014. Mulmix successfully tendered for the project and was awarded five years after its first discussion in Rome.

The company installed four 24-metre (m) diameter-35m tall silos, with two independent bucket elevators and a double line of Redler chain conveyors, with double loading at 250 tonnes per hour and four bagging lines for delivery to trucks. This is the first cereal storage plant implemented by the United Nations and the first in Djibouti where, until now, all cereals had been imported in bags.

The storage plant, which operates 24 hours a day and 365 days per year, acts as a collection and sorting centre for all cereals arriving at the port. Perishable products are temperature controlled. Cereal leaves the facility in 50kg bags and is transported by trucks to countries facing economic difficulties and famine.

In addition to the four silos, there are four reception pits, four automated bagging lines with a capacity of 800 bags per hour. There is a logistics centre to co-ordinate shipments and reception of materials and an on-site training facility.

The facility has up-to-date and independent mechanical, electrical and software systems and is set up to minimise energy consumption requiring only an 850kW installation to operate the entire facility.

This facility, supplied as a turnkey solution by Mulmix, means ships arriving can be unloaded quickly. The facility was inaugurated in September 2017 and is fully functional today.

'We are very proud of this project and hope we can work again with WFP in the future,' says Mr Nardo.

Founded in 1962 the World Food Programme is the UN's leading agency in the fight against hunger. Hunger is the main emergency following a crisis and the WFP is reaching some 80 million people. The WFP has 30 ships, 50 aircraft and 5000 trucks in continuous service and all stocked with food to respond to emergencies. A prompt response is essential. Today the WFP and the UN own the first seed and cereal storage plant based in Africa for delivering humanitarian aid.

Trading conditions for one of Italy's leading storage and feed equipment companies is changing, with a shift from traditional sales areas of Eastern Europe and North Africa, to the Middle East, Central Africa and South America, in the past four years.

'Our brand of storage is a strong area, especially in industrial plants for feed and oil extraction and in grain-handling at ports, with the scope of adding support equipment such as conveyors, elevators and electrical panels,' says Engineer Andrea Nardo, Chief Technical Officer at Mulmix Spa in Italy.

Crushing plants for soy and sunflower is particularly suited for this company's product range and 'this is much appreciated by our customers and supports the customer with an entire construction.'

The company works, not only in the industrial and storage side of grain and cereal processing, but also in feed and seed processing. On the feed side of the business, revamping existing installations, which have restricted handling equipment of between 100-150 tonnes/hour, are being increased, in order to optimise production flows for today's businesses, he adds.

'There are lots of these facilities in countries, like Romania and the Ukraine, that were built in the 1970s-80s, without good capacity to transfer grain.'

Mr Nardo says the move to upgrade production facilities started 10 years ago, with a change in handling conveyors. The company says revamping old concrete silos, for instance, is very common across Europe and in Eastern Europe.

'We are increasing the capacity of plants, but also ports and port installations as well.'

Future markets are already being explored by the company, and they include, in particular, Asia and the Chinese silo and port facility markets.

'This will be a strategic region in the future,' adds Mr Nardo.


A different approach

The company's focus is on providing products suitable for the purpose proposed, its flexibility in meeting a customer's demands and the quality of its equipment.

'It's not just a matter of supplying machines and silos, for instance. It is the support for the customer to allow him to make the correct choices for new flows and better equipment, to support his overall goal.

'Unlike the installations of some 40-50 years ago, today's installations have access to more electronic systems, and can be accessed by smart phones via the cloud, etc. It is important to include these steps as part of the upgrade, and we can provide the quality that Italian equipment is noted for in these areas.

'Our strategy is each time to be the best, to deliver the best and achieve an equilibrium between our products and what the customer wants. This way, we increase our capability with every installation and provide the support needed by the customer.

'It's important to have simple constructions and that require easy maintenance. While our products are tailored to meet the needs of each customer, they are not the same solutions. Every installation is similar, but different in many ways. That's the challenge we face, based on our strategy to increase our knowledge and do the best in the customer and the market.'

Mr Nardo says it is important to give ideas to the customer:

'The first goal is to listen to the customer and understand what they want. That's important. We study with the customer, advise him and supply the solution he is looking for.

'As we are making silos and machines that they rely upon, it is important to give the right ideas to the customer, who appreciates the commitment we are making. This helps us to provide an historical approach, as we have long-standing relationships with our customers, especially in proposing benefits as we go through the planning stages,' he adds.

Mulmix is a supplier of tailored and complete storage systems based on three pillars:

The first pillar is the appointment within the company of an internal 'project manager', who works closely with the company's onsite 'Project Manager.' This has added value to the customer, by having one company responsible for providing the whole project from drawings to supply of materials and machines and at the same time providing any additional consultations.

'This way, Mulmix is able to pass on the benefits from a single-flow diagram that allows for the reduction of costs of civil works for example.

'Our experience and advice on timing and co-ordination can save a significant amount for the customer. We don't do the project management ourselves, but we can give the correct support to the project, by ensuring that everything above ground is co-ordinated within Mulmix and is carried out in a timely manner.'

The second pillar is the access to modern-day technologies. Facilities from the 1970-80s had good technology for that era. However, today's technology sees differences in the importance of energy consumption, electrical switch boards, frequency converters and energy efficiency which were not priorities in earlier periods.

'Today's constructions are very different from the 1970s-80s and we put today's technology into these plants,' says Mr Nardo.

The final pillar of the company is the focus on environment. Cleaning grain, in order to provide quality grains for storage, is totally different today, than in the past. This includes the type of equipment now installed within a silo.

'There is a focus on the prevention of insects and moisture in the stored materials, and we need to be cleaning the product, prior to storage. For example, we now know that insects and moisture are mostly associated with waste materials in the grain and the correct pre-cleaning can avoid problems associated with these aspects.

'Ventilation is simple, but dangerous, if moisture build up is allowed to occur. Refrigeration for larger silos is an important aspect that should not be overlooked.'

'We want plant operators to manage the whole plant and to build up a total historic picture of the product, through the correct placement and use of sensors inside a silo.'

All silos installed by Mulmix have a minimum inclusion of temperature and level indicator sensors.

Ventilation, refrigeration and material cycling, including anti-clogging indicators, discharge speed monitoring and CO2 detectors - for some products - are all essential in today's silos to prevent defects or problems occurring for stored grains.


A new division

Mulmix Chairman, Nicola Lorenzo Finco, has introduced a new manufacturing division at Mulmix. It is the Maxima HD Division that produces machines that 'have a stronger structure and fulfil the high standards demanded in the storage and handling sectors. They can be customised and equipped with different options to meet a 'tailor-made' solution for customers.'

Maxima provides a range of equipment that the company refers to as 'heavy duty', this does not only signify large-capacity equipment, but equipment that has to run 24/7, 365 days a year and where extra metal thickness and/or hardness is required.

Anti-wear and heavy-duty components are essential for the HD range of equipment, produced by Mulmix which is branding it Maxima HD. Equipment includes: bucket elevators, belt conveyors, chain conveyors, and unloading shutters.

A product the company is particularly proud of and was on display at iPack-IMA in Milan, was its single- and double-beam sweep auger for silo discharge. The unit had been specifically designed to avoid blockages and to discharge a silo at twice the rate of normal sweep augers, due to the 'double-beam' construction.

'Once again this offer us the opportunity to provide a customer with a complete and integrated solution not available elsewhere.'


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