WHICH SILO DO I CHOOSE?

Grain storage is an aspect every miller, farmer, grain trader and organisation responsible for strategic food reserves has to consider at some stage.   It could be short term whilst waiting for drying and/or delivery, long term in order to sell at the best market price, storage for own use such as in milling operations, or to ensure a constant availability at national level.   

Whatever the reason, choices are limited. Short term storage can take place in bags, in sheds and in buildings, but the most economical long term storage method will always be steel silos. The capital cost is significantly lower than that of on-floor systems requiring buildings, and offers greater security of the grain, and control of the storage environment.  

Silo suppliers do not just offer a holding system, but offer a complete care system for your grain involving ventilation, temperature control, monitoring, and a range of other possibilities to ensure that your grain is kept at the standard you require. 

When it comes to selecting a grain silo, or silos, the decision of which to purchase becomes a little more complicated. There are many silo suppliers out there and it is a fiercely competitive business. Sales people tend to be particularly skilled in highlighting aspects of their silos that appear to make them a better choice than the competitor.   

What are the things that you, as the buyer, should look out for:

PRICE

Of course this is the first thing any buyer looks at.  It is always price, the most important thing to anyone parting with money. But beware. There are many different ways to make a price look better than the competitor’s.   

Look closely at all the detailed content of what is being offered compared to other offers. That way you will establish if you are actually being offered the same thing. Accepting the cheaper offer without being sure of what you are actually getting can lead to costly heartache further down the line.  

What follows highlights some of the ways buyers can be misled when asking for the price of a silo.

CAPACITY

The capacity of a silo will be calculated based on the specific bulk density of the product to be stored. Not only will the bulk density vary according to which crop is stored, but also different suppliers will quote different bulk densities for the same crop.  

This can mean that two suppliers offering silos with exactly the same volumetric capacity could be claiming different tonnages stored, and obviously the attraction is to choose the silo which appears to store the most grain, when in fact they store exactly the same.    

The matter is made even worse when you consider that many manufacturers will take into account a “compaction factor”. Since a large silo will actually compact the grain at the bottom of the silo, many silo suppliers will take into account a compaction factor of around 6% when stating their content capacities of their various sizes of silo. Other suppliers may not, so preferably compare volumetric capacity when comparing quotes.

SILO SHAPE

Silo prices will vary for any specific volume of grain stored according to whether that volume is being held in a tall narrow silo or a low wide silo.   Within limits, a tall  narrow silo will usually be more expensive than a low wide silo, therefore it is easy for a silo supplier to undercut a competitors price by simply selecting a slightly greater diameter silo and shaving “a few insignificant tons” off the actual tonnage stored as well.   

Of course the delighted buyer sees that his most important factor, the price, has come down a bit and immediately warms to the second offer. Nothing wrong in this, but he should remember that the civil cost of the foundation will go up, and it might be wise to go back to his first offer and establish how the total cost, civils and silo, compare.

SILO DESIGN

Convincing arguments are often offered by silo sales people referring to specific aspects of their design as compared to a competitor.  

One sales person might say “the wall sheets on our silo are x mm thick, whilst those offered by supplier XYZ are only y mm thick.” Supplier XYZ is probably going around saying “the stiffeners on our silo are xxx mm thick, whilst your other supplier’s are only yy mm”, or maybe his silo has 5 wind rings whilst the competitors only has 3 wind rings.  

All such arguments may sound very significant when presented by a skilled sales person, but can be totally invalid when comparing silo quality.  

The aspects to compare are the stated design specifications. What are the design standards to which the silos conform? What wind speed is the silo built to withstand? What snow loads is the roof capable of withstanding? What quality specification of steel is used? What galvanizing specification is used? 

Be sure to do comparisons on valid factors and not aspects of detail that may be compensated for in other factors of the overall design of a particular silo. If a silo is designed to perform to certain criteria, then, whether it has three wind rings or five, for example, it will perform to those criteria.

ANCILLARY EQUIPMENT

Assess the ancillary equipment being offered. Remember to look carefully at the indicated airflows of the ventilation equipment (if supplied).     

In an effort to keep the price attractive some suppliers will offer very small ventilation fans for the silo. 

It is important to check the cubic metres of air per ton of grain in comparing quotes, not just the price of the fan. Remember that a tall narrow silo will require a higher kilowatt fan for the same ventilation rate as a low wide silo.

This is due to the extra back pressure of the greater depth of grain, through which the air must pass at a faster rate.   

If temperature monitoring is offered, compare the number of cables per silo and the number of sensors per cable. If a supplier is reducing the number of cables to reduce the price, you may not be getting efficient monitoring.

Also compare the monitor itself.   Is it hand held, software package to work with the buyers PC, or a complete package with monitor and printer?  Is it ATEX rated, since it will be working inside a silo in hazardous dust conditions?

These are just a few things to consider when purchasing a grain silo.  There are many grain silo suppliers out there and many more are entering the market from many different countries with widely varying prices and quality standards.   

The contents of a storage silo are more valuable than the silo. The higher price of a silo from a reputable supplier, once amortised over the life of the silo, is tiny when compared to the potential losses of product through poor storage methods.

There is nothing more expensive than cheap equipment that does not do the job.

The same applies to all the other equipment that may go into a storage project.

Chief Industries has over 60 years experience in grain handling systems, incorporating state-of-the-art design and manufacturing.

With factories in the USA, UK and France, silos are manufactured to both US and European norms, and our factory in France is CE certified.

Flat-floored silos are offered with capacities ranging from 30 to 30 000 tons, hopper bins from 2.5 to 1 400 tons.

Grain dryers with capacities from 9 to 300 tons per hour are manufactured at both our UK and USA facilities.

Complete project design is offered.

Chief products are tested, trusted and fully supported.

Chief Industries will be exhibiting widely during 2017.