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Storing, handling and transporting everything from vital powders to pellets to granules can be a simple and efficient science as long as manufacturers ensure that the right precautions are in place at all times


IN MANY WAYS, BIG BAGS ARE THE EMBLEMS OF THE POWDER AND GRANULE INDUSTRY. OUTSIDERS MAY NOT appreciate the chemicals, compounds and processes involved in bulk powder handling – but they’re certainly familiar with the sight of the containers lining warehouse floors of being offloaded from cranes. When they arrived, their use in the transportation of materials represented one of the biggest changes in the solids processing field. The particulate solids manufacturing industry tended to ship products by truck or rail with the solids in drums or pallets of bags. Such modes of delivery have become a proven solution for large quantities but aren’t always suitable for many chemicals that are rated hazardous because of the risk that potential releases pose. They also required large storage facilities with the associated increase in inventory costs for expensive chemicals. Bags and drums mitigated this cost to an extent but this was offset by disposal costs and the additional containment systems for feeding the chemical to the process.


Big Bags – or bulk bags as they are also known – were a


revelation even though the early ones were not easy and presented environmental challenges for some chemicals, long before improved designs and sophisticated unloading systems saw them pose such a challenge to traditional pallet bags. These days they are part of the mainstream but the journey has not been without issues as factory owners


were forced to overcome the safety risks associated with containers weighing 500-1000 kg, installing safety cages, resolving contamination issues linked to reuse, finding compatible unloading methods, the sensitivity of the material to the likes of attrition, agglomeration, vibration and mechanical deformation. One of the most common problems with unloading is dusting. Apart from the mess, the time spent on cleaning up ingredients that pose a health or explosion risk, every particle that ends up on the floor reduces yield and increases cost. Many calculations have been done on the basis that many unloaders are in use for eight hours a day, five days a week and even small amounts of waste can add up to quite significant losses if spiulls go unchecked.


THE IMPORTANCE OF TRAINING As for the bags themselves, design is key. Some ingredients can sift through the fabric, particularly when the bag is being handled or discharged. Coating the inner-liners can often solve this problem. Another point worth making is correct operator training, particularly when it comes to use of the unloading equipment in a way that does not follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Gericke USA’s BBU big bag unloader, for example, allows powder processors dealing in everything from food to pharmaceuticals to safely


BIGGER ISSUES


BIG BAGS


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