A team approach

by Teresa Acklin
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Engineers, manufacturers combine experience, energy to provide improved rice storage in Thailand.

   When Chia Meng Rice Mills, one of Thailand's top rice handlers and exporters, needed to construct additional storage and add handling equipment for its central Thai plant in Korat, the company called Walt Botkins of Walter Botkins and Associates, Rancho Murietta, California, U.S., to put together the U.S.$3 million project.

   Chia Meng's needs included 50,000 tonnes additional storage, larger dryers and more than 1 kilometer of belt conveyors, drags and elevators, all in a system that would be gentle on rice kernels. As the country's largest exporter of quality rice, Chia Meng needed to assure the integrity of its fragrant rice and its reputation.

   Mr. Botkins' decades of experience in the international grain market led him to hand-pick a team of manufacturers that could meet the low cost, high quality needs of the family-owned Chia Meng Rice Mills. The manufacturing team included ABC Industries (formerly Agricultural Building Company), Mendota, Illinois, U.S.; Behlen Manufacturing Co., Columbus, Nebraska, U.S.; and Brownie Manufacturing Co., Waverly, Nebraska, U.S.

   The project expands Chia Meng's intake capacity to 1,000 to 1,500 tonnes of rice per day. Equipment includes 18 bins, each with a diameter of 22 meters, complemented by eight 7-meter hopper bins for steeping the rice during the drying process.

   Because the fragrant rice is extremely fragile, the design of the conveyor and material handling systems needed to limit vertical drops that produce breakage. Mr. Botkins and ABC developed the handling system, using low maintenance, low operating-cost conveyors.

   Reducing the steep inclines in the handling system design also allows Chia Meng to use lower horsepower motors, saving on equipment and energy costs. Mr. Botkins turned to ABC because the company offers an integrated, single source for conveyor and material handling equiment and design.

   Traditionally, Thai rice is sun dried and manually moved. The new structure, scheduled for completion this spring, uses Behlen bins and mechanical aeration systems, which enable better control of in-bin drying quality. Mr. Botkins selected Brownie to provide structural support because of the company's strong reputation in that field.

   Chia Meng is progressive, Mr. Botkins said. Even though Thai regulations do not require air quality controls, the company's owners specifically planned dust control systems into the facility, a project handled by Tech-Air, Overland Park, Kansas, U.S. The company also plans to install an on-site generator that will handle all of the plant's power needs.

   “They'll burn rice hulls, creating steam that will be turned into electricity,” Mr. Botkins explained. “Eventually, we'll use the exhaust from the generator in the drying process.”