Food, food production and food packaging has been and always will be an integral part of our economic and social structure. ‘Animal feeds play a leading role in global food industry; enabling economic production of products of animal origin throughout the world…Commercial feed manufacturing generates estimated annual turnover and sales value equivalent to US$ 85 Billion[i].’  In South Africa, the national gross turnover is US$ 2.8 Billion per annum[ii]. The most efficient way to ensure that feed mills run efficiently and maximise the market potential is to automate the plants; securing a minimum margin of error in the entire processing and packaging procedure. Ultimately, the goals of feed mill automation are;

·          Solve potential and current running problems

·          Minimise risk

·          Reduce costs

·          Maximise profit margins

The following article will highlight ways in which the automation of feed mills drives return on investment.

5 benefits of automating a feed mill

1.       Reducing human error & increase level of safety.

Automation creates a consistent system in task completion which eliminates that could be better utilized in more important tasks rather than unnecessary and dangerous manual operations. It also ‘develop(s) safe work practices and engineering controls which could be used to reduce the number of accidents and injuries in the workplace and to train workers in identification and awareness of hazards and their controls[iii]’. For example, should a man made error or injury occur that result in temporary closure of a feed mill that produces 2 000 tonnes p/w, for every day that the plant is down the loss of production id 285.7 tonnes per day – a high price to pay for something that could have been eliminated by predictive processes and controls.

2.       Optimization in process with enhanced production.

Manual processes are extremely time-consuming and some ways in which time can be saved is through automatic mixing, formulating and distribution. Other processes that could be controlled and accurately preformed in a time-saving manner include; raw material intake, dosing, grinding & mixing, pellet system, and packaging processes. Software automation is the most important element which increases efficiency of production made without human interaction and ensuring stabilization of the required processes whilst being carefully programmed to be delivered in the most time-efficient frame.

3.       Improve accuracy with programmatic solutions and reduction of batch errors.

Batching is one of the most common areas for feed mill automation and often offers the highest initial profitability. Automation of batching and mixing processes substantially reduces error and variation. And with an easily re-programmable controller, you can adjust recipes without significant downtime and reduction of waste, significantly reducing expenses. The correct automation solution can solve the problem of precision and consistency by scale weighing ingredients quickly and to correct amounts ensuring automatic distribution according to pre-programmed recipes.


4.       Monitoring and support through maintenance.

To operate efficiently it is crucial to be able to gather and interpret data through availability of a process optimization tool. Preventative maintenance is a software measure that monitors critical parts in the process control permanently and remotely therefore further reducing accidental cost in the long run. Due to remote access control and support, the maintenance solutions and upgrades required are easily provided and do not result in unnecessary downtime.

5.       Adherence to the highest level of quality control.

With exact-measuring and monitoring of recipes, automation prevents adulteration and/or contamination by reducing hand-add opportunities. This results in the elimination of a variety of costs and risks including:

·         Product and ingredient losses

·         Lawsuits

·         Liability Insurance

·         Reputational Damage

·         Loss of Sales


Automation consists of both hardware and software components and these components often depend on the needs of the clients. One of SPG Tech’s core values is to fully engage with the individual clients to create a hardware and software package that drives the business success of the client’s project. The hardware and software details vary from client to client, however SPG Tech’s and what is required is outlined below in what is needed to create the ultimate feed mill automation solution.


·         PLC: Being able to track system equipment in a fast, efficient manner is imperative in process automation and SPG Tech has expertise in most leading brands.

·         PC: Used in order to operate required software

·         HMI: A dashboard that is used to connect a person to the interface that provides a user-friendly interface to provide a visual overview of the automated system.

·         Frequency Inverter: A way in which to control equipments sensitively.

·         Weighing indications: Used to transmit weight information to the automation.

·         Energy analyzer: Used to report energy consumption in the process and transmit energy consumption.


·         SCADA: Control and monitoring of processes and can be linked to Microsoft Office for reports with remote access to the plant.

[i] Fao.org/3/i1379e/i1379e.pdf good practices for food industry, 2010

[ii] Afma.co.za/historic-overview, AFMA, 2020

[iii] cdc.gov