Modular Container Solution Streamlines Mill Expansion

electric room

January 12, 2024

Interstates recently collaborated with Farmers’ Rice Cooperative in Woodland, CA, to deliver a comprehensive electrical and controls automation upgrade and expansion at a rice milling facility. The project, Interstates’ first modular container initiative in the state of California, was split into two main components: modular and automation. The modular container solution involved Interstates delivering a turnkey package of two 8-foot by 20-foot shipping containers outfitted as an electric room. These containers were integrated into the mill’s existing building and included pre-installed power distribution equipment. On the automation front, Interstates provided electrical control panels and touchscreen kiosks, along with a new control system programmed from scratch.

Tackling Challenges Head-On

Farmers’ Rice Cooperative needed to install a new electric room for its mill expansion, but doing this at a busy, operating plant would result in frustrating site congestion. Interstates’ modular solution solved this problem. According to Derek Thibault, Process Engineer at Farmers’ Rice Cooperative, “Not having to build a room, move all of the equipment in, and have it wired by a third-party electrician was very beneficial.” Interstates’ modular containers simplified the process. The containers simply needed to be unloaded, bolted down (through pre-drilled holes), and hooked up so that power could run to the MCC and other electrical equipment. “This process saved time and money, but more importantly, we could trust it would be done correctly in Interstates’ shop,” says Thibault.

Another challenge encountered on the project was more bureaucratic in nature. “It was a challenge to obtain an occupational license from the state of California to manufacture a commercial modular structure for a project in that state,” says Stan Spaulding, Director of Modular Solutions at Interstates. “In true Interstates fashion, we took on the challenge anyway. We achieved licensing and approval, provided a great solution for the client, and collaborated with them to meet their objectives,” adds Spaulding. Ultimately, overcoming these challenges has positioned Interstates well for future projects in California.

Listening and Delivering

The client requested using Ignition Edge on this mill expansion. “The rest of the facility is running on this software, so this gave us the ability to tie the new mill in with the rest of the facility,” says Loren Schmidt, Senior Control Systems Developer at Interstates. This choice allows data to be pushed to a higher-level plant gateway so that data and alarms can be viewed beyond just the operating station of the mill. “This slimmed-down software costs less to run, but it was missing a database connection,” says Schmidt. “To ensure that import alarms and data are logged properly, we utilized the Edge Sync Services module. This, and some custom code, allowed us to get the data the client needs to the gateway and database,” he explains.

The project has resulted in several benefits for Farmers’ Rice Cooperative, including cost savings and operational efficiency. “Our goal for this project was to have a fully automated ‘lights out’ mill capable of running multiple rice granulations with as little change over time as possible,” states Thibault. Interstates’ turnkey modular solution helped the client meet this goal, and the collaboration between the organizations is a strong example of how tailored, integrated solutions can effectively meet client objectives, paving the way for higher efficiency and smoother operations.

Photo Credit: Aliy Louie