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Saskatchewan oat-processing build receives innovation award

Peter Caulfield
Saskatchewan oat-processing build receives innovation award

The Grain Millers – WIP III Expansion project in Yorkton, Sask., has won the 2019 Canadian Institute of Steel Construction (CISC) Manitoba/Northwestern Ontario Steel Design Award in the innovation category. The project is an expansion of the Grain Millers Canada Corp. oat-processing facilities in Yorkton. 

Recipient of the award is Sperling Industries Ltd. of Sperling, Man. The company worked closely with project owner Grain Millers on the design and layout of the equipment and storage bins and the building that houses them. 

“We have more than 60 bins holding a range of product and volumes,” said  Jeff O’Neill, a spokesman for Grain Millers. “We process only oats, most of which are grown within a two-hour radius of our site. Our primary goal here is to have a facility with no interior ledges for dust accumulation, and to seal any penetrations that could potentially harbour insects.”

The bins are round steel cylinders 16 feet wide by 25 feet high with flat roofs.

Sperling project manager Adam Nicolajsen says the WIP III expansion project involves a large storage area to house more than 20 large steel bins that store different milled-oat flour products prior to packaging or bulk shipment.

The company wore many hats on the project, acting as the general contractor, structural engineer, steel detailer and steel erector.

“We did the structural engineering for the steel building, fabricated the steel framing and managed the installation of the building and the associated bins and equipment,” said Nicolajsen. “We also installed the pneumatic product conveyance system and aspiration.”

The project contained a number of innovations “of significant benefit to grain handling,” he said. “Grain Millers is an industry leader when it comes to food safety and hygiene. Every detail of the structure was picked apart when we did the design.”

Nicolajsen said the design team was tasked with eliminating any flat surfaces where dust could accumulate.

“Dust is food for bugs, and no one wants bugs in their food plant. Any small voids or hollow spaces which could not be inspected were also eliminated. It is very important to see any signs of pests before they actually become an issue.”

To address hygiene concerns, Sperling used a system in which the floor was framed using hollow structure section (HSS) beams with bolted knife plate connections. The tops of the HSS members were then cast-poured into the six-inch, cast-in-place (CIP) structural floor slab to keep the underside of the floors clean and with no flat edges.

“We also incorporated a double-layer IMP (insulated metal panel) wall system,” said Nicolajsen. “The advantage of using this was that we could inset the HSS wall girt into the inside layer of IMP, to keep a smooth interior wall surface.”

An exterior layer of IMP was installed on the outside to eliminate the transfer of cold air and to provide the required insulation performance.

Using HSS members to frame the floors created challenges with the connection design. 

“We used typical knife plate end connections, but this created problems with fabricating pour-stops at these joints to facilitate the CIP floor,” Nicolajsen said. “We ended up forming different custom-shaped formed plates that were installed over each knife connection to maintain cleanliness and (a pleasing appearance).”

Although Sperling was the award recipient, Nicolajsen says Grain Millers and the other trades and contractors who were involved deserve credit for the success of the project.

“We reviewed many iterations of the 3D models to address all the small hygienic details,” he said. “I like to think open lines of communication and co-operation helped Sperling and Grain Millers achieve the outcome we all hoped for.”

Located 30 miles southwest of Winnipeg, Sperling was founded by three Nicolajsen brothers 40 years ago as a small welding shop. Today it is an industrial contractor and fabricator, providing design, engineering, fabrication and on-site maintenance and installation services for a range of agricultural processing industries. The company also has a facility in Omaha, Nebraska, that supplies equipment and parts for the meat processing industry.

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