Food Processing Plant Rail Simulation
A study of sorting and unloading rail cars using Flexsim Simulation Software.
St. Onge Company, a supply chain engineering firm, was assisting a food processing company in the northeastern United States to expand its facility. An important component of the expansion was a rail operation.
The main rail line branched into multiple end points, called spurs, where rail cars containing raw materials (ex., sucrose, peanuts, vegetable oil) were unloaded. The cars were brought in from the main line and stored in either a spur used exclusively for storage or on an available space along an unloading spur. Each raw material type had a specific spur or set of spurs in which it could be unloaded, and each unloading station had a specific unloading rate. A single yard engine moved the rail cars to their appropriate position.
Issues to Solve
The facility managers wanted to find an optimal track layout. Questions included how many spurs and loading stations were needed to keep up with the expanded capacity and how much track length should be put on the storage spur and unloading spurs. Additionally, there was limited space for the track expansion and managers wanted to minimize infrastructure expansion costs. Lastly, managers needed to ensure that the single yard engine could handle the new throughput requirements.
As part of the simulation study, multiple track layouts were considered. Much of the challenge involved creating a “smart” shuffling method for the yard engine, where it would try to store cars in slots closest to their respective unloading stations, as well as store empty cars in the right locations, so that re-shuffling would be minimized.
Once Flexsim and St. Onge Company had built and verified the simulation models, St. Onge used the simulation results to create a master plan for a new track layout that would fulfill the goals of the facility expansion.