Seed World

Automation is not Automatism

Around 15,000 maize seeds enter the shot per second in an optical sorter; 56,000 wheat grains flow through a seed treater. Thousands of data points generated per second, millions per day – in just one single machine. Evaluating this data and analyzing with regard to interactions of machine settings and performance makes machines more intelligent and grain processing more precise and smoother.

Building those automation and control processes keeps a whole division of the seed technology and solutions provider PETKUS busy. Thus, the PETKUS Process Automation GmbH, a subsidiary within the PETKUS Group, was established especially for this purpose. Michael Schmitt, general manager of PETKUS Process Automation, says: “In the seed and grain business, comprehensive automation and central process control are still under represented. We are on the way to change this as we have not only the specialists in processing technologies and the IT experts on board, but also the professionals for bridging critical control points and connecting the interfaces.”

PETKUS Process Automation focuses on three pillars: remote services, data management and usability. “We are working on making processes more visible and therefore understandable and predictive. And we make service wireless,” says Schmitt. The digital world is full of neat key terms, but grain cleaning is a dusty reality with every seed and grain lot matching a taming of unruly compounds.

PETKUS Remote Services

During the season, seed plants and grain terminals have to run reliable non-stop, sometimes in three shifts over weeks. In some areas, the technical staff or qualified operator can be the limiting factor. To reduce downtimes and quality loss occurring, service times have to be short, effective and contactable all around the globe. Machines such as the “G” series of PETKUS Gravity Tables or the “CM” series of PETKUS MultiCoater paved the way and were pioneer machines in wireless control. The pioneers are on the straight target to become standard, also for other conditioning equipment. “Secure remote access is essential,” says Schmitt, “as well as the qualified personnel at the other end of the line.” A service technician can get direct access to the machine PLC and can help with recipe control, machine setting and error detection as if he would stand next to the machine himself.


First of all, machines must be able to record data – data from the machine itself and from respective running product. Collected data needs to be transferred, structured and analyzed. Without storage volume and robust algorithms, data is nice to have but powerless. Machines have to be equipped with sensors and tools which capture, validate and aggregate data in order to model the best option for machine settings for grain sorting. On the one hand, the machine can learn from its own generated data how to improve sorting results. On the other hand, clients can benefit from the pool of previously generated data which is mostly unstructured. Thus, data has to be structured for an extended use in further systems. To understand and implement data in order to improve processes, it has to be visualized. “Complex algorithms and data pools are only serviceable if they look easy and clear on a customer dashboard,” says Schmitt.

PETKUS Usability

Comprehensive user guidance throughout all PETKUS products is both, aim and purpose. In the course of uniformity and to avoid relearning over and over again for every machine and every control panel, an overall concept for all PETKUS technologies will be implemented. All touch and control panels will have the same look and the same elements, where special emphasis is laid on a new intuitive recognition and operation layout. Therefore, the source of error, as well as the teaching and training efforts, will be reduced.

Machine and running product information combined with user friendliness facilitate and improve not only machine setting, machine handling and predictive maintenance, but overall processing and plant performance.