BRAZIL: German industrial automation specialist Vollert Anlagenbau GmbH has commissioned four remote-controlled shunting robots at the Archer Daniels Midland grain export terminal in Santos.

ADM has invested about €60m modernising its port operations to increase the capacity of its terminal from 6 million to 8 million tonnes per year. To improve sustainability, the unloading building has been equipped with automatic gates to reduce the emission of dust and grain particles by up to 80%, while the shunting robots will also help to reduce emissions.

Two PRO DER240 diesel-electric and two cable-powered KR70 shunting robots are used to handle trainloads of corn and soya beans, formed of up to 30 wagons with a gross load of 130 tonnes each. Although the track layout remains unaltered, the operating procedure at the terminal has been revised to improve throughput. The larger diesel-electric machines position the loaded wagons ready for emptying, while the smaller robots assemble the empty trains for return.

With a service weight of more than 100 tonnes, the twin-bogie PRO DER240 robots have four spring-mounted drive axles, and a frequency-controlled drive providing 240 kN of tractive effort. There is an operating console on each side, but the shunter can also be controlled remotely by radio. The couplings can be opened and closed automatically or manually. The shunters can move full trainloads of 3 900 tonnes, positioning each wagon on a scale for weighing before they are uncoupled for emptying.


The KR70 robots, which are powered by a motor-controlled cable drum, collect the empty wagons, which are taken to another weighbridge before being assembled into trains with a tare weight of up to 900 tonnes. These machines have an all-wheel drive with a combined rating of 60 kW. The feeder cable gives them a range of around 320 m. The robots can be driven from a cab, but are generally controlled remotely by radio.

The four machines were assembled at Weinsberg in southern Germany and delivered to Brazil during 2020, although final commissioning and acceptance was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

‘The partial automation, but above all the newly organised shunting of the full and empty wagons by the four robots, has brought significant performance improvements’, commented Vollert’s project manager Christian Langner. ‘Previously, the wagon feed in the terminal was carried out purely manually with the help of tractors.’