“In order to remain successful, we continue to fine-tune our process,” Hurd says. “If we see something occurring that’s slowing things down, we jump on it and correct it.”
Armed with this knowledge and a firm game plan, it was time to put it into action.
Becoming the fastest unloader
JBS United first focused on streamlining truck management at the entryway.
“We wanted to allow producers to dump their grain and get back to the field as quickly as possible,” Bleich explains. “We figured, ‘If we do this, they will come.’ ”
Since the bottlenecks always originated at the scale, the first step to increasing throughput was the addition of an outbound scale. JBS United merchandiser Dale Plumer explains, “Now that we have an inbound and outbound traffic line we have eliminated the dumping backlog.”
Stop-and-go lights at the probe assist in controlling traffic flow. JBS United probes three to four trucks ahead of the scale, and by the time vehicles reach the scale, the grain has already been graded. After probing and grading, a digital sign then flashes a pit number instructing the truck to proceed to one of the terminal’s five dump pits — three high-volume 15,000-bushel/hour pits and two 12,000-bushel/hour pits.
The result: Trucks move through in less than five minutes. “Most elevators in the area are not able to turn a truck around that fast,” Bleich says. “For us, it’s just how we want to take care of the customer.”
The grain is then tracked internally from the probe to the bin. Under the guidance of Dave Crim, the operations manager for the three Illinois facilities, the parameters of each bushel is set and tracked by bin so JBS United can easily and accurately load rail cars to the customers’ specifications.
Today JBS United can process more than 500 trucks a day during harvest.
“Even in the gut slot of harvest, there is very little wait for farmers in comparison to other terminals during that time,” Hurd says. “That’s our advantage.”
Staying true to its “fastest unloader” mantra has given the Griggsville facility a corner on its market. In addition to Griggsville, the company operates three additional western Illinois locations: Pittsfield, New Canton and The Maschhoffs feed mill elevator. JBS United’s market area spans 60 miles, covering all of Pike County and reaching into Adams, Brown, Green and Calhoun County.
“In 2008, over 22 million bushels of corn were produced in Pike County; and JBS United handled over half of that in a year’s time,” says Plumer.
JBS United also operates a 100-car shuttle loader on the Union Pacific Railroad. The Eastern Illinois region, called the Busboom region, has locations in Royal, Collison and Rossville.
Maximizing throughput capacity
Having the luxury of excess land to expand its operations was one of the facility’s key advantages in its quest to improve efficiency.
“Over the last 10 to 15 years, the footprint has evolved,” Bleich says. “We’re lucky there was plenty of land for expansion; because of space constraints, many elevators don’t have this opportunity.”
Over the course of four years, the main additions aiding in the growth of the Griggsville terminal included: adding two dump pits; extra storage capacity; the addition of an outbound scale; and placing the probes far ahead of the inbound scale.
The Griggsville facility has 6.6 million bushels of upright storage with an additional 2.3 million bushels of storage capacity available in its temporary storage bunkers; it handles and stores corn (65%), soybeans (30%) and wheat (5%).
Equipment upgrades are an integral part of sustaining success. Recent investments include a 1-million-bushel temporary storage bunker that is filled with an overhead conveyor; they expanded it an additional 700,000 bushels last year, bringing JBS United’s temporary storage capacity to 2.3 million.
This summer JBS United plans to install a new Zimmerman dryer. While its current dryer handles 5,000 bushels/hour, the new dryer will allow for an added 7,000-bushel/hour drying capacity. Hurd says: “Soon we’ll be bringing our drying capacity to over 12,000 bushel/hour so we should be able to effectively handle whatever the next harvest brings.”