MFA operates six major wholesale Missouri feed mills located in Aurora, Lebanon, Gerald, Kirksville, Mexico and St. Joseph; and an additional six manufacturing outlets at its retail mills.
While the co-op has nearly a century of experience to draw from, it strives to stay ahead of the times by embracing a progressive stance on the adoption of new technologies in order to keep costs low and deliver quality product on tight turnarounds.
Inside the Mexico feed mill
Surrounded by the rolling hills and plains of the central Midwest, MFA Inc.’s Mexico, MO-based feed mill honors its long tradition of serving its varied clientele of farmers and ranchers. Its dedication to delivering value to the customer through efficient business operations is illustrated by the capital investments the co-op has made in its Mexico, MO-based feed mill.
The plant opened for manufacturing in 1968; today it produces an annual volume of 30,000 tons and offers the full-line feed manufacturing of both MFA’s branded products and custom feeds.
The mill is flexible enough to be capable of putting together a ration if the customers’ needs are different than what the branded formulations offer. The production of custom products makes up 20% of the mill’s capacity.
“We will design and manufacture feeds to meet the specific nutritional requirements for the species,” Tom Staudt, director of manufacturing, says. “Since we serve every store in the state as a customer, our turnarounds can be pretty demanding.”
The Mexico feed mill is the sole supplier of mineral products to the MFA system.
MFA’s Mexico plant has 11 employees: eight hourly, two supervisors and one secretary. Oftentimes, the staff is given 48 hours to produce short-order batches. Operating with set crews, the plant runs shifts ranging from six to 12 hours.
The facility’s central location has made it a distribution hub. In the past this fact, matched with customer demand, put a strain on the facility’s efficiency — at least until the plant began making a move toward improving its operations with the inception of a two-phase manufacturing improvement program.
Investment in innovation
“The upgrades in this mill revolved around inefficiencies we felt were costing us time and money,” Wessler explains.
The first step in MFA’s journey toward improvement began with the addition of a Columbia/Okura robotic unloading setup.
The robot stacks 16 to 18 bags/minute. Aside from offering speed and concise stacking ability — one that saves space in the warehouse — MFA has experienced residual benefits from the robotic packaging system.
“What is intangible is the number of projected worker compensation related injuries we’re not dealing with because of reduced operators having to handle 50-pound bags,” Staudt explains. “We would expect a reduction in the strains related to handling 50-pound bags.”
The installation of the bagging system is the final step in a greater improvement program.
Feed mill veteran Staudt was charged with the task of identifying the proper machinery to get the job done. Staudt first saw the Bratney/Premier Tech Systems bagging system, featuring an automated bag-top reformer, at the IPE/IFE show in Atlanta in 2006.
After seeing the equipment in action, Staudt broke down the cost benefit of the system to get MFA’s approval for the investment — specifically, the cost benefit’s promise to reduce plant labor, added labor efficiency gains, a reduction in overall shrink and the loss related to packaging, and an increased throughput rate.
Once the numbers were reviewed, the company chose to move ahead with the purchase and installation of the system.
“We were looking for something that would speed things up, that would cause the operation to run smoother, that would compliment the robotic stacker system we already had in place,” Wessler explains. “We needed a unit that could take the wear and tear that happens in the working environment of a feed mill — this was the guiding premise we had in mind when looking at what we needed to get done.”