“The truck pretty much loads itself,” Brad Boyd, Kinston mill manager, says. “The dispatcher picks the load, and the system knows how many pounds to weigh up. Our trucks have eight feed compartments and the system automatically weighs up the load for each compartment, cleans out and then the shuttle moves to the next storage compartment and so on.”
In the load-out bay, two trucks can be loaded simultaneously; it features 22 bulk load-out bins with a 3,000-ton storage capacity and two Cardinal truck scales.
Sanderson Farms recently shifted to MTech Systems’ scheduling software manage feed distribution for its contract growers.
“It calculates the amount of feed per house — rather than by farm — and gives us a more accurate idea of when the producers are going to run out of feed,” Boyd says. “It takes out the guesswork so we can more efficiently manage deliveries, loads and schedules.”
Sanderson Farms views automation as a necessary investment for successfully managing future growth.
“Consistency is part of our culture; it’s how we do business,” Billingsley says. “With these systems in place, we manage all the critical control points in the feed mill in a tight manner. At the end of the day, it’ll allow us to produce a feed to grow our chickens in a manner that will give us a competitive advantage in our industry.”
Market dictates growth
Ultimately, the Kinston feed mill was designed to supply chicken feed for Sanderson’s two processing plants and two hatcheries. Once the facility is running at full capacity, the Kinston feed mill will be staffed by 35 employees, including drivers; currently, it employs 12. Kinston will operate three shifts, five days a week, 24 hours a day.
“We’re in line to build another plant and hatchery in a year and a half depending on the location — at this point we’ll be running at full capacity,” Smith says. The feed mill will be brought to full capacity in 2,000-ton increments over the next 12 months. During this time, as referred to as Phase I, Sanderson will manufacture 8,000 to 10,000 tons of bulk chicken feed per week to support the Kinston complex. During Phase II, a second pellet mill will be added and feed production will move to its 20,000-ton capacity as planned for the initial design structure.
“We’re staggering this growth because it will take a year to bring the processing plant to full capacity in manageable increments,” Billingsley explains.
Total Sanderson employment in Kinston will reach 1,600 employees within a year.
In the future, Sanderson will meet the needs of the industry as they are presented.
“We’re a public company and our obligation is to make sure our shareholders get the value they deserve and expect out of our company,” Billingsley says. “The fact is that we’re a conservative company by nature, and our balance sheet drives what we do. As long as our balance sheet is clean and we can manage what we do, we will continue to grow.”