In order to maintain their competitive advantage, management has dedicated itself to stay on the leading edge of technology (see sidebar) and customer service.
“We employ a full-time, two- member IT department which delivers huge benefits from our business management and network operations standpoint,” says Davis. “We collect and compile immense amounts of data so we can quickly look at shrink, product and other market deviations to help identify trends and enhance our positions.”
Kelley adds Gold-Eagle’s fleet is another huge point of differentiation for the co-op.
“Producing 600,000 tons of feed annually and hauling the grain it takes to make feed and supply our ethanol plant, requires a smooth running transportation fleet,” Kelley says. “We keep upward of 70 rigs running daily, of which 23 are feed bottles which run between 6,000 and 6,500 miles a day. Our dispatch team calculates loads, estimates miles and delivery timing the day before, to improve production and load-out efficiencies.”
Other features which make Gold-Eagle a unique operation include a full-time safety director, electrical division, an engineering division, a small test-lab run in concert with the feed division, and the entire operation runs, for the most part, on a five-day work week. Asked if there’s any stone left unturned for Gold-Eagle, Davis pauses thoughtfully before answering.
“I’m sure we’ll think of something; you don’t grow by standing still, you know.”
HIGH-TECH YIELDS HIGH REWARDS
With a full-time IT and engineering department to keep its plants connected and productive, it should come as no surprise that Gold-Eagle employs high-tech solutions to manage challenges to efficiency and productivity.
One challenge was to maximize efficiency in receiving and load-out. So Gold-Eagle added an unattended scale, receiving and load-out system designed by WEM Automation. Customer ID cards are scanned and read yielding load information, destination and weight. On the back end, trucks are loaded, weighed and issued their outbound ticket with all necessary information included and recorded. The savings in time and labor are significant and trucks are kept moving, which is the name of the game in feed milling.
Another interesting development is the adoption of using iPhone to enhance connectivity between offices, drivers and facility managers.
“The iPhone is particularly handy since we can readily move files, orders and other important files within seconds, regardless of your location,” says Brian Kelley, feed group manager. “We customize our iPhones to allow immediate access to our network on those occasions when we’re out of the office or without computer access.”
Probably the most exciting development in the high-tech arena will arrive later this year, when Gold-Eagle receives the first-of-its-kind PDA designed to operate feed manufacturing functions. Gold-Eagle partnered with WEM Automation to create a useful tool to improve operating efficiency of the WEM4000 Batching System. The PDA-driven tool is especially attractive because operators don’t need to be on-site to acknowledge alarms, disrupt a batching production run or to get a list of hand-adds. Alarms can be acted upon directly from the PDA greatly increasing the productivity and eliminating foot traffic because an operator doesn’t need to walk back to the control room. All hand-adds are displayed on the PDA, eliminating paper, and improving efficiency and reducing footsteps.