Managing a feed mill requires not only sharp leadership and problem-solving skills, but also the flexibility to alter purchasing decisions and habits along the way. Although daily duties at the mill may not change much from day to day, how you handle economic changes can make or break an operation.
Feed mills, ethanol plants, elevators and any other agricultural facility that ships feed and grain, should be well aware that a new plan for fuel efficiency is in order. The costs of feed, food and crude oil have inflated prices across the board and we can see it most at the gas pump. Some experts say the days of paying less than $3 for a gallon of gas are no more.
With summer right around the corner, prices are expected to climb even higher. The effects of this development are far reaching, and have an impact on all sectors of industry that rely on transporting products.
Just as families across America have adjusted their driving habits, industries, such as feed mills and grain elevators, should adjust their habits to increase miles per gallon and the bottom line. This includes utilizing and maintaining the right equipment for the job and educating yourself on how to gain the highest fuel efficiency it can achieve.
Terry Medemblik, sales and marketing manager of Walinga, sheds some light on how shipping equipment has changed because of rising fuel costs.
From their beginning in the mid 1950s, Walinga has been repeatedly challenged by an ever-changing and highly demanding feed industry, to develop innovative and efficient material transportation and conveying systems.
As the focus shifts to fuel efficiency, the new challenge becomes how to marry reduced fuel consumption with enhancements which deliver improved productivity and time savings.
With little relief for rising gas prices looming on horizon, Medemblik has noticed that his customers are looking for ways to increase payload as well as decrease fuel consumption.
As a result, the desires of feed manufacturers to find more efficient solutions has prompted them to adjust their equipment purchasing habits, and redefine the qualities they look for in feed bodies.
This industry need has forced transportation equipment suppliers back to the drafting tables to research and develop equipment that feature fuel-friendly designs that also deliver the high produtivity expected by customers.
"We have been studying the effect of increased discharge rate of the feed vs. the added weight of changing the components to achieve this. We think this research will fulfill the desires of our customers to decrease the overall weight of the unit."
Transportation equipment manufacturers also need to find ways to make their products lighter while still maintaining the structural integrity, because the weight of the unit greatly affects fuel consumption.
For example, if a unit weighs 16,000 pounds, and the tractor weighs the same, and the maximum amount allowed is 80,000 lbs, this leaves 48,000 pounds, or 24 tons of payload.
Compare that payload to a unit that weighs 11,000 pounds and a tractor that weighs 15,000 pounds. If the maximum allowance is still 80,000 pounds, this leaves 54,000 pounds or 27 tons of payload.
"This translates to an increased payload of 3 tons/load, hauled for the same price," he reasons. "Since delivery rates stay the same, fuel consumption will increase but not nearly enough to offset the gain achieved by increasing the actual amount of feed hauled to the farm."
Medemblik shares some tips on what kind of maintenance should be done to ensure your bulk feed bodies achieve the maximum fuel efficiency possible. The oil pump should be checked often to verify it's running effectively. One thing to look for and avoid is a vacuum effect in the pump. The suction can take in more oil than is necessary at that time, which wastes energy.
The ideal pump will take in the maximum amount of oil using the minimum amount of effort. Medemblik suggests using a larger pump capacity with larger lines as well as larger bearings.