The mill is completely automated using WEM’s 4000 Series Batching System for receiving, processing, mixing and load-out. Feed Management Systems’ software controls the billing at the location and puts feed orders into the system before WEM manufactures the feed. Physical and computer inventories are kept for comparison.
Six employees — five production and one clerical — work in the mill.
“If we look at how the feed industry has changed, it used to be we had a few guys in the feed mill and you were lucky if you produced 100 tons a day,” Bruhl notes. “Now, you have a couple of guys in the mill and they produce 1,000 tons/day on a long shift.”
Ingredients move from receiving to the ingredient bin, then to a Scott weigh hopper and a Scott 4-ton twin shaft mixer, installed for “a better, faster mix.”
To help with convenience and labor savings, the facility has a liquid fat and a lysine tank, Bruhl calls “a blessing” because it allows room for other ingredients in the 24-unit Sudenga microsystem. Liquids are automated, capable of applying 90 gallons/minute.
It leaves the mixer and drops to the surge — before being delivered by the surge leg to the Champion 60 x 36 Gyro Sifter finish feed cleaner, down the load-out spout to a designated bin over the Cardinal stationary 6-ton scale before being released into a designated truck.
The facility produces and delivers 100% swine feed — from sows to finish pigs — to four major customers and over 20 traditional farmer customers most within a 40-mile radius.
“We’re walking before we run,” Bruhl explains. “We brought tonnage on slowly and after two months started slamming more tons in and running 20,000 to 22,000 a month. Currently we’re on pace to manufacture 240,000 tons/annually. We hope to get to the 300,000 mark after we build our base in the area.”
The mill’s annual production capacity is estimated to be 370,000 tons. “We can do another 100,000 tons, but we need more transportation, so it will be brought on incrementally,” he explains.
Lean thinking = $$
During the design process, the cost-conscious team creatively cut back in certain areas without sacrificing functionality. For example, it installed smaller bins and fewer load-outs that were still capable of handling 80 tons/hour when properly managed. It also cut the warehouse footprint down to avoid carrying excess inventory.
“We have good people coordinating receiving and materials, and managing the inventory,” Bruhl says. “It helps that we have a ready supply of corn available from the elevator’s steel tanks that deliver right into the mill.”
The new feed mill’s specified equipment was selected based on the proven performance demonstrated in the cooperative’s other facilities.
The feed division is also using the new mill in conducting an experiment by installing two 12 x 52 roller mills — a DPHX 1200 Roskamp Champion and a RMS Double Pair — in an effort to track the cost to take corn from 700 to 500 microns, maintenance needs and potential energy saving before it purchases new equipment for future upgrades at the other plants.
“We are compiling data and energy consumption statistics using E-Mon D-Mon energy monitor to track usage and amps to ensure the mills are pulling their weight,” Bruhl explains. Additionally, the NEW Feeds staff is collecting micron samples numerous times in a day.
In addition, bulk tote bags, used for high usage products like vitamin trace minerals and customer pre-mixes, deliver labor savings and reduce dump fees.
Bruhl says: “Throughput and cost control are the name of the game. Margins are slim and we need to be efficient in what we’re doing to make money for the member owners.”
“One of our customers said we’re too high — we’re a factory making feed, how many factories do you see operating at a loss that still exist today? We have to make money to keep the business going, keep quality in place, and deliver a return on investment for our owners.”
Safe feed a high priority
Formulations are customer driven: Large customers have their own, but the cooperative provides traditional producers with what they need for their rations. One of the main goals of the new facility is to deliver safe, quality feed. Bruhl looked to tightening safe food/safe feed regulations and adjusted the sites’ security and production methods accordingly.