Since Kerr Feed & Grain doesn’t have rail access everything is brought in by truck. After grains are delivered, they are brought to a grinding application, a Jacobson V240 grinder, or delivered directly into ingredient bins. From there, it moves to a two-ton Hayes and Stolz mixer and a manual batching system where auger systems to convey product to the weigh hopper on Mettler Toledo weigh cells to batch feed and then drop it into a blender. From there it can feed in three directions: the pellet mill, a bag texture bagger or to a bulk blended load out that is truly just a blended mixed type feed. From there on the pelleting side, Kerr pellets in three sizes: 3/4, 3/16 and 3/8 inches.
Fifty percent of pelleting production is bagged, 50% is bulk carried overhead by Essmueller drags and a Rotex shaker to deliver a bulk-pelleted product. Anything bagged runs through a Johnson & Sons bagger and from there the bags are feed on a series of conveyors that ultimately feeds to the company’s new robot and packaging system.
Kerr Feed & Grain produces 120 tons/day running at full capacity, which is four to five months/year, or 15,000 tons of grain, annually.
“What used to take five men to bag and palletize product now takes three men,” Bryant explains. Prior to making the investment in the system, one employee hung bags, one did the sewing, two stacked the feed and another drove the forklift. Today, the robot eliminated the need for the two employees responsible for the physical labor.
Bryant said the primary goals of the investment were to prevent injury and eliminate the man-hours it took to physically stack the feed. The bags from either line are hung on to the bagging scales, once the meet the requisite weight they are dropped on to a flat conveyor standing vertically and are fed into Union special machines with mechanical thread cutters. Chantland-MHS has designed a knock-down-turner conveyor, where bags are knocked on to their backs and then the belt pulls the end out from under them until they lay flat. Then they move to a bag flattener to even out the product in the bags and move to a pick up conveyor where the Fuji robot places bags two one of two stacking stations. It works on one side until the pallet is filled to the determined load amount. Once that side is complete, the robot moves to the other stacking station as the forklift driver swoops into move the full pallet and reset the station, alternating back and forth.
Everything is controlled with a touch screen user interface with 400 stacking configurations depending on the needs of the operator.
“The flexibility to stack on wooden pallets or mini plastic pallets to be delivered directly to the ranch,” Bryant says. At Kerr, 60 tons of bagged feed is stacked in a day.
Not only can you reduce payroll costs, Bryant says, an automated packaging system will reduce workers compensation costs — including liability insurance — by reducing the risk of lifting injuries.
“A decrease in total wages paid (fewer employees) equals lesser workers comp and liability premiums which create additional cost savings over and above reduced claims and lost time from injury,” Bryant explains.
Bryant admits he was originally hesitant about the mechanical and electronic side of things, dealing with a computer because it has a PLC inside the tower that operated the mechanics inside of it, but his concerns have been proven unfounded.
“I would suggest anyone set their worries aside because what we’ve seen and from what we’ve heard they are well built pieces of equipment with very little downtime,” Bryant says. He anticipates the ROI in three to five years.