Customer satisfaction is the core of Cottage Grove, WI-based Landmark Services Cooperative’s business plan. So, when the 15,000 member strong co-op’s board of directors conducted a study in 2012 to measure satisfaction with its Evansville, WI, shuttle loading facility, it knew something had to be done to improve the results.
The Evansville location serves producers across an expansive territory throughout southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois and has taken in a little more than 200 million bushels of grain since it was built in 2002. At the time of the study, the facility’s capacity was 1.9 million bushels, but because of its large service area, producers still had to contend with long lines at harvest time.
Based on study participants’ less-than-satisfactory feedback, the board commissioned an expansion at Evansville with two clearly stated objectives: more speed and space.
However, Fred Johnson, Landmark Services Cooperative grain division operations manager, said that as important as it was to add speed and space, it could not be paid at the price of halting operations — even if temporarily.
As the only shuttle-loading grain facility at Landmark (another is scheduled to open in Fall River, WI, this fall), it was essential that operations on-site remained uninterrupted throughout the construction of the expansion.
“[Evansville] is our key hub for the whole grain system,” said Johnson. “It’s our highest volume location, which factored into our design selection. We were looking at other designs, but several weren’t going to work because we couldn’t afford to be shut down for months to rebuild.”
With that in mind, the co-op focused on improving existing equipment — like upgrading from urethane to ceramic liners in all conveying equipment — and adding new features alongside them.
Construction began last spring, and by the fall of 2013, the facility had added a 730,000-bushel dry storage bin, a new 20,000-bushel/hour truck receiving pit, and a 7,000-bushel/hour grain dryer, bringing total storage capacity up to 2.63 million bushels.
According to Matt Severence, Landmark Services Cooperative rail superintendent, the facility encountered only a few hours of construction related downtime during the 2013 harvest.
Producers were pleased not only with the ability to use the elevator during construction, but they also enjoyed the facility’s new equipment and features, including the state-of-the-art grain dryer.
Severence says the increased drying capacity significantly reduced wait times last harvest. It takes less than seven minutes to empty a truck from the time a farmer pulls onto the scales.
The 7,000-bushel/hour dryer operates automatically using temperature and moisture sensors on the top and bottom that read the wet corn coming in and the outgoing dry corn to determine when and how long to run the dryer.
Johnson described it as a “preactive” vs. reactive operation. “It anticipates the corn coming into it instead of reacting to what’s coming
out of it.”
Severence adds, “We enter a set point and it adjusts itself — slowing down to dry wetter corn or speeding up to push dryer corn through faster — until it reaches that set point. We can dry anything,including soybeans and wheat, but I’ve been using it for about a month with corn and we’ve been very satisfied with it.”
The dryer boasts Web-based controls, so Severence and Johnson can monitor the dryer anywhere they have access to the Internet, including from a smartphone.
In addition to keeping lines running smoothly on the truck side, the Web controls offer huge labor savings, according to Johnson.
“If Matt is loading a 100-car bean train, and he’s able to check his dryer with his smartphone rather than hire someone to stand there and watch it, he’s adding value by multitasking the two jobs at once.”