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April 05, 2016 | Elise Schafer

Double Upgrade Exceeds Expectations

CHS Larsen Cooperative in central Wisconsin smashes volume records with two terminal expansions to meet customers’ needs

Just in time for harvest 2015, New London, WI-based CHS Larsen Cooperative, completed the expansion of two grain terminals in central Wisconsin — one in Readfield and the other in Center Valley. 

Steve Lachey, grain division manager of CHS Larsen, said the upgrades at two of its four total grain terminal locations were the result of customer requests for speed, capacity and drying improvements. 

“They wanted high-speed drying and unloading, as well as increased storage at all the locations, to meet the needs of their own growth on the farm,” said Lachey. “Farms seemed to grow faster than the elevators could, so it was time for an upgrade at both those facilities. It has been talked about for a number of years and finally came to fruition now.”

Gains were achieved at the Readfield location — the larger undertaking of the two expansions — with two new 8-foot by 26-foot receiving pits, two 4,750-bushel capacity tower dryers, two new scales for separate inbound and outbound actions, a stand-alone 20,000-bushel/hour dry leg, RFID technology at weigh-in, a new transfer conveyor and two new 104,000-bushel wet bins, bringing total storage capacity to just over 4.6 million bushels. 

“[Readfield] is our largest grain facility within CHS Larsen,” Lachey said. “To speed up wait times for drivers at harvest, we put in 1,050-bushel, truck-length dump pits. Drivers pull up to the pit, open both doors, and it takes roughly three minutes from the time they come in the driveway to exiting empty with their scale ticket.” 

Driver wait times have improved at both locations, but Lachey said the main objective at Center Valley was to add more capacity to the existing 546,000 bushels of storage. That terminal was outfitted with a new 644,000-bushel dry storage bin and a 128,750-bushel wet storage bin. Additionally, CHS Larsen installed two 15,000-bushel/hour receiving pits and systems, a 4,750-bushel capacity tower dryer, a new transfer conveyor and put a foundation in place to convert to larger dryers in the future. 

By responding to their farmer-members’ needs, CHS Larsen completed a record-breaking harvest, handling more grain during the harvest 2015 season alone than it did the entire previous fiscal year. 

 More surprising is that CHS Larsen achieved this enormous positive return on investment in a very short period of time. Thanks to a thorough planning phase that started two years before the projects commenced, both terminals went from construction to accepting truckloads of grain in mere months.

Planning and construction 

Beginning in 2013, CHS Larsen’s management began reviewing a number of different concepts with both local and nationwide engineering firms. They also tapped into the extensive resources of the corporate CHS network by visiting other CHS country facilities to learn from their past experiences. 

Once enough information was gathered, the team developed specifications for each project and submitted their plans to the board of directors. Although taking on both projects simultaneously was never intended, Lachey said both plans received approval at the same time and the projects went out to general contractors for bidding in early 2015.

CHS Larsen awarded the contract to Buresh Building for the Readfield location and selected Wisconsin Feed Mill Builders’ bid for the Center Valley location. Once all of the construction and various permits were acquired, construction crews broke ground, and by June full-blown construction efforts were underway at both locations. 

Lachey commended their general contractors for finishing the jobs with very little downtime. 

“We were fully functional at both locations throughout the entire process,” Lachey said. “Except for an hour here or there when making electrical connections or gas line changeovers,  for the most part, our customers felt very few delays.”

The teams also were careful with the demolition of any operation to make sure that new equipment was fully functional before the existing equipment was removed. “If something would have failed that prevented us from being operational for the 2015 harvest, we had our existing facility as a backup,” said Lachey. “Thank goodness it did not!”

All of CHS Larsen’s highest priority equipment was installed by the harvest 2015 deadline, including safety equipment, unloading equipment, drying equipment and storage bins. Both facilities began accepting loads with the new features by Oct. 1, Lachey estimated. 

Future growth

Even fresh off the heels of a double-upgrade and a remarkably successful harvest, Lachey said CHS Larsen is not resting on its laurels.

“We are far from being finished, and the grain upgrades we did to our system are just the beginning of what’s in store for our local area and CHS as a whole,” said Lachey. “We are poised to continue to provide our farmers with the best possible facilities that meet their needs, and continue our growth as well as their growth for the future.”

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