Kent Nutrition Group, Rockford, Ill., was named runner-up for the 2012 Feed Mill of the Year program. The plant, which manufactures 14,500 tons of feed annually, was constructed in 1964. The current receiving capacity of the mill is 36 tons per hour. Rockford has a total of 21 total ingredient bins and four pellet mill bins each with a 10 ton capacity and twelve 10-ton packaging bins and 30 bulk load out bins.
“The key to our success are the people. The employees at the Rockford plant have taken to heart what is required to be considered a top notch Feed Mill, Tom Smolen, plant manager of Rockford, explained.
Rockford has a written safety program and emergency plan and OSHA training is offered in several areas. The feed mill offers additional safety training in the areas of: forklift operations, respiratory, emergency evacuation and tornado drills, back posture, proper lifting and railcar. All-staff safety meetings have been offered 42 times over the last year and there are nine employees on Rockford’s safety committee. There were no injuries, lost time accidents or unexcused absences during the last calendar year.
The plant has an SPCC plan certified by a professional engineer and a storm water pollution prevention plan. Rockford has been inspected by the FDA within the last year. The mill is HACCP, Safe Feed/Safe Food and ISO certified. The mill is in compliance with the Bio-Terrorism Act and had conducted a mock recall.
Several aspects of Rockford’s operations are automated, including receiving and routing. The plant weighs all incoming truck ingredients, double-checking ingredient setup prior to unloading. Truck scales are checked twice a year by an outside service and micro scales are checked monthly.
Kent Nutrition Group’s Rockford plant has a waste minimization program. The plant reworks as much product and setbacks as permitted, and takes pride in manufacturing a product correctly the first time to minimize setoffs. Paper, plastics and metals are recycled by local waste disposal.
“The Rockford employees embrace the Kent Vision of becoming a recognized leader in creating value through sustainable, nutritious, innovative foods and ingredients for the family. The people make an organization and this is a strong and dedicated group of personnel. They are always ready to show off their feed mill and demonstrate what they do at any time,” said Smolen.
Rockford handles complaints during off hours and has written procedures to handle service-related complaints. Production management of the Rockford plant also makes it a habit to visit customers and solicit feedback.
The annual Feed Mill of the Year award recognizes overall excellence in feed manufacturing operations. Increased safety, quality, regulatory compliance, operating efficiencies and overall industry awareness of food safety are among the criteria reviewed for each applicant.
“As is the case year after year, the quality of applicants to the Feed Mill of the Year program continues to increase,” stated Keith Epperson, AFIA vice president of manufacturing and training. “This year was no exception. Both the winner and the runner-up were at the top of an impressive group of contenders. Southern States – Roanoke and Kent Nutrition – Rockford should both be applauded not only for their obligation to their customers, but to their plants and the industry as a whole,” he continued.
Over 80 feed facilities competed for this year’s award. According to Epperson, feed mills find value in the feedback and applicant data a facility receives by entering. This benchmarking data is a useful tool for any mill to have.
“The AFIA program is a great recognition tool for how your plant and supporting teams relate to the industry standard. It is one thing to be recognized for achievements within your particular organization; obtaining such a high form of recognition on an industry-wide basis really validates the internal metrics we use to measure success,” stated Susanna Wright, plant manager of the 2011 Feed Mill of the Year.
“AFIA’s Feed Mill of the Year program is the only real benchmark in the feed industry for mill operations. It is important for us to not only have goals within our organization, but to see how the efforts in-house relate to the broader industry,” explained Bill Monroe, manager of the 2011 runner-up. “The process helps us to see ourselves compared to the broader base of feed manufacturers,” he continued.