Going from a small general feed and seed business in 1947 to one of the nation's leading food corporations, Sanderson Farms is currently the third-largest poultry producer in the U.S., with sales of more than $2.80 billion and processing more than 3.8 billion lb. of meat in fiscal 2016.
The Sanderson Farms feed facility in Collins, Miss. — which produces more than 400,000 tons of poultry feed annually and is poised to double that amount, should demand call for it — is the winner of the 2017 Feed Facility of the Year Integrator Category.
The Feed Facility of the Year program is a national contest conducted annually by the American Feed Industry Assn. and Feedstuffs.
The Collins facility is one of eight mills in the Sanderson Farms system and serves as the grain delivery point for the company's Laurel, Miss., facility. One-third of the grain delivered to Collins is trucked to Laurel.
The Collins facility alone processes 455 acres per day of corn from the Midwest, largely from Indiana and Illinois. Unit trains deliver 8,200 tons of corn per week to this mill. The corn is transported in 100- to 110-car trains.
To facilitate the unloading process, the scale is positioned on the platform where the unloading process occurs. As Collins feed mill manager William “Bill” Bray explained, the railcar is pulled onto the scale, weighed, unloaded and then re-weighed before the next car is brought forward. An automated door opener for the railcars has been beneficial in reducing time and labor needs while improving employee safety.
All feed is delivered to farms through Sanderson Farms-operated trucks. Each driver positions his or her assigned truck for loading, and with the mass flow loaders at the facility, the loadout process takes about four to six minutes per 24-ton trailer. The facility contracts with a local trucking firm for hauling the grain to the Laurel facility, which equates to about 25 loads each day.
Combined, the four cement silos at the Collins facility have the capacity to hold 30 million tons of corn. At full capacity, the facility can hold 48 truckloads of finished feed.
The Collins mill was designed to be able to incorporate future expansion, Bray explained, indicating that the mill was designed to accommodate up to approximately double its current capacity.
From the ground up
In 1947, D.R. Sanderson and his two sons started a small-town farm supply business that sold feed, seed, fertilizer and other farm supplies to their local and surrounding communities. Through careful management and hard work over three generations, that same family-owned feed and seed store has grown to become the third-largest poultry producer in the nation, with more than 14,000 employees in operations spanning five states and 14 different cities.
Sanderson Farms was incorporated in Mississippi in 1955 and is a fully vertically integrated poultry processing company that produces, processes, markets and distributes fresh and frozen chicken products. Its stock became publicly traded in May 1987 and is listed on NASDAQ under the symbol SAFM.
Today, the company continues to build upon its rich traditions, believing its success is largely due to the values instilled by the tenacious efforts of its founders and its extended family of loyal employees. This includes the tradition of providing quality products to its customers and being responsive to their diverse needs.
In all, Sanderson Farms processes more than 10.625 million chickens per week. With its headquarters in Laurel, Sanderson Farms is the only Fortune 1000 company based in the state of Mississippi.
Utilizing the support of more than 900 independently contracted growers, 11 processing plants, 10 hatcheries, eight feed mills and one prepared foods division, Sanderson Farms supplies poultry products to food retailers, distributors, restaurants and foodservice operators across the U.S. and in more than 45 different countries.
All about the metrics
As a poultry processor, Sanderson Farms makes it a priority to know its birds, right down to the diet they receive. By operating its own feed mills, the company is able to control the birds' diets and employs an in-house nutritionist, who ensures that all corn- and soy-based diets contain the protein, energy, vitamins and minerals necessary to grow healthy poultry.
Metrics tracked for the Collins feed mill, as well as the company's other feed mills, include:
* Inbound ingredient specifications and how they will relate to feed production and pelleting;
* The moisture level of ingredients — to ensure an effective pelleting process and performance of live poultry;
* Analysis of the mixer on specified ingredients to ensure that a quality mix is maintained by positive impact on the coefficient of variation;
* Weekly tons of feed produced;
* Tons produced per man-hour (cost of labor);
* The feed conversion ratio of harvested poultry;
* Utility usage and performance, and
* Delivery costs per ton of feed produced.
Bray said each metric is reviewed daily, weekly, quarterly and annually in an effort to maximize efficiency while maintaining and/or increasing performance. Monitoring each category can assist in developing plans to identify possible needs for capital improvements and additional training, as well as performance factors and equipment and/or personnel performance.
Management at the Collins feed mill promotes employee morale and even built a barbeque grill at the mill specifically for employee functions. This promotes engagement and communication between the different shifts at the mill, Bray said. It also creates an atmosphere of comradery and teamwork among all employees and management.
Facility personnel are included in daily conversations about safety. Bray said safety is promoted daily for all mill personnel and all functions. The company's training programs give supervisors a chance to assist their employees by providing personal attention. They also provide a unique outlet to discuss any challenges or problems or offer suggestions for improvement.
Since the Food Safety Modernization Act requires implementation of different strategies, employees are encouraged to offer suggestions for improvement while reviewing and implementing changes.
“Sanderson Farms Inc. takes great pride in promoting community involvement for our employees. We participate in many functions at the local level and encourage our employees to become involved in their community," Bray said. "We offer participation in the United Way for those who choose. However, we are always committed to promoting local charities through our actions.” He noted that employees also have access to company-based daycare and can take advantage of tuition reimbursement.
Bray has been managing the Collins facility for the past four years. Prior to coming on board, he was in the saw milling industry. Bray attributed his strong background in maintenance as the key to his transition from the saw milling industry to managing a feed mill for a large poultry integrator, as preventative and ongoing maintenance is a priority at all manufacturing facilities, no matter the industry.