Winning the top honor in the 2017 Feed Facility of the Year Liquid Feed Category for the second year in a row is Westway Feed Products' liquid feed operation in Dimmitt, Texas.
The Feed Facility of the Year program is a national contest conducted annually by the American Feed Industry Assn. (AFIA) and Feedstuffs. The Dimmitt facility also won the honor in 2016.
The Westway facility, managed by Phil Thomas, saw more than 30% growth in tonnage in its recently completed fiscal year, and its physical variance was 500% better than budget and 116% better than the previous year. Average annual production for the Dimmitt facility is 94,000 tons.
Committed to making the Dimmitt facility one of the best plants for Westway, Thomas has plans to continue to stay on top by striving for daily improvement. He credits the continued growth of the operation to his team, the company's commitment to reinvesting in the operation and a strengthening cattle market. "We pay attention to production details, customer service and we have strong support from the company management team,” Thomas said.
A significant amount has been invested in the facility in the last six months, including a new leg that was in the process of being added at year-end and a new boiler and scale that are up and running already.
The new 100 ft. elevator leg has a complete stainless steel boot, turn-head and distributor, plus new downspouts, belt and buckets. It will help the facility meet a growing customer need for suspension products.
The Dimmitt facility serves several of the largest feedyards in Texas.
Over the last three years, the facility has added a completely new acid containment tank and plumbing. New safety guardrails for the tops of the tanks were installed, as were more finished feed tanks.
Robust safety program
The safety program at Westway is robust and includes monthly computer-based training and mandatory safety meetings. The tradition of “tailgate” meetings also continues. As Thomas explained it, these happen whenever he or anyone at the plant notices an unsafe act or condition. It is basically an on-the-spot correction that is discussed and handled immediately.
Westway offers quarterly incentives for employees who complete all of the training, submit job safety analyses, report near misses and provide feedback on how to make facilities safer. Thomas said they are rewarded with a gift card.
As an added employee perk, and to keep the staff in good physical shape, the Dimmitt office, as well as other Westway Feed Product facilities, promotes employee health.
The company has a safety boot and safety eyewear program to provide employees with the correct safety equipment needed to complete their assigned task with safety in mind.
Westway's quality and animal food safety program is comprehensive as well. Once a month, a quality meeting is held with a focus on standard operating procedures and anything of that nature. Dimmitt has its own site-specific food safety plan and is AFIA Safe Feed/Safe Food certified.
Internal quality audits are conducted each year, and a third party comes out to do a quality audit every other year. The Dimmitt facility has not scored below 95% on either an internal or external third-party quality audit, Thomas said.
Thomas noted, just like he did a year ago, that the single most important factor behind the Dimmitt facility's success is its staff. The facility is open six days a week and, including Thomas, has a team of only four. He said the operation is able to run so lean because of the team's experience level and dedication to getting the job done right.
Thomas noted that, if need be, he can get assistance from the nearby Westway facility in Hereford, Texas. All ordering, administration and dispatch for the Dimmitt operation goes through the office in Hereford.
The blends and suspensions manufactured at the plant are used by cattle ranchers in the surrounding area as part of their on-farm nutrient profile. The majority of the product manufactured at the Dimmitt facility goes to beef producers.
Maintaining tight inventory controls has made a huge impact overall on profit and loss for the facility and has played positively in regard to cost per ton, according to Thomas. The capital improvements over the last three years have provided additional benefits.
In regard to efficiency, the facility utilizes separate lines for its suspension, blends and clay, reducing not only cleanout time but also the possibility for cross-contamination.
“We have a suspension mixer, a blend mixer and a clay mixer. The dedicated lines make contamination a non-issue,” Thomas said.
The Dimmitt plant participates in Westway's Gold/Silver Plant Awards Program, which recognizes overall safety and environmental compliance. The Dimmitt facility has been a non-medicated mill for the past six years.
“We have accomplished a lot in the past few years, including significant capital improvements, cost-per-ton advantages, greater employee engagement and an overall production increase. This team just knows how to get it done,” Thomas said.
The big picture
For area cattle producers and feedyards, Westway's Rob Brock said "we strive to provide a consistent product that utilizes co-products. All of Westway has the opportunity to do something really big in the sustainability picture. We help cattle better utilize forages. This promotes greater gains, efficiency and overall cattle performance. While we only employ four at the Dimmitt plant, we like to think we contribute to the (Texas) panhandle economy because we utilize/support local businesses such as (cattle producers), feedyards, trucking companies, banks and grocery stores."
Westway Feed Products, headquartered in Tomball, Texas, is one of North America's largest manufacturers of liquid supplements for livestock. The company is owned by ED&F Man and has 27-plus production facilities across the country and in Canada.
As an ED&F Man subsidiary, Westway uses co-products from biofuel plants, distilleries, yeast plants, corn processors, soy processors and cheese factories to supply the beef cattle, dairy cattle and equine feed sectors.