*Brad Guyer is a global operations portfolio manager for Feed Management Systems. He focuses on the development and direction of new products, solutions, services and continuous improvement consulting for feed industry manufacturing and operations. Guyer can be reached at [email protected]
IS "feed industry technology" an oxymoron? Most of us can convincingly argue that it is not.
Technology has greatly improved the understanding of nutrients for animal needs and guides the careful balance of feed ingredients to meet those needs. It also helps feed producers monitor inventory, spend, profit and manufacturing.
How are you measuring your investments in mills, ingredients, products and people?
How much value do those investments return to your bottom line?
Your customers trust you with their proprietary assets — those unique formulas that are key to their success.
They reward you with business, in part, because you are the steward of their precision formulation, keeping a mindful watch on nutrients and ingredients, production, labeling and, ultimately, delivery of this special formula. With each order, you delight customers with superb and consistent results.
This is a wonderful success story for your customers, but what about your own success? Has that delightful and superb product you painstakingly made for your customer "gained weight" over the years?
Every constraint costs money, but is it really necessary in order to deliver the value your customer expects? What's more, how would you know?
I love harvest season. Farmers get to reap the benefits of their hard work after sowing the seed into the ground and nurturing it throughout the season. They may climb onto a brand new combine and be excited about all of the gadgets and displays.
As they harvest the field, they watch the crop enter the front of the machine and see the grain tank fill — what bliss!
Have you ever walked a field and noticed grain on the ground? What happens if that farmer gets so excited about the new machine that he forgets to fine-tune the separator and drops a third of his return out the back of the machine?
Do we need a solution to pick up the grain, or is our investment better spent harvesting a bit and then adjusting the machine to perfectly match the grain type and conditions we see ahead?
In many ways, this is no different from how you need to monitor production efficiencies, labor costs, ingredient purchasing and pricing strategy within your feed milling operation. All of these factors enable you to deliver the right product at the right price to your customer — and ensure that you don't pay a price in your margin or profitability.
Most feed companies have made great investments in financial packages and formulation tools. Without an understanding of how to unlock their full value and potential, however, tools may bring a false sense of security.
You may scrutinize every dietary constraint but forget to factor in unexpected plant downtime and repair costs due to an absent maintenance program.
What is your "grain on the ground" opportunity? Is it the amount of additional overtime required to execute a production schedule that is no different from last season's? Are you missing out on a timely purchasing opportunity for an alternative ingredient because your nutrient analysis is inaccessible?
My 10-year-old daughter is into handicrafts. The recent fad of patterned, brightly colored duct tape crafted into endless shapes and designs has greatly intrigued her, and she found a template to make an honest-to-goodness wallet out of duct tape. Wow, who would have thought?
She has pondered selling a few — trust me, she's no threat to the wallet industry — but it left me thinking that it sure is amazing what you can do with duct tape!
The same hidden opportunities exist in most feed mills, if you're just willing to look at your operation to see where "duct tape" compromises and patches have left their mark over time.
Think of the opportunities your business could reap if only you could land a solution to one of these problems. In the end, this may be as simple as just "tuning the combine."