GEAPS Exchange 2017 sets new records

by Susan Reidy
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Marcus Neal, president of GEAPS International, cuts the ribbon to open GEAPS Exchange 2017.
Photos by Susan Reidy and Dan Flavin.
It was another record-setting year for the Grain Elevator and Processing Society’s (GEAPS) annual Exchange, which returned to the U.S. Midwest and Kansas City, Missouri, the last week of February.

Exchange 2017, Feb. 25-28, set a record for highest attendance at 3,589 and most exhibitors at 438. The event featured 270,000 square feet of space in the Expo Hall, and over 40 hours of educational sessions.

The event surpasses other record-setting years, also from U.S. Midwestern locations, including Omaha, Nebraska, in 2014 at 3,379 attendees and St. Louis, Missouri, in 2015 with 3,215 attendees.

Marcus Neal, president of GEAPS International, said he was impressed with several outcomes from the conference.

“Exchange 2017 was a terrific success on many fronts,” said Neal, who also is director of facility operations at Lansing Trade Group. “The record-breaking Expo is very exciting because it shows that suppliers are finding credible leads and returning year after year, and attendees are finding equipment and solutions to improve operations at their facilities. We saw terrific attendance at our education sessions. This event also provides an opportunity for GEAPS leaders to meet and make connections with grain companies, and learn how we can refine our programs to provide more value to the grain industry.”

Product innovations

Wade Spencer, Maxi-Lift sales engineer, shows off the company's new Road Show trailer, which it will use to provide onsite education at grain elevators.
Colin McClure, president of the GEAPS Associates Board, said the growth in the Expo is due in part to companies realizing the array of opportunities presented at the conference.

“The Exchange offers a lot of opportunities to see decision makers,” said McClure, who also is president of PMI Nebraska. “The Expo puts your products in the best place for industry operations people can see them. There are also a number of opportunities to form and reinforce business relationships at the networking events.”

Maxi-Lift, Addison, Texas, U.S., highlighted its Road Show trailer, which the company will use to provide onsite training at grain elevators. The company will teach customers on a range of topics, including how to tighten bolts, how to measure buckets, and showing the difference between low profile and standard buckets, said Wade Spencer, sales engineer.

“We want to get with the younger groups coming into the facilities,” he said. “We want to make sure they know how to install the buckets correctly.”

The Road Show also will cover elevator maintenance, including what to look for when inspecting an elevator and where the wear points are located, Spencer said. Most important will be the hands-on experience.

“You can teach in the classroom but until you get your hands on it and do it correctly, that’s how you learn,” he said.

Maxi-Lift also was showcasing new equipment, including stackable buckets. They are easier and cheaper to ship overseas because they stack inside each other. Instead of shipping in a 40-foot container, it’s sometimes possible to use just a 20-foot container, Spencer said.

Spencer also was demonstrating the new ultra splice made of high grade aluminum. A wedge was added to reduce wear of the edges of a belt when it goes over pulleys.

Essmueller, Laurel, Mississippi, U.S., displayed its Abel slide gate, which the company started manufacturing at its facility in May. Essmueller purchased the product line from Abel Manufacturing in February 2016.

“We’re very proud to have that line,” said Jamison Anding, vice-president of operations. “It fits real well into our plant. We’re looking forward to expanding on it.”

Global Industries, Grand Island, Nebraska, U.S., was highlighting its bucket elevator boot, which can elevate grain higher and feed it back into a conveyor or another piece of equipment.

Mike Muessel, international sales engineer, said the need for larger equipment is one of the biggest trends in the industry.

“We want to move grain faster, load trains faster, unload trucks faster; that all requires bigger equipment to do that,” he said. “We’re dealing more grain; we had a 15-billion-bushel corn crop.”

It would take 50,000 bins sized 50-feet by 30-feet high to hold just 1 billion bushels.

“So you’re talking about a lot of equipment,” Muessel said.

To help manage the large corn crops from the last several harvests, Behlen, Columbus, Nebraska, U.S., developed a little over a year ago a temporary storage solution that may be configured in several ways.

“It can hold from a few thousand bushels to millions of bushels,” said Kirk Nelson, director of marketing and sales. “You just keep adding on in sequence and you can make as large a diameter circle or oblong pile as you like.”

Warrior Mfg., Hutchinson, Minnesota, U.S., is also prepared to handle large capacities with the enclosed conveyor it had on display at GEAPS Exchange, said Randy Stauffer, vice-president. It has a capacity up to 50,000 bph, and is very heavy duty.

“Everything that we weld gets hot dipped,” he said. “It’s a very heavy duty, very robust piece of equipment.”

Warrior recently added material handling equipment to its existing portfolio of structural supports.

“Material handling is a natural fit from being in structures and catwalks,” Stauffer said. “The equipment we build will sit on the bridge so it’s a seamless interface for our customers to add a conveyor or bucket elevator into our existing towers.”

Worldwide, Global is seeing a lot of interest in Africa, where the market is growing and not nearly as mature as the U.S. market, he said. There is still interest in Europe and Southeast Asia, he said.

“Everybody has to eat, everybody has to have the grain,” Muessel said. “Somehow it has to be handled and stored safely and not put in a position where it’s going to rot.”

AGI had several pieces of equipment from its many brands on display at the GEAPS Expo.
South America is a busy region for AGI, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, which is building a new 200,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Brazil. The facility initially will produce bins under the Westeel brand and Hi Roller belt conveyors, said George Vis, AGI vice-president of commercial operations.

“Those are the first two products, and that will expand to the rest of our product line over the next several years,” he said. “That’s a significant initiative and a real good opportunity.”

Europe is another area of growth, Vis said. AGI recently acquired Frame, a bin manufacturing company based in Bologna, Italy, and PTM Technology, a material handling company based in Este, Italy.

Exhibitors agree the GEAPS Expo is one of the most important of the year for meeting with existing customers and making new contacts.

“It’s a very important show for us,” Stauffer said. It’s kind of our Super Bowl.”