Having a good preventive maintenance program, a good sanitation and pest management program, and an effective energy conservation program may not appear to be interrelated. However, it has been my experience managing Kansas State University’s (KSU) Research Feed Mill, and having the opportunity to tour a number of feed manufacturing facilities, both domestically and internationally, that when a feed mill successfully accomplishes one of the above, the other two fall into place rather quickly.

It largely seems to be tied to a common mindset or attitude of management and the employees within the facility. Though it would be difficult to quantify the economic value of this general attitude, it does seem to be an essential component to the efficient production of animal feed.

The following are a few key aspects of effective preventive maintenance, plant sanitation, and energy conservation programs.

Having a good preventive maintenance program is extremely important, and it is really not that difficult. It basically comes down to gathering information on the production equipment (i.e., the make and model), the equipment components that will likely fail over time, routine maintenance required and service schedules, and then organizing that information.

Equally important is having an organized and secure parts/tools inventory. Even at the KSU feed mill, tools and parts have a tendency to “grow legs and walk off.” Restrict access to areas where parts and tools are stored. Have procedures in place that trigger re-ordering essential parts, and don’t rely on one person being in charge of maintenance and parts inventory.

Having required cross-checks and multiple signatures will help eliminate miscommunications regarding what parts are available and what parts need to be ordered.

Having unnecessary parts in inventory is expensive and it ties up needed assets. Don’t overstock parts, and when possible, partner with nearby feed mills to share the cost associated with having spare parts in stock. Most feed mills have the same basic processes and many of the parts are interchangeable between facilities.

When working with parts vendors, be organized and negotiate for the best price. Every piece of equipment in your facility should have a record of replacement parts, vendors and an estimate time to get parts delivered. This will help identify the critical parts to have available at all times.

I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to work under a feed mill manager that strongly believed in the importance of maintaining the cleanliness of the facility. I’m not sure that I appreciated it at the time, as I was the head broom operator, but I have since learned the significance that sanitation has on employee performance and feed mill efficiency.

There are big differences in the atmosphere or working environment that exists between a clean, well managed facility versus a feed mill where employees pay little attention to cleanliness. Poor sanitation also seems to translate into poor equipment maintenance as well as poor attitudes toward safety.

Another important aspect to consider regarding sanitation is rodent control. Eliminating places of harborage and food sources is essential to controlling rodents. If not controlled, rodents can cause an enormous amount of damage to wiring within a control panel and other electrical systems.

Additionally, as microbiological control within feed mills becomes more important, pest management is going to be evermore necessary.

The recent political debate regarding carbon emissions and global warming has caused the feed industry to reflect somewhat regarding our carbon footprint. All available data suggests that feed mills don’t emit more than the allowable reportable limit of greenhouse gases (25,000 tonnes). Nonetheless, it only makes economical sense to conserve energy.

Again, this is more an attitude than anything else. Paying attention to the operation of the boiler, the steam system and the motor loads across the facility are all critical.

The most important thing to remember is to pay attention to details by listening, being observant and not procrastinating about fixing things. As with preventive maintenance and sanitation, energy conservation is more a mindset, and that is of the utmost importance when it comes to managing a feed mill.

As production efficiency and food safety become more important in the feed industry, managers will be required to focus more on plant maintenance, sanitation and energy conservation, which are all interrelated.

Leland McKinney is an associate professor in the Department of Grain Science and Industry at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, U.S. He can be reached at: lelandm@k-state.edu.