For many years, wheat and flour production have been a source of pride in Enid, Oklahoma, U.S., a city with a population of about 50,000 that is nicknamed “Queen Wheat City” for its immense grain storage capacity, said to be the third largest in the United States, according to the Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association.
Surrounded by vast fields of hard red winter wheat, Enid for the past 90 years also has been the home of one of the country’s largest flour mills. Erected in 1928 by Pillsbury Company and sold to ADM Milling in 1993, the 18,000-cwt-capacity mill recently underwent a major modernization that included installing state-of-the-art milling and conveying equipment as well as an automated plant control system.
“In recent years it became increasingly clear that in order to continue to grow, we had to evolve to meet our customers’ growing needs,” John Dick, commercial manager of the Enid plant, said on Oct. 8 during the grand opening of the modernized plant. “Our industry is always changing, and the standards are getting higher. Customers want to make sure they are getting the very best. That’s what this plant is all about. It’s about putting in the newest, best technology and using it to better serve our customers.
“It means faster service and the very highest quality. That’s why we added a single, highly automated, state-of-the-art milling unit that will efficiently meet existing customers’ needs and give us the capacity to pursue other customers.”
ADM Milling is one of the largest milling companies in the world with facilities in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Central America and the United Kingdom, and the second largest milling company in North America with daily capacity of 295,000 cwts at its 23 mills in the United States and Canada, according to Sosland Publishing Company’s 2019 Grain & Milling Annual.
While its daily capacity will remain the same as before the modernization — 18,000 cwts, making it the 22nd largest mill in North America — the Enid mill now is producing that amount of flour using less equipment than before, Dick said.
Dick explained that previously flour was produced on two milling lines (A and B), with each having a daily capacity of around 7,500 cwts. Another 3,000 cwts of daily capacity at the mill comes from a whole wheat flour milling line that is relatively new.
“We took out our entire B mill and put a brand-new mill in that footprint that can produce the amount that we used to produce using the A and B mill,” Dick said.
The mill modernization, which took a little less than a year to complete, involved gutting the east side of the seven-story plant while keeping the A mill, on the west side, in operation to serve customers. The building itself was not expanded or renovated, and the grain storage capacity — 2.5 million bushels — remained the same. Dick noted there was an increase in millfeed capacity.
“We completely (retrofitted) our B mill,” he said. “In that footprint we installed a brand new Ocrim mill that is fully automated to have the capacity of two old mills in the footprint of that one mill.”
The A mill, which currently is not being utilized, is available for future expansion, Dick explained.
A source of local pride
As with any project of this type, the company had to weigh options such as: tearing down the old mill and erecting a new one in Enid; adding to the existing structure; or shutting down the mill and rebuilding in a different location.
The trend in recent years has been for milling companies to move flour production closer to major population areas to reduce distance between the mill and its customers.
In this case, ADM Milling decided to remain in Enid, which is remotely located but near an ample supply of hard winter wheat in northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas.
“We’ve got a lot of great local producers, so we have an abundant supply of good milling quality wheat,” Dick said. “The logistics here are also good. We have access to both the BNSF and Union Pacific railways here in Enid, and I-35 is only 30 minutes away, so all in all the logistics, particularly the rail logistics, are really good.”
Flour from the Enid mill is shipped to all of the lower 48 states, Dick said, either directly or through distributors.
“We can ship virtually anywhere out of here,” he said.
Dick said that although the mill was constructed in 1928, engineering studies showed that structure was sound, so the decision was made to simply retrofit the existing mill with new equipment.
Wanting to make sure ADM Milling remained in Enid, local and state officials worked to reduce capital costs and improve infrastructure to support the project. The effort included the city commission’s decision to create a tax increment finance (TIF) district to help with construction costs.
Also, since more electrical power would be needed to run the new equipment, the city turned to OG&E Energy to put in a new electrical substation just south of the mill.
“OG&E invested to help Oklahoma to get this ADM plant updated so it would last a long time,” said Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese.
A native of northwest Oklahoma, Reese said he felt a personal connection to the mill, which is one of the reasons he made a trip to ADM Milling’s headquarters in Overland Park, Kansas, U.S., to meet with company officials about the project.
“I toured this plant as a kid, toured it again as a legislator and now I’m getting a third tour as the Secretary of Agriculture,” Reese said. “This will allow the plant to continue here into the future, so my kids and grandkids can tour this plant.
“In today’s environment and the way things are changing, it’s pretty easy to level the old and build the new. We are really thankful that ADM determined that they wanted to continue in this plant and were able to make it more efficient than it’s ever been.”
Out with the old, in with the new
The goal of making the mill more efficient was accomplished by replacing several-decades-old equipment with the latest equipment from several of the world’s most prominent suppliers to the milling industry.
Removed were Allis Chalmers roller mills, Great Western Manufacturing Co.’s wooden sifters and belt and bucket conveyors and installed in their place were 23 single and 9 double high roller mills, nine purifiers and five 10-section sifters manufactured by Cremona, Italy-based Ocrim as well as a pneumatic conveying system and a plant automation system supplied by Wichita, Kansas, U.S.-based Kice Industries.
During a tour of the facility following the grand opening, Michael Wiechman, process improvement manager for ADM Milling, described how these changes will improve the mill’s performance.
“Over here you can see flat belts and pulleys,” he said. “That’s how the old roller mills were driven. With the new roller mills, there are individual motors for each rollstand, which gives us more control of the mill operation.”
Wiechman said Ocrim installed 23 single high and 9 double high roller mills on the third and fourth floors of the mill. The addition of the double high roller mills is one of the reasons the Enid mill is maintaining its milling capacity using one milling line instead of two.
Replacing the belt and bucket conveyors with pneumatic tubing to move stock was also part of the modernization, he said.
“It’s a lot more sanitary process,” Wiechman said. “It’s a big, big upgrade in that respect.”
A control room with a centrally automated computer system has allowed the Enid mill to go from manual operation to automated control.
“Before we had to go floor by floor and start the mill by hand,” Wiechman said. “Now we can start the mill sequentially from this room.”
Before entering the milling system, the wheat is run through a cleaning section that includes a separator, scourer and tempering bins, where it undergoes a 24-hour temper to toughen up the bran to achieve better separation of the bran and endosperm during the milling process.
The final piece of the modernization puzzle will be completed in the spring when Premier Tech of Riviere-du-Loup, Canada, installs a high-speed packaging system that will fill 25- and 50-pound bags. Wiechman said the new packer will be able to fill 18 50-pound bags per minute, compared to the current system, which fills about 12 bags per minute.
Most of the flour shipped out of the Enid facility is transported by rail across the United States, he said.
“We do a lot of bulk flour and in bulk rail cars in particular,” Wiechman said. “We are going to be ramping up to 30 to 35 railcars a week once we get our capacity all the way up. Right now, we’re doing around 20 to 22 railcars per week.”
A small percentage of the flour produced at the Enid mill goes to local, smaller bakers and grocery stores.
“We’re kind of unique in that regard,” he said. “Farmers here are taking their wheat to this mill where it’s processed, and they are buying some of that flour here in town at the grocery stores, made from wheat in this region.”
Enid’s role in ADM’s new strategy
Earlier this year, ADM announced the restructuring of its business segments into four units — Carbohydrate Solutions, which includes flour milling, Nutrition, Oilseeds and Origination. The company said the new segments better reflect ADM’s operating structure and will enable the company to further highlight the differentiation of its product and service offerings and enhance its ability to respond to the evolving needs of customers.
Chris Cuddy, who recently was promoted from head of Corn Processing to lead the Carbohydrate Solutions unit, attended the grand opening of the Enid mill and explained how the modernization of the facility fits into the company’s new strategy.
He said the new facility will help ADM Milling be a better “supplier and collaborator and problem solver for milling customers around the globe. That’s why this plant is so exciting. Not just because it is great for our customers and great for this community, but because it’s a symbol of ADM Milling, a growing global business that’s committed to being the very best.”
Cuddy said the mill was not only built with its customers in mind, but those who provide the mill with its raw material.
“Here in the heart of wheat country, we depend on a group of local farmers that supply this great mill,” Cuddy said. “We look forward to continue to work with them at this improved facility.”
ADM Milling is scheduled to open a new 30,000-cwt flour mill in Mendota, Illinois, U.S., about 90 miles west of Chicago, in 2019. Once that mill is operating, ADM said it will cease operations at its 13,700-cwt flour mill in Chicago.
“This facility (in Enid) along with another facility under construction in Mendota, Illinois, will help us continue to meet demand and drive operational efficiencies at a time when we are seeing bakers expand production capabilities,” Cuddy said.
The Mendota mill will have the fourth largest daily flour production capacity in North America behind North Dakota Mills in Grand Forks, North Dakota, U.S. (52,000 cwts), Ardent Mills in Hastings, Minnesota, U.S. (32,500 cwts) and Mondelez mill in Toledo, Ohio, U.S., (31,000 cwts), according to the 2019 Grain & Milling Annual. Ranking fifth is ADM Milling’s Beech Grove, Indiana, U.S., facility, which was expanded in 2014 to a daily production capacity of 28,000 cwts.