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.”

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Award winners

Along with the Expo and educational opportunities, GEAPS Exchange included the presentation of three awards during the President’s Banquet on Feb. 28. Deb Good, Brock Grain Systems, Cornbelt Chapter, received the Corbett Award, while Jim Coder, Control Stuff Inc., and Wayne Bauer, Star of the West Milling, were honored with Industry Leader awards.

Good has served in the grain industry for 44 years, and has been an associate member of GEAPS since 1995. The Corbett award is given to associate members who have demonstrated extraordinary volunteer leadership.

Good attended her first Exchange in 1996 in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., and joined the Exchange Educational Programming Committee shortly after. She served on the committee for 20 years. She also served on the Associates board of directors, the International Executive Committee, GEAPS Foundation Governing Board and Exchange Host Advisory Council. She was the second female president of the Associates board.

The Industry Leader Award gives special recognition to individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the advancement of operations safety, health, environmental responsibility, efficiency and stored grain quality preservation excellence in the grain handling and processing industry.

Coder, Control Stuff Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., said he joined GEAPS in 2003 to establish relationships with potential customers, gain knowledge and expertise, and to share his knowledge with other members.

Within the grain industry, Coder said he is particularly proud of the work his company has done on systems integration. He has worked to automate systems that use to take several operators at multiple locations using radios and hand signals and condensed them into processes that may be completed with a few mouse clicks.

Bauer, the other Industry Leader Award recipient, has been involved in the agriculture industry his entire life. Over the past 46 years, he worked in a variety of management areas for seven different firms, including the last 21 with Star of the West Milling. He joined GEAPS in 1975, and helped form the Michigan/Southern Ontario chapter. He was the first president of the group, and served as president twice. He also made two trips to Argentina on behalf of GEAPS, and served as international president from 2004-05. He worked with two other chapters to create the Great Lakes Regional Conference in Angola, Indiana, U.S., and helped establish an active branch of the Emergency Services Rescue Training group in Michigan.

His involvement in the industry also has included chairing the Grain Entrapment Prevention initiative from 1999-2015, co-chairing the Michigan Food and Agriculture Protection & Defense Working Group for over 10 years, and serving on the joint U.S. Agro-Terrorism Prevention and Facility Security Committee in 2007 and 2015.

GEAPS also recognized outstanding individuals and companies who won Safety Awards; Chapter Members of Distinction; Chapter Cup and Outstanding Chapter award winners; 25-year members; 40-year members and 2016 Credential Earners.

GEAPS Exchange 2018 will be March 24-27, 2018, at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colorado, U.S. The Expo Hall will offer 290,000 square feet of space for exhibitors to showcase their products.