Local Expansion Helps CHS Grow
December 17, 2015
Minnesota is the fourth-largest agricultural exporting state in the country. About 54 percent (or 27.6M acres) of the state consists of farmland. That’s close to the total acreage of Tennessee (26.9M acres). For home-grown grain products, Cenex Harvest States (CHS), a Minnesota-based multinational agricultural cooperative, relies on a vast network of roads, railways, and river transit to export around the world.
An important step in the distribution process is the system of grain-handling terminals, or “grain elevators,” where corn, soybean, and wheat can be stored and later moved onto river barges by conveyors. In 1982, CHS opened a multiple commodity grain-handling terminal in Savage, Minn., with a storage capacity of 560,000 bushels (or roughly 31.4 million lbs. if using only corn). That capacity more than doubled this past year with the construction of a new 801,000-bushel bin.
CHS moves more than two billion bushels of grain annually, so efficiency is key. Without an efficient transportation network, farmers could not compete on an international scale. That’s why expansions must be strategic and well executed.
When it came time to choose who would provide automation for the new bin, CHS Savage Terminal Manager Greg Oberle knew Egan held a distinct advantage.
“The work that Paul Meier [Project Manager], Todd Voth [Electrical Foreman], Darin Shaw [Electrical Foremen], Joe Trosen [Controls Engineer], and Mark Thomas [Electrical Foreman] have performed for us is outstanding,” said Oberle. “We already knew they were a good fit for the expansion, based on past experience.”
The experience Oberle mentions is in reference to a full-scale software update that occurred in 1999. The then-current PLC/3 control system had become out-of-date. CHS hired technicians from Industrial Electric (since acquired by Egan) to upgrade the system with new ControlLogix and RSView software. After a successful installation, the business relationship continued to stay strong through the years.
“The whole operation has been Egan’s baby since the update,” said Oberle. “The Egan crew works hard to make sure they come to me with solutions, not just issues. That kind of relationship is what wins you the first major expansion to this facility since it opened in 1982.”
The new bin is a 105-foot wide cylinder that stands 99-feet tall at the eve and 128 feet at its peak. Egan installed two new motor control centers for product supply and control motors for conveyance to-and-from the new bin. Todd Voth, who lives in the area and is frequently called on by CHS to tend to the facility’s many-faceted needs, played a key role in the technology integration effort.
“Automation-wise, grain elevators are definitely more complex than most people might think,” Voth said. “It’s a process with many coordinated steps to move grain that efficiently, and any missteps can lead to angry grain haulers and lost business.”
The substantial increase in storage frees up business options for CHS. Deliveries that used to have to wait until a barge arrived can now freely move product to the facility without delay. The new bin is also designed to help railroad cars load more efficiently.
The bin officially opened in May 2015, after five months of construction. The facility can now efficiently store and manage about 1.36 million bushels of grain product, and continues to receive dedicated service from Egan personnel.
Egan Services Provided: Installation of two new motor control centers for product supply and control motors for conveyance to-and-from the new bin.