Feed milling may be complex as it comprises several engineering steps such as pelleting, conditioning, drying, cooling, managing steam quality, etc. but operators do have additional ways to increase profitability in their feed production by focusing on the feed processing operation itself. Frequently the finished feed is viewed as a consequence of the process, rather than a means of evaluating the process.
Kemin argues that feed mill managers ought to continuously identify “Key Performance Indicators” (KPI) that increase productivity and quality, as well as reduce costs and risks.
“Reducing process variability or reaching the process wetness target improves the overall KPI such as pellet durability, throughput, energy consumption or feed losses”, notes Luis Conchello, MillSMART business manager for Animal Nutrition & Health in EMENA. “It is critical that the variables which affect feed safety and animal performance are identified and optimum results are secured. This is possible when using MillSMART, Kemin’s feed preconditioning programme for effective feed processing impacting profitability and safety”.
Feedinfo News Service recently touched base with Luis Conchello to discuss improvements in mechanical feed processing operations and the benefits of the MillSMART programme, following the large customer meeting Kemin had recently in Antwerp, which brought together feed producers from around the world.
[Feedinfo News Service] Mr. Conchello, where do you see potentials for cost savings in feed mills, and how does the MillSMART preconditioning programme help tackle some of these issues?
[Luis Conchello] MillSMART works on all the useful potential savings at feed mill plants that can be considered KPI which are directly impacting profitability and safety. Improving feed mill profitability however, cannot be achieved by simply reducing processing input costs. While input costs are certainly important it is necessary to consider several other factors in feed mill efficiency. These include optimising feedstuff usage, minimising ingredient segregation, eliminating shrinkage, reducing production process variability, assuring product quality, decreasing customer complaints, improving nutrient utilisation, savings in energy use and increased production rate. Other areas that will pay dividends are good housekeeping, regular data collection and record keeping. Good pellet quality is very important as it brings several benefits such as compaction which reduces the volume of the feed, saving transport and storage capacity. Good pellets have a homogeneous shape and are stable in transport and storage which will reduce loss from dust or fines. Good quality pellets with little dust or fines are usually well accepted by the animals. By contrast poorly pelleted feed can lead to selective feed ingestion by the animals.
[Feedinfo News Service] In which markets are you seeing the best results and what are customers telling you?
[Luis Conchello] MillSMART is now available in all the 90 markets which Kemin is present. These markets are served out of manufacturing facilities in Belgium, Brazil, China, India, Italy, Russia, Singapore, South Africa and the US. According to customers all over the world, MillSMART increases feed mill profitably by reducing operating costs, improving throughput, pellet quality and providing higher production output. Additionally, process variability is reduced and feed safety secured. For all those reasons MillSMART is a great opportunity.
[Feedinfo News Service] Can you discuss the importance of control process weight losses and the recovery of moisture losses during feed production?
[Luis Conchello] It was demonstrated that additional feed mill efficiency can be achieved by minimizing ingredient segregation and eliminating shrinkage. Feedstuffs represent the largest single expense in animal production. Optimising feedstuff usage through the whole feed chain by minimising ingredient segregation at farms, and eliminating shrinkages at feed plant is imperative. Cost saving related to feed shrinkage and final product weight produced amounts to EUR 10/ton.
[Feedinfo News Service] Why are the monitoring of steam use in feed manufacture and the cooling process important?
[Luis Conchello] They influence the feed pelleting process.
Moisture transfer from the steam into feed is much slower than heat transfer from steam therefore MillSMART is considered a crucial preconditioning programme to improve the steam absorption. Superheated or wet steam are not appropriate. With saturated steam there is a direct connection between temperature and pressure. If you know the temperature you know the pressure and vice versa, regardless the dryness fraction. For the feed industry the major quality criterion for steam is to keep the variance of the dryness fraction as low as possible. Steam for conditioning can take up as much as 20% of energy costs in feed manufacture, so careful monitoring of steam use and utilization of optimum steam quality is important.
Water is a key ingredient in feed and when a pelleted feed leaves the die it is quite hot and has a high moisture content due to steam conditioning and passage through the die. Therefore an important aspect of feed manufacture is the efficient cooling of the pellets before they are transported to the storage facilities. For extra feed hygiene security, filtered air can be used in coolers. However in this case it would be most appropriate to place the air intake filers in a separate room from the cooler. The most efficient cooling system should reduce the pellet temperature to 5°C or less above ambient temperature. At the same time the dryness should not be too low to avoid losses and the damage on durability.
[Feedinfo News Service] In which ways will Kemin further fine-tune the MillSMART programme?
[Luis Conchello] The critical takeaway is that the possibilities for improvements in feed manufacturing are endless. Changes and advances made in feed processing technology and conditioning techniques will significantly impact feed mill profitability and pellet quality. Therefore, a key component of any improvement programme is to quantify the distinct variables and make appropriate changes to improve the process to maximise values. In today’s world, all improvements which can be made to optimize the bottom line in feed production through introducing process improvements steps are very welcomed by feed manufacturers. These improvements can have a direct effect (e.g. reducing energy consumption in the feed mill and production output) as well as an indirect effect (e.g. improved pellet quality, durability and safety). Through securing the production process, a feed mill runs most efficiently and can generate a significant competitive advantage. MillSMART is an effective tool to optimize the feed value and feed mill operations. With MillSMART, the feed mill is no longer seen as a cost-centre.
[Feedinfo News Service] Kemin estimates the cost of manufacturing process itself to be around 10% of the total feed cost. Realistically, can this percentage be lowered by 1% or more?
[Luis Conchello] One should not forget that feedstuffs represent the largest single expense. Optimising feedstuff usage through the whole feed chain by minimising ingredient segregation at farms, and eliminating shrinkages at feed plant is imperative. MillSMART increases feed mill profitability by reducing energy costs, improving throughput and providing higher production output. Superior feed pellet quality and safer feeds are delivered across the supply chain with strong protection and more consistent nutrient density, all at a cost savings per treatment. Therefore, in this regard, the investment our partners make initially in technology and products results in higher capital expenditure but our partners can also expect an improved ROI which creates a faster payback period, and significantly increases operating income over time. Feed operations using MillSMART are taking advantage of this opportunity and confirm more than 1% total cost reduction as it was asked. With MillSMART, feed operators are growing their profitability with the highest productivity and the lowest cost while ensuring product quality and safety.
Through product development, equipment manufacturing and engineering technology, Kemin is able making substantial contributions to improve the profitability of feed manufacturing. Additionally, the MillSMART programme ensures feed safety. Feed operators should not ignore this opportunity that they have in front of them.