Enterprise Minnesota Magazine - November 2012
HELPING MANUFACTURERS GROW PROFITABLY
Peer Council Partnership
Two Enterprise Minnesota CE O Peer Council members team up to market Lakeland Companies’ new wireless grain monitoring system.
Hanson Silo's Matt Hanson demonstrates how Lakeland Companies' remote grain pile monitoring system tracks grain temperature to help farmers prevent crop spoilage.
When Lakeland Companies COO Gregg Phelps joined Enterprise Minnesota’s CEO Peer Council last year, he gained access to candid discussion among manufacturing leaders, a network of trusted advisors, and, unexpectedly, a new business partner. Phelps and fellow peer council member Matt Hanson, president of precast concrete bunker wall manufacturer Hanson Silo, have since joined forces to sell one of Lakeland Companies’ newest products.
The Plymouth Minnesota-based industrial process control systems manufacturer’s Ground Pile Remote Monitoring System consists of several wireless temperature probes driven into several locations throughout grain piles stored in outdoor bunkers. The product is designed to help farmers and grain handlers, who face the ongoing challenge of knowing the condition of their grain at all times to maximize profit while minimizing spoilage.
“It might be a good day to sell at Christmas; it might be a good day to sell next June. This product gives you the ability to know the health and condition of your grain well in advance of it becoming a problem, so that you can make better business decisions about when to sell,” Phelps explains.
Lakeland first developed remote monitoring system capabilities to provide railway workers with diagnostic and visual information for snow melters, which are used to melt snow and ice from railroad track switch points. Seeing a broader potential for its remote monitoring capabilities, Lakeland adapted it for the agriculture industry. The probes monitor temperature in about 40 locations throughout a large grain pile, then send the data to a secure, cloud-based system where farmers and grain handlers can track the condition of their grain from their computer, iPad or smart phone through a web browser interface. Any number of ground piles from one to hundreds or even thousands can be monitored from a single location using banking level security. The system also alerts farmers and grain handlers if certain locations in the pile are becoming too warm and are at risk of spoiling or rotting through the Notification System.
Hanson and Phelps met through the CEO Peer Council, one of 11 that Enterprise Minnesota facilitates across the state. Several conversations later, they discovered that Hanson Silo had manufactured the grain bunker for the company conducting Lakeland Companies’ pilot test.
“There was a natural synergy there,” Phelps says.
Hanson agrees. “We have a lot of customers that use corn bunkers and bean bunkers, otherwise known as grain bunkers, and they’re always wondering how long they can leave the commodities in the bunker and still maintain good, healthy grain. They’ll have millions of dollars’ worth of corn in a system, and they won’t really know how it’s doing.
With Lakeland’s monitoring product, they can determine whether there is a problem, and if there is, they can isolate exactly where it is within the corn pile,” he says.
While a widespread drought devastated field conditions across much of the U.S. this year, Phelps says farmers in areas that experienced good crop yields, including Minnesota, have been among the first to install the system as corn has notched record-high prices this year.
“All of a sudden, that million-bushel pile of corn is now worth $8 or $9 million instead of $4 or $5 million, so protecting that pile for a nominal fee makes sense,” Phelps says.
Over time, Phelps expects the product to constitute 10 percent of the company’s annual revenue.
To learn more about The Lakeland Companies and Hanson Silo, go to www.lakelandgrain.com and www.hansonsilo.com.
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