AR, West Memphis: Louis Dreyfus Company


Landward Side of the Levee

LDC Sites Newest River Terminal with Eye Toward Extending Rail Service

Louis Dreyfus Company’s new 800,000-bushel river terminal at West Memphis, AR sends grain more than half a mile via covered belt conveyor (left) out to moored barges. Photo by Aerial Innovations of Tennessee, Nashville.

Louis Dreyfus Company’s new 800,000-bushel river terminal at West Memphis, AR sends grain more than half a mile via covered belt conveyor (left) out to moored barges. Photo by Aerial Innovations of Tennessee, Nashville.

Barge-loading terminals usually are built as close to the river bank as feasible. Limiting the distance from the elevator to the loadout spout also can minimize costs and potential damage to grain.

Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC) took a different approach when building its new 800,000-bushel river terminal on the Mississippi River in West Memphis, AR (870-394-7454).

The slipform concrete and steel facility is actually a little over half a mile from the west bank of the Mississippi, on the west side of the river levee. The elevator is connected to the barge-loading station via an overhead 60,000-bph covered belt conveyor running 2,900 feet out to the water’s edge.

This offers a number of advantages over building right next to the river. For one thing, having a levee between the elevator and the river helps prevent flooding the facility, when the Mississippi periodically overflows its banks.  But perhaps more importantly, says Plant Superintendent Shane Martin, is the location on the west side of the levee will allow LDC to bring in rail service, which is not possible in West Memphis between the levee and the river. (The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway serves West Memphis.)

“That’s something our competitors aren’t able to do,” says Martin, who came to LDC in 2015 after being part of the management team at an ADM export terminal in Ama, LA.  “It’s a big change from when I worked at Ama,” Martin commented when Grain Journal visited in mid-August.

Flexible Design
The West Memphis facility,which was slated to begin receiving grain Sept. 1, is much smaller than Ama, of course, but it also has a different function as a delivery point for crops grown around the mid-Delta region.  Martin says the new terminal is similar in design to a river terminal LDC constructed four years ago at Rosedale, MS. “We’re a little bigger, a little faster, and have more options available,” he says.  “We’ll be able to handle anything local growers can bring us. This year it will be strictly beans and corn. After that, we’ll be able to put through rice and wheat, then more after we get rail in.”

To emphasize versatility, he explains, the terminal features a four-pack of 77,000-bushel slipform concrete tanks, two of which will be aerated for grain awaiting loadout and the other two for wet grain awaiting drying in a 12,000-bph Zimmerman tower dryer. The elevator also includes a 500,000-bushel Chief corrugated steel tank for large volume crops that don’t require many separations such as corn and soybeans.

LDC selected frequent partner Younglove Construction L.L.C., Sioux City, IA (712-277-3906), as contractor and millwright on the project. Younglove has been the lead contractor on a number of other LDC terminals on the Mississippi including Rosedale; Natchez, MS; and portions of an upgrade at Port Allen, LA.  Construction on the project began in early 2015 and was scheduled for completion Sept. 1, 2016.

Terminal Description
The four main slipform concrete tanks stand 32 feet in diameter and 140 feet tall. They are outfitted with 45-degree steel hopper bottoms eliminating the need for workers to enter the tanks to empty them. All are equipped with BinMaster capacitance probe level indicators.

The two dry-grain storage tanks are outfitted with three-cable Rolfes@Boone grain temperature monitoring systems. Each tank has a 50-hp AIRLANCO centrifugal fan with silencer that provides 1/7 cfm per bushel of aeration with the assistance two 2-hp roof exhausters.  The two wet tanks have no temperature monitoring or aeration, since the grain they hold will proceed directly to the dryer.

The Chief tanks stands 90 feet in diameter, 88 feet tall at the eave, and 114 feet tall at the peak. The flat bottom tank has outside stiffeners, a 16-inch GSI Series II sweep auger, 18-cable Rolfes@Boone grain temperature monitoring system, and BinMaster capacitance probe level monitors.  A set of four 40-hp Caldwell centrifugal fans provide 1/10 cfm per bushel of aeration through in-floor ducting.

LDC currently is originating most of the grain coming to West Memphis locally. Grain trucks are routed through the facility by a CompuWeigh SmartTruck automated system using RFID scanners, digital display boards, and an automatic scale ticket printer next to the outbound truck scale. Incoming trucks are sampled with one of two InterSystems truck probes then routed onto one of two 110-foot Rice Lake pitless inbound scales adjacent to the facility office building. Inside the building, samples are tested with a DICKEY-john moisture meter, Carter-Day dockage tester, and Charm Systems mycotoxin strips.

From there, the SmartTruck system automatically routes trucks to one of four 1,000-bushel enclosed mechanical receiving pits in a two-story 50-foot-x-100-foot slipform concrete structure.  Two of the pits feed 20,000-bushel InterSystems receiving legs. The other two pits feed directly to the shipping leg.

The receiving legs are outfitted with two rows of 12×8 Maxi-Lift Tiger-Tuff orange buckets mounted on a 27-inch Goodyear belt. The legs are enclosed in a 10-foot-x-14-foot-x-120-foot Warrior support tower.

Empty trucks proceed to a 11-foot-x-75-foot Rice Lake outbound scale where they are again automatically identified by the SmartTruck system for their tare weights and scale tickets.  The receiving legs deposit grain into a six-duct InterSystems rotary dual distributor, which sends grain to concrete storage via gravity spouts or to steel storage via an overhead 40,000-bph InterSystems enclosed belt conveyor.  The wet tanks deliver grain to the dryer via a 15,000-bph InterSystems wet leg equipped with 18×8 Maxi-Lift Tiger-Tuff orange buckets on a 20-inch Goodyear belt. The 12,000-bph continuous-flow tower dryer, the largest Zimmerman makes, in turn, sends grain back to storage via another InterSystems 15,000-bph leg.

Storage tanks empty onto above-ground 40,000-bph InterSystem enclosed belts, all of which send grain to a 60,000-bph InterSystems jump leg used for shipping. This leg is outfitted with two rows of 28×10 Maxi-Lift Tiger-Tuff orange buckets on a 60-inch belt.  This leg drops grain onto an overhead Continental Conveyor 60,000-bph covered (but not enclosed) belt conveyor running 2,900 feet, more than half a mile, out to the river. The conveyor is enclosed in a 10-foot Warrior box bridge, which includes a 250-foot clear span section over the top of the levee as required by the Army Corps of Engineers.

At the riverside, up to two barges can dock at dolphin-style moorings. The shipping belt deposits grain into a 4,000-bushel Warrior/Micada surge bin mounted over the water on an 18-foot-x-18-foot-x-80-foot Warrior stair tower. A separate Premier Fabrication tower supports a Premier 60,000-bph telescoping, steering, and lifting spout that delivers that grain to the barges.

“Everything went pretty smoothly,” Martin reports. “The high water we had on the Mississippi in December 2015 actually helped us by making it easier to set the bridges.”

Ed Zdrojewski, editor

NE, Aurora: Pacific Ethanol


Sweet Turnaround

Aventine Restarts 110-MMGY Aurora West on Beet Sugar

Aventine - SmartTruck Case Study - NE, Aurora 1

Mark Beemer has been busy making changes at Aventine Renewable Energy since he took over as chief executive officer in December 2012, renovating, repairing, and remaking Aventine’s ethanol production plants.

When Beemer joined Aventine, the company had six ethanol plants. Only the wet mill plant in Pekin, IL, was running and it was operating at 80% capacity.

Beemer brought in a new management team soon after taking over and Aventine’s board directed the new team to develop a two-year strategic plan targeting key investments that needed to be made to insure the survivability of the company, which had been on a financial roller coaster since it was formed in 2006.

In an interview at the 110-million-gallon-a-year (MMGY) Aurora West ethanol plant in Aurora, NE, Beemer outlined the efforts that led to Aventine’s turnaround, including a $30 million renovation plan being carried out at the company’s two ethanol production plants in Pekin, IL, and an expenditure of $17 million in efficiency improvements at Aurora West and Nebraska Energy, LLC (NELLC), a 45-MMGY-ethanol plant next door in Aurora.

“Rejuvenation of the company has been wildly successful,” Beemer told BioFuels Journal. “We shattered Aventine’s old production record in October 2013, broke the production record again in December 2013, and broke it again in April 2014.”

None of the extensive renovations has attracted as much attention, however, as Aventine’s decision to develop its sweet tooth for ethanol processing.

In December, Aventine’s board of directors decided to begin full production at the Aurora West plant, which was shut down shortly after it was completed in December 2010.

Sweet Restart
In an effort to reopen the Aurora West plant economically, Aventine bid on and was awarded 165,250 tons of sugar beet sugar for $12 million, which was enough to fill 1,650 railcars that government owned in Nebraska, Wyoming, and Colorado. Aventine bought the most sugar among the three ethanol producers that bid on and purchased the sweet commodity.  The sugar was owned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as part of its Feedstock Flexibility Program, which permitted Aventine and the other two ethanol producers (Pacific Ethanol, Inc. and Central Indiana Ethanol, LLC to buy the sugar at below-market prices at government auctions.

The USDA had taken ownership of the sugar when processors forfeited the commodity in lieu of repaying their loans from the federal sugar program.  The USDA is required to auction the sugar it owns for non-food uses, such as ethanol production.

“It was an entrepreneurial move on our part to take the sugar,” Beemer said.  “It was a simple way for us to reopen the plant, without having to grind corn or produce dried distillers grains (DDGs).”

The sugar was railed from the warehouses where it had been stored to Giltner, NE and Hampton, NE and then trucked 14.5 and 6.5 miles, respectively, to Aurora.  Aurora West started processing the beet sugar in late February 2014, Beemer noted, but it didn’t start producing extensive quantities of ethanol until May and June 2014, because the plant hadn’t been properly shuttered.  The first railcar of sugar beet ethanol left the plant on May 28.

Beemer said Aurora West will run sugar through September and then begin a gradual transition to corn. “We’re testing the equipment for processing corn now,” Beemer said. The switch to corn will come just as harvest begins of what is expected to be a record crop that will send corn prices to lows not seen for several years.

More Changes
But sugar was just the sweetener for other changes Beemer was bringing to Aventine.  “When I was named chief executive officer, I was charged with fixing the operations of the company,” Beemer said.  In April 2013, Aventine’s board of directors approved the management team’s $35 million capital expenditure plan to make major renovations and updates at the two Aurora, NE plants and two plants operated by Aventine in Pekin, IL.  The company raised $35 million by June 2013 to pay for the changes, with $10.5 million of that earmarked for working capital.

Significant Renovations

New Rice Lake Weighing Systems truck scales, with a streamlined accounting system from Intelligo and an automated truck management system from CompuWeigh, have been installed by Aventine at Aurora West and NELLC.

New Rice Lake Weighing Systems truck scales, with a streamlined accounting system from
Intelligo and an automated truck management system from CompuWeigh, have been installed by Aventine at Aurora West and NELLC.

The $17 million that Aventine has spent on significant renovations and maintenance work at the 110-MMGY Aurora West plant and the 45-MMGY NELCC facility include:
• Updating four truck dumps and four ethanol rail loadouts, along with a streamlined accounting system from Intelligo and an automated truck management system from CompuWeigh.  According to Tim Ciucci of CompuWeigh Corp., Woodbury, CT (203-262-9400), the company has installed a SmartTruck system that consists of an RFID-based truck management and ticketing system that interfaces to Aventine’s back-end accounting system, Intelligo. “What is unique to this at both plants is that they installed a traffic gate prior to the dump pits,” Ciucci said. “If a truck’s grain does not pass grade, the gate will not open, and the truck must leave the plant. I do not know of any other ethanol facility that has taken automation to this level with regard to grain passing grade.”

CompuWeigh also installed its SmartFlow loadout system at both Aurora plants. “We are interfacing to their AccuLoad flow meters and recording data through our GMS software,” Ciucci said. “We then once again push the completed transaction information to Intelligo.”

• The CompuWeigh equipment is part of two new truck scale systems from Rice Lake Weighing Systems, Rice Lake, WI (715-434-5136). Rice Lake also supplied three new truck scale systems at both of Aventine’s Pekin ethanol plants.

“With both Aurora plants operating with inbound corn and outbound WDGs and DDGs, we had to increase the efficiency of receiving the corn and outbound loads,” Beemer said. The two Aurora facilities have 300 trucks entering and exiting the facilities daily.

• Adding a 1.55-million-bushel steel tank from Behlen Mfg. Co., Columbus, NE at Aurora West.

• Enlarging the wet distillers grains pad at Aurora West to store four days of production.

• Adding 750,000 bushels of steel corn storage by Behlen and a 20,000-bushel grain leg by Intersystems, Omaha, NE at NELLC.

• Building a new, two-story grain grading lab with Seedburo Equipment grain grading equipment and new truck probes from Union Iron, Decatur, IL that are linked to the CompuWeigh system.

• Building new roads and widening existing roads at both sites.

In addition to the work at Aurora West and NELLC, Aventine has spent $30 million upgrading and renovating the wet mill plant in Pekin, IL. Those projects include:

• A $13.2 million expenditure to replace three 70-year-old coal-fired boilers with two new, large high-pressure co-generation natural gas boilers purchased from the Indeck Power Equipment Co., part of the Indeck Group of Companies, located in Wheeling, IL.  The two new Indeck A type watertube package boilers each produce 250,000 pounds per hour (PPH) of steam flow at 430 pound-force per square inch gauge (PSIG) operating pressure and 565 degrees Fahrenheit while meeting modern low nitrogen oxide (NOx) Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) emission limits, according to Gary Blazek, director of business development at Indeck.

• A new grain dumping facility capable of handling 60 trucks an hour with new 30,000-bushel-an-hour grain legs from Intersystems or the ability to unload 110-car unit trains from BNSF in 10 hours.

• A new 38-inch Alfa Laval starch separator machine for $1.4 million that replaced a 30-year-old machine.  At the Pekin dry mill plant, $2.5 million has been spent on upgrades and renovations, Beemer said, including repairing the thermal oxidizer refractory, installing new molecular sieve beads and laterals, rebuilding all the centrifuges, and completing significant repairs to all fermenters, agitators, and pumps.

Another big change came in March 2014, when Aventine sold its 110-MMGY ethanol plant in Mt. Vernon, IN, to Valero Renewable Fuels Company LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Valero Energy Corp., for $34 million.

Plant History
Aurora West is a 110-MMGY ethanol plant built by Fagen, Inc. with a Delta T design on a 75-acre site one mile west of Aurora, NE. After starting construction of the Aurora West plant in 2008, Aventine produced ethanol there only briefly because of the economic recession, the company’s bankruptcy, the relatively high price of corn, and poor margins in the ethanol industry. Aurora West reopened at the end of May using beet sugar.

It is located adjacent to the NELLC plant, which has an annual production capacity of 45 MMGY. It began production in 1985 as a Vogelbush plant and was moved to Aurora, NE, from Louisiana to take advantage of economic incentives for ethanol production granted by Nebraska’s state government.

In mid-June, NELLC was restarted using corn as its feedstock. The Pekin, IL dry mill ethanol plant is a Fagen-built, 57-MMGY facility that also produces 167,000 tons of DDGs and wet distillers grains (WDGs).

The Pekin wet mill originally was built in 1899 as a sugar processing facility. It was converted from producing corn starches and sweeteners to ethanol in 1981. It has a capacity of 100 MMGY and produces ethanol, industrial-grade alcohol, fuel-grade alcohol, corn gluten feed, corn gluten meal, corn germ, wet distillers grains, and yeast.

The Pekin, IL site consists of 200 acres with a railyard that can hold approximately 200 railcars.

Aventine also has an idle ethanol plant in Canton, IL, with a capacity of 38 MMGY, that was purchased by Aventine on Aug. 6, 2010, for $16.5 million from New CIE Energy Opco, LLC, which was doing business as Riverland Biofuels.

Company Organization
Aventine was organized in February 2006 as a publicly-traded company on the over the counter (OTC) market. It filed for reorganization under the Chapter 11 U.S. bankruptcy code in March 2009 and emerged from bankruptcy in March 2010.  It was taken private in September 2012.

Aventine has a total of 285 employees and a $13.5 million annual payroll. The Aurora plants have 75 employees hired since December 2013, with an annual payroll of $5 million.  The Pekin plants have 166 employees who are represented by the United Steelworkers Union and a total workforce of approximately 210 employees, making it one of the largest employers in the Pekin area.  Aventine has had a huge impact on the Pekin community, Beemer said, with several employees being the third or fourth generation of their families to have worked at the wet mill.

Beet sugar has been processed at the Aurora West plant since May and corn at NELLC since mid-June.

Marketing and Co-products
All ethanol is marketed by Aventine to end users. Aventine’s Nebraska-made ethanol is shipped by rail to Texas, Arizona, the Pacific Northwest, and California. The Pekin plants’ ethanol is marketed to the East Coast.  DDGS and WDGs from NELLC are sold to cattle feeders within a 50-mile radius of the plant. Corn is procured by Aventine at its Pekin headquarters and Aventine sells the ethanol and DDGs produced by its plants.

Aurora West produces 110 MMGY of ethanol and 334,000 tons of DDGS a year. NELLC produces 45 MMGY of ethanol and 140,000 tons of DDGS.

The Aurora plants have unit-train and single-car manifest capabilities. Pekin’s two facilities are multi-modal with truck, rail, barge, and container capabilities and access to eight railroads.

The Future
Beemer said that the future of ethanol is as bright as it has ever been as a result of the maturing ethanol industry. There is a fixed ethanol capacity in the industry and much greater corn production as a feedstock because of genetic engineering and favorable returns for farmers who grow corn. The result, he said, is that farmers in the Corn Belt are producing the most economically-viable feedstock for the ethanol industry. “There is a robust export program as a result of ethanol being the most competitively-priced octane enhancer in the world and the United States has been a large exporter to Brazil and other countries who produce ethanol,” he said.

Jerry Perkins, editor

IA, Galva: Quad County Corn Processors


Keeping It Moving

SmartTouch Helps Ethanol Plant Meet New FSMA Rules

Quad County Corn Processors switched on CompuWeigh’s SmartTrck system with SmartTouch on Aug. 1.

Quad County Corn Processors switched on CompuWeigh’s SmartTrck system with SmartTouch on Aug. 1.

With the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), managers at Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP), a 35-million-gallon-a-year ethanol producer in Galva, IA, knew they were going to be presented with possible bottlenecks to the efficient management of in coming and out going truck traffic at the plant.

Josh Droegmiller, IT systems manager at QCCP, said that when the ethanol decided to install CompuWeigh’s SmartTruck system with RFID at the plant in April 2016, it added the company’s SmartTouch system to the plant’s weigh in and weigh out procedures. “We knew the new FSMA regulations were coming and we tried to marry the new FSMA rules with the CompuWeigh solution.”

CompuWeigh’s SmartTouch screen asks drivers who have carried at-risk material to show their wash ticket to the scale house.

CompuWeigh’s SmartTouch screen asks drivers who have carried at-risk material to show their wash ticket to the scale house.

The SmartTouch system, distributed by CompuWeigh Corp., Woodbury, CT (203-262-9400), went online Aug. 1 at QCCP. “It’s been working very well,” Droegmiller stated. “There’s always some transition required with any new system, but the CompuWeigh team has been very responsive.”

Droegmiller said that QCCP managers first became aware of CompuWeigh’s product line when they looked for a way to improve the throughput of trucks coming into and leaving the plant.

“Drivers had to get out of the truck to go get their scale ticket and that would slow down the process of everything coming in,” Droegmiller noted. “Our search for a solution to that problem led us to CompuWeigh and their wonderful portfolio of products. When the management team at QCCP reviewed CompuWeigh’s product offerings, we immediately thought that we should introduce heir equipment to the site.”

Deploying SmartTouch

Working with CompuWeigh, managers at QCCP developed a plan that allowed QCCP to deploy CompuWeigh’s SmartTouch screen at the inbound scale. “It’s been a great fit with what we were trying to do,” Droegmiller noted. “It’s a great solution for the problem and was a natural next step.”

The system makes it easier for plant personnel to identify and track shipments coming into and out of the plant and is much more intuitive for the drivers to use, according to Droegmiller. “It has a graphic display with a touch screen that is easy to interact with,” he stated.

The addition of the SmartTouch system to CompuWeigh’s SmartTruck added a level of automation to the plant’s throughput that has kept truck traffic moving efficiently even with the increased demands from the new FSMA regulations.

The new regulations require that vehicles and transportation equipment used in moving animal and human food products, such as dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) and corn oil, be cleaned if they have previously handled cargo considered unsafe.

An example of how the CompuWeigh SmartTouch screens help automate shipments from the plant is the “At Risk Materials” screen on the SmartTouch system. The screen asks drivers if they have had at-risk materials in their previous loads and has a list of the at-risk materials that they need to be aware of. If the driver answers “yes” to the question, then he has to show a wash-out ticket.

In addition to meeting QCCP’s goals of improving throughput, SmartTouch also adds more control to the delivery process. “Transaction data is visually presented to the driver, which helps reduce errors with the scalehouse,” Droegmiller said.

Installing SmartTouch “was a big win for us in complying with the FSMA without burdening the driver or our scale-house personnel,” Droegmiller stated.

MN, Lamberton: Highwater Ethanol, LLC


Tracking Information


Highwater Ethanol in Lamberton, MN installed CompuWeigh’s SmartTruck system with SmartTouch in July and switched the system on on Aug. 7.

Highwater Ethanol in Lamberton, MN installed CompuWeigh’s SmartTruck system with
SmartTouch in July and switched the system on on Aug. 7.

When Highwater Ethanol, LLC’s CEO and General Manager Brian Kletscher went looking for a way to track information that will help the 59.5-million-gallon-a-year ethanol plant comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), he discovered that CompuWeigh’s SmartTruck system with a SmartTouch terminal was the way to go.

CompuWeigh’s SmartTruck message board has been installed at the scales at Highwater Ethanol in Lamberton, MN.

CompuWeigh’s SmartTruck message board has been installed at the scales at Highwater Ethanol in Lamberton, MN.

“Because of the FSMA, we knew we needed to find a way to track information that would help us with compliance and the CompuWeigh system helps us do that,” Kletscher told BioFuels Journal in a telephone interview.

Highwater Ethanol also produces dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS), modified distillers grains (MDGs), and corn oil. The CompuWeigh system helps Highwater Ethanol track all of those commodities, which are subject to the rules and regulations of the FSMA.

In May, Highwater Ethanol, located in Lamberton, MN (, finalized the purchase agreement with CompuWeigh Corp., Woodbury, CT (203-262-9400) and ordered the equipment for the installation.

“We handled the majority of the equipment installation,” Kletscher said.  CompuWeigh employees installed what Highwater couldn’t and verified that the system was working in one day.

“We wanted to get all of the equipment installed and working ahead of harvest and we accomplished that,”  Kletscher recalled. “We went live Aug. 7.”

Since the CompuWeigh system was installed and switched on, it has been performing very well, Kletscher said. “We had it tied into our grain accounting system, as well, and its really performing well. We have a more efficient traffic flow through the plant and the automated system is very efficient and with less errors.”

CompuWeigh’s SmartTouch Terminal screen asks drivers a series of questions to make sure the ethanol plant they are servicing complies with the Food Safety Modernization Act. The touch screen device allows drivers to answer prior load declaration questions and enter load order numbers without leaving the truck, adding convenience to the transaction.

CompuWeigh’s SmartTouch Terminal

Of special mention, Kletscher said, is the CompuWeigh SmartTouch screen device that allows drivers to answer prior load declaration questions and enter load numbers.

Kletscher said the system has reduced errors on corn deliveries because the driver can confi rm the identity of the producer and any split relationships concerning the grain on the SmartView message boards.

On out-bound shipments of DDGS, MDGs, or corn oil, the scanner picks up the identity of drivers when they pull in and the identity is verified.

The driver then has to answer a series of questions about the condition of the truck and the other FSMA rules that govern the loading of DDGS, MDGs, and corn oil. The device also takes a picture of the truck so any shipments can be traced back to that truck.

SmartTalk Intercom
Kletscher said that the SmartTalk intercom system features noise cancellation to filter truck engine noise, which improves communication. “The CompuWeigh system allows us to get all the proper information we need for transactions,” Kletscher stated.

The system has the ability to allow co-product drivers to answer their prior load declaration statements from the cab of the truck rather than walking inside the building, which is a huge improvement for efficiency and for  saving time, Kletscher said. “When drivers are scaling out, it prints out the ticket within five or ten seconds and that saves time for the truck drivers and for our scale operators,” he stated. “Before, we had to do all of that by hand. The CompuWeigh system allows us to eliminate human error.”

Weighed Automatically
Both corn-receiving trucks and coproduct load out trucks are weighed automatically when they pass over the scales.

Drivers of outbound co-product loads can press the “Accept Weight” button if their load is found to be below weight restrictions. An ethanol plant also can set a “high limit” threshold which does not allow a truck to leave over the truck weight limit set by the State of Minnesota.

“If the truck exceeds the over-the-road weight limit, it won’t print out a scale ticket,” Kletscher stated.

Another added convenience that the CompuWeigh system provides is the ability for drivers to request additional scale tickets with the simple press of the “Remote Print” button on the OTP-4800 printer, Kletscher remarked.

Flint Hills Resources: Automation of All Plants


A driver uses the CopmpuWeigh SmartTruck system at the scale of the Flint Hills Resources’ ethanol plant in Arthur, IA.

A driver uses the CopmpuWeigh SmartTruck system at the scale of the Flint Hills Resources’ ethanol plant in Arthur, IA.













Flint Hills Resources is seeing positive returns from installing CompuWeigh’s SmartTruck system at its ethanol plants.

Kevin Clausen, general manager of grain merchandising and trading for all seven Flint Hills Resources’ ethanol plants, said CompuWeigh’s SmartTruck has been installed at plants in Fairmont, NE; Menlo, IA; Arthur, IA; Fairbank, IA; and Camilla, GA and will be installed in Shell Rock and Iowa Falls, IA, in 2018.

“Installing SmartTruck is part of our focus on improving the customer experience at our plants,” Clausen stated. “We strive to make it as easy as we can for our corn and co-product customers to get in and out of our facilities with speed and accuracy.”

Clausen said the company looked at several companies before deciding which truck automation system to install.

“CompuWeigh’s SmartTruck technology is the best fit for our business and the most suited for creating value for our customers.,” he noted. “Once we identified CompuWeigh as the industry leader, we moved forward.”

The SmartTruck system has been installed for:
• Corn receiving by truck
• Corn receiving by rail
• DDGS loadout by truck
• DDGS loadout by rail
• Modified wet cake loadout by truck
• Corn oil loadout
• Corn syrup loadout
• Truck ethanol loadout

Return on Investment
The return that Flint Hills Resources is receiving on its investment has several elements, Clausen stated. “We want to be the destination of choice for our customers and we put a high value on the accuracy of our transactions and focus on the efficiency of the system,” he said. “Also, we recognized that CompuWeigh would improve the traffic flow at our facility. Furthermore, Flint Hills Resources’ customers gave the company feedback that CompuWeigh was a user-friendly interface as well as being efficient and accurate.”

Clausen said that one of the key selling points of the SmartTruck system is that it allows a truck driver to remain in the truck to complete the transaction, which promotes safety and efficiency. “SmartTruck allows us to fully track the exact flow of the trucks coming and going at the plants,” he said, “and to track how long they are on the grounds.”

It also helps plants comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations because drivers can answer prior load declaration questions in their trucks.

Clausen stated that other advantages of CompuWeigh’s SmartTruck include:

Simplicity. “Because the system is so easy to use, it makes training a smoother and more efficient process. It’s a simpler system from front to back than we were using and the other systems we looked at.”

Speed. “The intuitive nature of the system automatically helps our employees become more efficient when they are serving the customer. The touch screen and the digital prompts show drivers when to advance from the probe to the scale and onto the plant and ties all the steps together.”

Truck history. The SmartTruck system can use the truck’s history, or the memory of prior loads hauled by each truck, to speed up the transaction process, which can improve truck flow. It also can tell if the truck meets highway weight limits to more efficiently handle the transactions.

Safety. “We’re always looking for ways to improve the safety around our plants and there’s significant value in safety, efficiency, and accuracy that SmartTruck provides.”

For example, Clausen said, because SmartTruck allows drivers to remain in their trucks, that means they don’t have to cross traffic to get their receipt from the office.

Why CompuWeigh customers believe in SmartTruck automated weighing systems

Why I Believe in SmartTruck Automated Weighing System – COURTESY OF GRAIN JOURNAL


CompuWeigh Corp.’s SmartTruck is a sophisticated but easy-to-use automated truck weighing system that allows users to process more trucks in less time. SmartTruck combines longrange RF

CompuWeigh’s SmartTruck automated truck weighing system eliminates the need for scale attendants to process the tickets.

CompuWeigh’s SmartTruck automated truck weighing system eliminates the need for scale attendants to process the tickets.

cards, outside message boards, electronic photo eyes, video surveillance cameras, noise cancelling intercom systems, electronic signature pads, driver’s license readers, and a powerful computer system configured to the needs of the individual facility.

“The focus is on automating the whole process of truck weighing and loadout reducing scale ticketing errors and eliminating the need to employ staff anywhere other than the first point of contact, typically the probe station in a grain receiving application,” says CompuWeigh Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Tim Ciucci (203-262-9400).

Here is what some users say about the SmartTruck automated truck weighing system:

George Secor, President/CEO of Sunrise Cooperative, Inc. in Fremont, OH
“We’ve been using the SmartTruck system for nearly 10 years. When we installed it, I’m not so sure we were looking at the ROI as much as our customers’ time.

“The old fashioned way was, as trucks came onto the property, you had to probe them. When they got

to the inbound scale, someone would have to go out and talk to the drivers. When they weighed out, you had to talk to them again, or they’d pull over and come in. When you look at how much time our scales were tied up with communicating with the customer, we knew we had to find a way to make the process more efficient. They actually want to get on and off our property faster than we want them to.

“Don’t get me wrong: it’s very efficient for our company, because you talk to them one time, and it’s done. They pull up, tell you whose grain it is for the producer/split relationship and then you’re done. You probe them, and on the monitor tells them what their grade is and automatically tells them what pit to go to based on that day’s pit rules – as set in the system). Then, after they unload at the pit, they proceed to the outbound scale. In a couple of our cases, we can’t even see the outbound scale, because it’s so far away – and it weighs them out automatically based off the RFID badge.  They roll down the window to grab the ticket, and they’re off.

“We have lot of our customer owners whose dad or grandpa is driving, and they do not get in and out of a semi very well. With the SmartTruck system, they don’t have to get out of it at all. All they’ve got to do is roll down the window and tell us whose grain it is, what they want to do with it, and then before they leave, roll down their window again, and grab their ticket.

“Our employees do a great job, but any time you’re going to keystroke everything multiple times on one ticket, it increases the chance for error. With the seamless integration into our AgVantage software and CompuWeigh’s advantage, you only do it one time. As long as you picked that name and what you’re doing with the grain right, you don’t touch that ticket again, so it drastically decreases the amount of time we handle the ticket, it saves our employees time, and it decreases chances for error.”

Scott Althoff, General Manager of Alton Grain in Hillsboro, ND
“I’ve been involved with SmartTruck since about 2005. That’s when we installed it at the elevator where I was located at the time. Here at Hillsboro, we’ve had it since 2014.

“It’s been really good for our company:  it’s convenient, farmers like it, and it keeps things organized at the three dump pits and the truck scales. We’ve got two scales: inbound and outbound.

CompuWeigh’s SmartTruck system incorporates several leading-edge technologies including the new Gen2 RFID tags, break-beam photo eyes on the scale, electronic outdoor display boards and outside ticket printers.

CompuWeigh’s SmartTruck system incorporates several leading-edge technologies including the new Gen2 RFID tags, break-beam photo eyes on the scale, electronic outdoor display boards and outside ticket printers.

Trucks pull up to the probe, and it scans the RFID card. The system brings up the name of last load hauled by that truck, the probe attendant confirms the correct producer/split relationship, and probes the load for grading. We’ve got the SmartView display board located at the inbound scale that, when we probe the truck and determine the grade factors, will tell them automatically what pit to go to after the weight has been captured.  And the guys at the unloading pit have all the grade information for each truck on a CompuWeigh dump pit computer.  They’re able to see all the information they need to make bin selection decisions including the commodity, grade factors, moisture, and protein.

“When we first saw the SmartTruck system, it just seemed like everyone was going to like this, especially the farmers.  We want to make it seamless and simple for the farmers to get through the facility.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever actually run the numbers on the ROI. It just speeds everything up so much, so the farmers and the elevator guys think it’s a good investment. Nobody would want to go without it, now that they’ve had it.

“CompuWeigh has always been good to work with. They’ve got a good support team, so if there’s any problems, we call them up and get logged in. The programmers can usually work through pretty much anything either over the phone or by logging into the system.”

Todd Erickson, General Manager of Finley Farmers Grain & Elevator Co. in Finley, ND
“We’ve been using the SmartTruck since 2016, so we’ve had it a couple of grain in six places. Before, the producer would just drive into town, and he had no idea where he was supposed to go.  We had lines from two different directions into some of our facilities, and it caused mass confusion for our customers. This system just brought law and order to that.

“Another big driving factor was centralized grading. One set of eyes graded everything, so it’s helped us be more consistent.

“I don’t think you can quantify our ROI, but I think customer satisfaction went up, because they never had to wait in line, and they had law and order about where they were going. They were directed to a place where they thought the line was the shortest. If we’re looking at ROI, our volume is around 14 million bushels. Five years ago another rail loader was built 10 miles down the road, and we haven’t lost any volume.

“We installed longer scales at the same time, and we had a couple older facilities where they were split weighing, so it’s unattended, and you don’t have to be there. Our guys can dump trucks faster, because they don’t have to be grading grain at the same time. They know what’s coming at them because each dump pit control room has a CompuWeigh dump pit computer. They can prepare for it, and put it in the right bin at the right place. We basically don’t have truck lines any more.”

MN, Madelia: Crystal Valley Coop
Crystal Valley Coop, Madelia MN SmartTruck Case Study

Crystal Valley Coop’s upgraded truck receiving station at Madelia, MN, with two-story scalehouse and inbound and outbound scales, all tied together with a CompuWeigh SmartTruck receiving automation system. Photos by Ed Zdrojewski.



Efficient Truck Receiving

Crystal Valley Coop has been using a CompuWeigh automation system to load 100-car shuttle trains on the Union Pacific at Madelia, MN (507-642-3276), for nearly a decade.

“We like it a lot,” says Jeff Spence, who has been grain division manager for the cooperative since 2007, “so we decided to look into using CompuWeigh to automate our truck receiving scales.

“As volume has continued to increase, we could tell that our receiving scale could become a bottleneck. We had a single manually-operated scale, and the same time, we have total receiving capacity of 55,000 bph. We knew we needed to add an outbound scale, and we had to computerize the entire system.”

The result of the cooperative’s investigation was the installation in the summer of 2011 of a new two-story scalehouse adjacent to an existing 80-foot inbound scale and a new 80-foot Rice Lake pit-type outbound scale, all built around a SmartTruck truck automation system from the Woodbury, CT-based automation supplier (203-262-9488).

That, in turn, has resulted in a receiving system that has processed as many as 500 trucks in a single 12-hour shift during harvest, says Spence.

In brief, the coop issues electronic ID cards to truckers utilizing the Madelia elevator. The inbound CompuWeigh SmartRead unit reads truck data from the card as the driver arrives. After weighing and probing, the scale operator grades the sample on a new DICKEY-john GAC 2500 moisture meter. The driver then is directed to the correct receiving pit with a SmartView outdoor display board.  After the load is delivered, drivers proceed to the outbound scale for tare weight, and window-level CompuWeigh OTP-4600 thermal printer delivers the scale ticket.

• Madelia Grain Superintendent Chad Clobes reports that trucks now spend less than a minute on the inbound scale and 20 to 30 seconds on the outbound.
• Before the new system was installed, an operator had to punch in gross and tare weights manually and add grades later. With all of that automated, errors are eliminated.
• The system can work out split loads with a few keystrokes.
• The SmartView board allows drivers to see their gross weight and grade before leaving the inbound scale.
• It used to take two persons to operate the scale. Now one person can handle all scalehouse operations.
• Spence estimates that the SmartTruck system will save enough expense to pay for itself in about three years.

“Some of the older farmers needed a little training on the system,” Clobes adds, “but we haven’t had any complaints.”

Ed Zdrojewski, editor


ND, Hillsboro: Alton Grain
Darrin Bjerke operates CompuWeigh’s elevator automation system and monitors a GMS dump pit workstation displaying a list of trucks that have weighed in along with associated grade factors prior to dumping in Hillsboro, ND. Photos by Judy Hemphill, JH Photography, Spencer, IA.

Darrin Bjerke operates CompuWeigh’s elevator automation system and monitors a GMS dump pit workstation displaying a list of trucks that have weighed in along with associated grade factors prior to dumping in Hillsboro, ND. Photos by Judy
Hemphill, JH Photography, Spencer, IA.


Alton Grain Installs CompuWeigh SmartTruck Technology

One of the scheduled construction projects for 2014 at the Alton Grain rail terminal in Hillsboro, ND (701-636-5130), was to build an enclosure around the facility’s probe station, in order to get it out of the Red River Valley’s often harsh weather.

With that project underway, the company decided also to upgrade its truck management software.

“We had been using the CompuWeigh’s HMI elevator automation system as well as the GMS truck management software since 2001,” says Operations Manager Darrin Bjerke, “and we were pleased with it. But it most recently ran on the old Windows XP platform and required a scale attendant to be present to do the actual weighing of the trucks, so it was time for an upgrade.”

Since the time CompuWeigh installed the GMS system at Alton Grain, it has continued to upgrade its technology. Last fall, Alton Grain was able to upgrade to CompuWeigh’s RFID SmartTruck system, which has provided a number of benefits to both Alton Grain and its customers.

Among the CompuWeigh components that make up Alton Grain’s SmartTruck installation:
• SmartChoice: Programming that automatically sends trucks to one of three receiving pits via digital message boards based on daily grade factor parameters (per pit, as configured by Alton Grain).
• SmartPit: Ability to scan trucks’ RF cards at the pit and sound an alarm, if a truck pulls into the incorrect pit.  This prevents mixing of grain.
• HMI/PLC Automation Technology:  Inputs data from all weighing, grading, and grain receiving equipment and monitors safety sensors such as belt alignment, bearing temperature, and amperage sounding an alert, if any of these exceed safety limits.

Truck exits inbound probe station and is directed by the SmartTruck system to one of three receiving pits.

Truck exits inbound probe station and is directed by the SmartTruck system to one of three receiving pits.

Grain Manager Cory Tryan cites a number of benefits to the terminal operation with the SmartTruck system:
• The process of checking trucks in at the probe is much faster. Each truck’s unique RFID card provides additional security. “We had been entering everything manually,” says Tryan. “The driver had to speak with our operator over the loudspeaker to identify the truck. Now, the only time the driver has to talk is if the identity of the grain’s owner has changed.”
• When communication is required, it is much easier to understand drivers now with the SmartTalk intercom system with its noise cancellation technology.
• The chances of a truck dumping at the wrong pit has been eliminated with the SmartPit feature.
• Trucks no longer are identified incorrectly during the weighing process, if they get out of order. Because the RFID badge is identified automatically by the system, the correct truck always is selected.

Tryan says he and his employees are very satisfied and impressed with the new system.

Ed Zdrojewski, editor

IN, Dana: AC Grain, LLC
Truck receiving operations at the AC Grain rail terminal in Dana, IN

Truck receiving operations at the AC Grain rail terminal in Dana, IN


CompuWeigh SmartTruck System Forms Integral Part of Product Flow

On Dec. 1, 2011, the former Cargill AgHorizons elevator at Dana, IN (765-665-0135) became AC Grain LLC, a 50-50 partnership between Cargill and Agrex Inc., Overland Park, KS.

That freed up a lot of capital for upgrading the rail-loading terminal by building a 9-million-bushelplus annex on the south side of the CSX rail line opposite the original 1.6-mllion-bushel concrete and steel grain elevator constructed in the 1960s.

AC Grain constructed a gigantic 9-million-bushel steel flat storage building plus a 160,000-bushel corrugated steel wet tank, a pair of enclosed receiving pits feeding a pair of 25,000-bph legs, a 10,000-bph Zimmerman tower dryer, and a scalehouse outfitted with a pair of 12-foot-x-80-foot Fairbanks pitless truck scales and a Gamet JaHam truck probe.

Truck Flow Automation
To automate the inbound and outbound scales and coordinate the traffic flow, AC Grain selected a SmartTruck scale automation system from CompuWeigh Corp., Woodbury, CT (203-262-9400).

AC Grain’s 9-million-bushel annex includes a flat storage building, upright wet tank, two receiving pits and legs, and a grain dryer, all of which went operational in 2013.

AC Grain’s 9-million-bushel annex includes a flat storage building, upright wet tank, two receiving pits and legs, and a grain dryer, all of which went operational in 2013.

General Manager John Thomas, who came to Dana shortly after the formation of AC Grain from another Cargill rail terminal in nearby Tuscola, IL, says he was familiar with SmartTruck from reviewing a potential purchase at Tuscola. He notes that AC Grain looked at a number of scale automation systems, but the CompuWeigh system was appealing for several reasons:

• Truck drivers do not need to reach out of their cab window with an ID card at each stop potentially dropping the card and holding up the line. Instead, the RF antenna can read the card as it is hung from the passenger side sun visor (approximately 20-foot range).

• Labor is minimal, as the truck is probed and then moves on to the inbound scale. The RF tag is read, the gross weight is recorded, and utilizing SmartChoice, the truck is directed
automatically to the correct pit by the SmartView message board.

• After unloading, SmartTruck automatically records the tare weight and prints out a scale ticket, so the driver never has to leave the cab.

“Our goal is to keep the trucks moving through the facility in five to seven minutes,” Thomas says. “We had a large harvest in 2013, but we were able to keep the trucks moving through the line.”

Ed Zdrojewski, editor

IL, Pekin: Pacific Ethanol
Aventine, Pekin, IL 2015

Probe station at Turner Grain

Aventine Renewable Energy increases efficiency with CompuWeigh’s SmartTruck system (courtesy of BioFuels International May/June 2015)

In Pekin, Illinois, ethanol producer Aventine Renewable Energy operates a 110 million gallon per year wet mill and a 57 million gallon per year dry mill. The wet mill facility, which was originally built in 1899 as a sugar processing plant, began producing ethanol in 1981 and since then it has undergone numerous upgrades.

The latest upgrade to the Pekin facility, which was completed in May just this year, involved the installation of an automated truck weighing and traffic flow system – SmartTruck – from CompuWeigh.

‘SmartTruck was first developed in 2005 in response to the ethanol industry’s need to process hundreds of trucks per day in order to keep an ethanol plant running,’ explains Tim Ciucci of CompuWeigh. ‘The ethanol industry wanted to process this large number of trucks with as few employees as possible; typically one person can run our system at that rate.’

The aim of this technology is to automate the entire process of truck receiving and load- out, managing traffic flow and eliminating the need for staff other than at the first point of contact – typically the probe station in an ethanol plant grain receiving application. The SmartTruck system comprises various modules and components to ensure that each project is tailor-made to the customer’s needs.  It utilises a combination of long range RF cards, outside message boards, electronic photo eyes, video surveillance cameras, IP based intercom systems, electronic signature pads, driver’s license readers.

The process

The Pekin plant handles 38.5 million bushels of corn a year and SmartTruck will help Aventine efficiently process the vast number of trucks bringing feedstock to the site.

While SmartTruck can be configured for a completely unmanned receiving operation, Ciucci says that a fully unmanned receiving transaction is not desired for ethanol plants. Instead, Aventine uses CompuWeigh’s SmartTruck system in a partially manned operation, which is most commonly used in grain receiving applications because it allows the plant to retain control of transaction information (producer, splits, etc.) prior to being sent to accounting. The plant does use the system in an unmanned state for by- product load-out transactions. This works well because these transactions are simpler in nature with a single load  order number being entered by the driver for each load which is validated against the accounting system at the time of processing.

Pacific Ethanol Pekin IL SmartTruck Case Study

SmartCom allows drivers to enter load-order numbers. SmartTalk from CompuWeigh provides clear audio and video communication between drivers and staff.

Before entering the ethanol production plant, trucks first check in down the road from the facility, at Turner Grain (certified grading service), for the probing process. A radio frequency identification (RFID) card is read and the truck is scanned and probed for a grain sample. The driver uses a CompuWeigh SmartCom outdoor alpha-numeric keypad to input a Load-order Number. If needed, the driver can use Compuweigh’s SmartTalk  technology to communicate to staff inside the grade office without having to go inside.

SmartTalk is a remote communication system that provides clear audio and video communication between drivers and staff.  The noise cancellation device filters out the majority of truck background noise so both parties can hear each other very clearly. This is a key part to the system because it reduces errors while collecting transaction data from the driver.

Ciucci says: ‘SmartTalk is a 100% unique feature to CompuWeigh. The ethanol industry was experiencing too many issues that were caused by probe attendants not being able to clearly hear drivers due to loud engines. SmartTalk removes about 85% of the truck engine noise and the probe attendant is given a wireless headset, making them more productive and mobile within the probe house.’

The truck then proceeds to what Aventine calls ‘grade verification’ – a location with a SmartTruck pole installed.  The truck then pulls up to the location and is automatically identified by the RF card.  The ID of the truck and grade details are automatically displayed on the SmartView. SmartTruck will then verify whether or not the driver has passing grade and then, using Compweigh’s Gate Control option, open a gate to allow the driver to enter the plant. This allows Aventine to secure its facility as only trucks that have acceptable grades can enter the plant.

Pacific Ethanol Pekin IL SmartTruck Case Study 2

Outbound truck scale

The truck then pulls onto the inbound scale and is automatically identified by the RF card. The ID of the truck and vendor details are automatically tied to this RF card from the probing process, therefore no human intervention is required. Photo eyes confirm that the truck is correctly positioned on the scale, the gross weight is displayed on the SmartView message board and a still image of the truck is recorded with the transaction history for security reasons. Once a green light is illuminated on the message board, the driver pulls off the scale and proceeds to the dump pit area.

After the driver empties the load into the correct pit, he or she proceeds to the outbound scale, where the RF card is scanned again and the truck ID is displayed on the message board. Photo eyes confirm the truck is positioned correctly on the scale, an image is taken and the net weight is computed, stored and displayed on the SmartView message board. Finally, a CompuWeigh OTP-4600 printer prints out a scale ticket with final weight and grade. If the driver wants a second scale ticket for ‘hauler records’ they simply press the ‘re-print’ button on the OTP-4600 printer.

The installation of SmartTruck took a couple of weeks, as Ciucci explains: ‘The installation took two weeks and the client was able to use their old system while new equipment was being fitted. In typical installations, the first week is spent getting the system up and running, while in the second week a CompuWeigh technical support representative shadows the customer to help them with any questions they may have. We are complimented often that our software is well thought out and easy to use so the learning curve is typically pretty short.’

In addition to CompuWeigh’s SmartTruck technology, SmartFlow is also operational at Aventine’s Pekin plant, enabling data collection from flow meters loading ethanol onto trucks, rail cars and barges.  SmartTruck is helping Aventine Renewable Energy process more trucks in less time, saving time and money. The average return on investment is less than two years. This is achieved by processing more trucks in less time, reducing overhead costs and waiting time, clearly displaying transaction information on SmartView message boards and improving traffic flow by directing trucks to the correct dump pit. The technology also eliminates human errors by automating data entry, keeping drivers in their trucks and eliminating office disruptions.