10 commentslast update:6 Aug 2012

Automation kills product quality

Jared Froetschner
Wow!! Did I get generate some conversation from my first automation blog,  or what? I was especially glad to see a K-Stater (Go Wildcats!!!) launch into the fray!

Continuing along the vein of automation, I intentionally challenged the value proposition that automation brings. However, my challenge was not aimed at the technology of automation, but was more specifically aimed at the steady decline in product quality that has been a direct result of the industry assumption that automation delivers quality.

While some still hold the mistaken opinion that we gelatinize starch during pelleting, the truth of the matter is that the performance benefit of pelleting is directly tied to the physical integrity of the finished product.

McKinney and Teeter (2002) demonstrated that changes in pellet quality (measured as durability) can directly impact the caloric value of the diet (MEn). For example, when pellet durability goes from 80% to 70%, the energy value of the diet is reduced by 23 kCal MEn/kg diet.

In some parts of the world, pellet quality is still held in high regard, even in systems that are fully automated. The difference here is that pellet quality standards are strictly maintained, and automation is used to improve the consistency of the process.

In many of the plants that I tour, automation is viewed as a means to reduce costs associated with pelleting, with little attention paid to the physical quality and consistency of the finished product.

In the past 15 years, the integrated livestock industry in the US has chosen to regard production cost/ton of feed as the vital parametric in feed manufacturing. I understand it is important to minimize production cost, but at what price?

If you believe the data of McKinney and Teeter, it is not difficult to calculate the cost/benefit ratio of increasing pellet quality vs. increased production costs. It does cost more to make good quality pellets, but I would submit that the industry has too long ignored the value that quality pellets bring to efficiency of gain.

In closing, I do believe that automation added value to the feed industry. However, we can’t assume that automating a process guarantees a consistent, high quality product. In today’s current economic environment, pellet quality has never been more important.

In my opinion, I think we have overlooked the value that good quality pellets bring to efficiency of gain, and have instead opted for a "cheaper" production process. If I am mistaken, why is the nutritional value of cracked corn again being considered for broiler chickens?


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    l would like you to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt.however,l commend your efforts.

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    Franklin Carter

    Thank you for speaking out about least cost production. I think it is costing the industry millions of dollars each year. They should be focusing on maximun profits instead of least cost. The most money per square foot of housing is the most effective way to judge efficacy.

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    Dr KB Bohara/Nepal

    The automation is really even more costlier than tradditional convetional methods of feed manufecturing but pelletisation for example is becoming a fashion.Which method is infact most effictios and costeffective to Developing country's situation is not very clear.I would appreciate if you could make effort to review of these technics and present a real tine findings

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    Matthew Asuelimen

    it is interesting reading about Jared's views on automation and pellet quality. from my experience as a feed miller, the pellet durability index is a direct relationship of the quality of the ingredient mix of the feed. where ingredients such as bran or offal makes up 50% of recipes, cost of feed reduces and of course PDI reduces. but where whole grains make up over 50% of the feed mix, PDI increases, associated with incresed feed cost. in this scenerio, Jared's views on automation and feed quality is relative to the extent of the intentions of the farmer. yes, automation can help reduce cost through incorporation of low value feed ingredients, but in the end, you pay for what (quality) you get.

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    Jake Piscano

    I agree. In many occasions, it is the physical characteristics of the pellet that often qualifies a feed to be good rather than it's efficacy in conversion, even when used for animals low on the trophic level.

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    Jake Piscano

    Please provide more details of your vermicompost. My email address is jake_piscano@yahoo.com. Thank you

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    offcoarse Automation kills the production quality,because the aim was to produce a sufficeint quantity depending on a mass production by autonating the production instruments

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    The funny thing is that there is a beast called "Selenium Framework" (number one hit in google btw) which is a tool for automating software tests. software tests improve software quality.

    kinda ironic, eh? :D

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    I think it's a strange thought that computurisation and automation has a negative impact on quality. Computers do what Nutrients and Operators tell them to do. Till yet computers have no brains.

    Harrij Schmeitz

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    Simon Parker

    Any computer system is only as good as its operator and programmer.

    It has been my experience that many process control systems do not react quickly enough to maintain the optimum performance of the pellet press so they run light or block up. Operators will sometimes set the parameters so that they do not stretch themselves, so it is important that managers know what the parameters should be and set them up and monitor there use.

    With changing raw materials due to rising material costs, this will become more difficult as the performance of some of these raw materials are not known.

    One product that can help here is Maxi-Mil from Anitox as this makes the feed easier to pellet by improving the conditioning process. It also reduces the energy costs in the press and improves throughput in terms of tonnes per hour, reduces die and roll costs, improves feed physical quality and most importantly, in these difficult times, reduces process loss without reducing feed performance.

    Anitox offer a complete package with this product which includes "Feed Milling Technologists" who have years of practical production experience gained in many different countries using many different raw materials.

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