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 This year, resolve to clean up the feed mill mess and commit. to daily housekeeping and inspections.


I confess, just  a month into the  new year,  I already have  broken a “major” New Year’s resolution. Does that sound familiar?


I guess my resolve to win the  first Powerball of the  year  was not  all that realistic. I get it. Really, I do. But what  about all the  other resolutions we make? I bet  we’ve shared more than a few. Let’s say it together: I resolve to lose  weight, ... to go to the  gym more than twice  a year,  ... to clean  out  my closets. The list could go on and  on.


The problem is that, more often  than not, these resolutions fade away as fast as they were  made. That’s because “resolving” to do something is really easy,  but  executing on the promise is where the  heavy lifting comes in. So, we often  give up. On those rare occasions when  we actually push through, though, the rewards are well worth the  effort.


This brings me to a troubling reality in the feed business: the  sad  state of housekeeping at many  feed mills. By that, I simply  mean that, all too  often,  we resolve to clean  up the mill mess — the  dust on the  floor, the  leaks


in the  pipes and  the  cobwebs hanging around like works  of art — but  rarely does it happen, and  we have  become experts at rationalizing why that’s so.


I bet  not  a single  one of us would  tolerate this  type  of mess from our  kids, although it’s often  a battle of wills.


In the  case of a mill mess, however, the stakes are much higher than the  unpleasant aromas emanating from a teenager’s


room. Furthermore, those stakes are set to skyrocket once the  new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is in effect.


If you think  things are difficult  now, just wait. Soon, it will feel like the  Food & Drug Administration is the  parent and  we are the teenager living in the  messy room. If being motivated by fear is what  it takes for us to clean  up the  mess at our  mills, then so be it. The new reality is about to debut: We are not “getting closer to the  food industry,” we are part of it!


Here are a few simple suggestions for cleaning up your  mill:




Set high standards, and stick to them.


To be blunt, today’s regulations will soon feel like a cakewalk. When FSMA is implemented, things will tighten up bigtime — and permanently. Once that happens, we can’t chance that our  facility could produce even  a pound of feed that is detrimental to the  health


of consumers.


What is a high standard? Look at it on a scale of 1-10. At the  low end  (1), we have cobwebs, dust-covered floors  and  daily leaks


that are repaired only monthly. At the  high end  (10), it’s like being  inside a sparkling new mill, with shining floors,  bright lights  and  all.


Moving forward, mills should be consistently at nine or above. Yes, that is a high bar  that’s tough to achieve and  will cost some money, but  having  a top-flight feed operation limits  recall risks,  lowers repair costs, reduces shrink and  increases employee


engagement. Beyond that, you gain a sterling reputation and  a team of loyal, motivated employees. That’s priceless.




Inspect  and clean  the house — every day.


Make mill inspections and  housekeeping a daily event — no exceptions. Also, coach continuously. Inspections show  your employees that you have  high standards and are committed to maintaining them. Coaching demonstrates your  expectations and  provides a hands-on tutorial to achieve these. Make the  daily inspection part of your  regular production scheduling walkthrough. Take a deeper look once a month. Post  the  results, and  detail specific actions and  deadlines.


In mills where housekeeping has  been, shall  we say, lax, you may need to employ the  “shock treatment” approach. Hire a temp or two for as long as it takes to make this daily housecleaning a new part of the  mill’s DNA. Once they  have  helped you get the  mill cleaned up, decide whether to keep  them or to assign the  job to a current full-time employee. Whichever way you go, make sure you have  a consistent process to get this  job done every day. No excuses.




Maintain a shipshape mill.


The cornerstone of good  housekeeping is an effective maintenance program. Fix the leaking  boot on a leg before it covers the  bearing daily. That  minimizes the housekeeping needed in the  area.


Create a work order system to address specific maintenance and  preventative tasks throughout the  facility. Use a repair and maintenance software program to schedule tasks. That  will enable you to include the repair history for each piece of equipment, control costs and  prioritize capital expenditures.




This may sound like a lot of work, but  in reality, cleaning up and  maintaining your mill requires only your  will to do it and commitment to follow through. If it’s any consolation, this  is a lot easier than getting your  teenager to clean  up his room — and  a lot.



Author: Bill Rosenstiel, Cargill

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