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Master of Agribusiness

Benefits of Flour Storage as Related to Process Efficiencies in Milling

Brent Johnson, Boulder, Colorado, defended his thesis, “Benefits of Flour Storage as Related to Process Efficiencies in Milling” on October 26, 2012 at the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University. Johnson graduated in December with a Master of Agribusiness (MAB) degree.

In 2002, Johnson began assessing ways to improve flour extraction from wheat at a mill he managed near Des Moines, Iowa. Johnson’s MAB thesis project examined the opportunity costs associated with adding additional bulk storage and warehouse space at a commercial flour mill to enhance overall production, operational efficiency and quality.

“In the milling world, adequate flour storage is often overlooked, even when new plant capacity is being added. In addition, since flour is a low-margin, high-volume commoditized product, it is often difficult to justify the added capital required to augment storage and warehouse capacity,” Johnson said. “By increasing the time a mill stays on a specific run to a minimum of twenty hours, there is a theoretical increase in extraction of 1.02 percent, which amounted to $500,000 in annual wheat savings for this plant.”

Until this time, only limited work had been done on this topic. Johnson found that adequate bulk flour storage is a means to control quality and to accommodate different customer needs and makes a more uniform product and ages and “aerates” the flour. It is also an important factor in milling with respect to the “cost of production,” limiting weekend overtime and plant staffing, and “flour uniformity”. However no hard data were found that might assist decision makers in analyzing these factors against the costs of additional storage.

Bryan Schurle, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Johnson’s thesis advisor, said, “When analyzed through regression modeling, the data demonstrate substantive benefit when the mill operator is allowed to extend the length of run for a particular type of wheat. A major factor in allowing the mill operator to spend this additional time is the availability of ample storage and warehousing at the plant.”

Johnson, who has over 30 years in the milling business, has diversified experience in the areas of milling engineering, manufacturing, food safety, logistics, supply chain management, and marketing. A graduate of Kansas State University, he holds a B.S. degree in Grain Science.  He is a Plant Manager with Bay State Milling, headquartered in Quincy, Massachusetts. Prior to joining Bay State, he served as Site Operations Manager for General Mills in Los Angeles, CA and held operations positions at Avon, IA, Kansas City, MO, and Vallejo, CA. He served as Past Chair of the International Association of Operative Millers Central Division, and attended the Bühler Milling School in Uzwil, Switzerland.

The full thesis publication can be found online on Kansas State University’s Research Exchange at http://hdl.handle.net/2097/15057.