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Master of Agribusiness

Inbound Wheat Railcar Loading Optimization: An Opportunity Cost Study for ConAgra Mills

Erin Jordan, Bellevue, Neb., defended her thesis, “Inbound Wheat Railcar Loading Optimization: An Opportunity Cost Study for ConAgra Mills,” on April 18, 2012. Jordan is a Transportation Analyst with ConAgra Foods in Omaha, Neb.  She will graduate from Kansas State University in May with a Master of Agribusiness (MAB) degree. 

In 2002, ConAgra Foods began looking at ways to improve their shipping efficiencies. Jordan’s MAB thesis project examined the opportunity costs of wheat rail cars that were not fully loaded when shipped to ConAgra Mills’ facilities.

“In analyzing data showing actual versus maximum weights, we determined a cost for the extra freight space not being used when shipments are under loaded,” Jordan said. “This will allow us to realize equipment and fuel savings by loading rail cars to their capacity.”

Her study determined that savings could be realized for both inbound shipments from outside shippers and inter-company shipments between ConAgra Mills’ facilities creating financial benefits for both ConAgra and its shippers.

Christine Wilson, Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics and Jordan’s thesis advisor, said, “Erin’s research has interesting financial implications for ConAgra. Her results suggest important cost-savings opportunities and opportunities for improvements in efficiencies, both of which can contribute added value to the business.”

K-State’s Master of Agribusiness (www.mab.ksu.edu) is an award-winning, distance-education degree program that focuses on food and agribusiness management. Students and alumni work in every sector of the food and agribusiness industry and are located in 40 states within the United States and in 25 countries. 

“I feel that the results of my research will facilitate increased collaboration between ConAgra Mills and its suppliers. This study could really be the starting point for several future applications within our business,” Jordan said.

The full thesis publication can be found online on Kansas State University’s Research Exchange at http://hdl.handle.net/2097/13685.