Gerald Unrau Product Manager for Seed Sites and Conveyors, Meridian Manufacturing

Gerald Unrau is Meridian Manufacturing Inc.’s product manager for seed sites and conveyors. His responsibilities include product development and improvements, and supervision of pricing programs and sales staff. Gerald has been with Meridian for 19 years, during which time he has been involved with all aspects of the business—from augers and bins to conveyors, and everything else in between. Gerald’s main focus is to grow his clients’ businesses as well as the seed industry in general.

You’ve worked your way through the conceptualization stage on your journey to a new or updated seed site. The next step to turn your vision into reality is the design and engineering stage.

During this stage, a plan is created based on your vision and needs. Designers and engineers work with you to take your ideas to an even better place — or product. Over the years, these professionals have learned what works at a seed site and what doesn’t. They understand there are certain things that must be put in place, whether it’s for a current footprint or an expansion down the road. They’re also good at posing the question, “What if?”

From your vision, a designer draws a plan that illustrates what the site will look like — where the conveyors and seed treater will be, the seed house location, the flow and layout of the yard, where the office and buildings will be, the location of the weigh scale, and how customers will load product.

At this time, you may also consider:

  • The number of customers moving through your site on a daily, monthly or yearly basis
  • The products you’ll be handling
  • How many units of seed the facility will handle on a daily, monthly or yearly basis
  • The treater and hopper sizes needed
  • How much you can weigh at a time
  • Whether you’ll be using bulk, bags or pro boxes for seed handling

Once the design process is complete and a plan is created, the designer will present this work to an engineer, who will determine the plan’s feasibility, provide all the required dimensions and demonstrate what the site will look like when it’s completed. However, an engineer does more than put a stamp of approval on the design: a blueprint is drawn up, which illustrates how all the elements of the site fit together and where each piece will be. Designers and engineers ensure you’re getting what you need, not just what you want.

The details of the blueprint are important. For example, it will show you if your treater or weigh scale are too close to a bulk bin, or your conveyor incline is running too steep. If you don’t put things in the right place, you’ll lose capacity. As soon as you start losing capacity, the number of people you put through your site in a day decreases, which takes profits out of your business.

You must be able to manage customers in a timely and efficient manner while providing quality, not damaged, seed. In fact, one of your biggest limiting factors is the number of customers you can put through your facility in a day. For example, there are only so many planting days before that part of the growing season is over. You want to take full advantage of that window to reach your business goals.

Additionally, it’s important to consider your five- or 10-year site plans at this stage, as the site you are building must be able to facilitate expansion.

This process provides you with the best finished seed site for functionality and future expansion. This stage will determine if your site meets your vision and will work for your business. The right design, with the engineering to back it up, ensures a solid foundation for your business now and as it grows.

These stages — conceptualization and design and engineering — in the process of building or updating a seed site are very important for the success of the finished product, for the site’s longevity and for happy customers. In the next column, we’ll explore the third chapter of this process: the manufacturing stage.