New product makes loading DDGS less labor intensive

By Kris Bevill | May 03, 2011

It’s easy to imagine that one of the least enjoyable moments of an ethanol plant worker’s day is when the time comes to climb to the top of a railcar and, using nothing more than a hand shovel, pack a freshly deposited load of distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) into the car before it can be shipped off to its final destination. This laborious process inspired Ryan Schroeder, a commodities assistant at the 73 MMgy Poet Biorefining-Leipsic plant in Ohio to come up with a better solution. In 2008, he began developing what has become known as the Load Toad. It’s a piece of equipment designed to evenly distribute distillers grains throughout the rail car, eliminating the need for hand shoveling and increasing the amount of product that can be packed into each car by up to 5 percent, or 5 tons, according to Poet LLC.

“The Load Toad not only allows us to put more DDGS in a railcar, which increases our production efficiency, but this device also allows the commodities team to more safely load a railcar,” Dave Hudak, general manager at Poet Biorefining - Alexandria (Ind.), said. “We no longer have to shovel any product nor stand on the top of the car to load it. The potential for back injury has been eliminated.”

Following Shroeder’s initial concept, a prototype of the equipment was produced and tested in South Dakota for about a year at Poet Biorefining - Mitchell. Poet engineers tweaked the design to enhance safety, capacity and various other features and, in 2010, the equipment was installed at 20 of Poet’s plants. “It felt good knowing that not just our plant would benefit, but the commodities people at all the Poet plants would benefit,” Schroeder said.

It’s possible that other interested ethanol producers may also have the opportunity to benefit from Schroeder’s idea. The company is considering marketing the equipment to other plants in the future.