2023 In Review

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BE&E has experienced monumental growth in 2023 and a new set of challenges. In previous years, growth required a steady focus on our equipment line, developing new machines, tweaking our designs, and adding optional components. This year, however, growth turned our attention to our organization. We needed more people. Better procedures. New systems.

As a result, we’ve improved how we operate, boosting the quality of our work and the efficiency with which we can complete it.

Personnel

Two of the most noticeable changes have been to some employees’ roles and an increase in personnel. Early in 2023, we hired two additional salesmen, Paul Phillips from Louisiana to cover the Deep South and Chad Wilde from South Dakota to develop our presence in the grain, feed, and ethanol industries. These hires came after adding CFO Todd Reifschneider and Accounting Manager Andy Mallot in late 2022.

These were only the first in a record number of hires. We went on to hire Tyce Gilpin as accounting assistant, Emilee Wheatley as human resources manager, Alberto Sanchez Gonzalez and Hernan Blas Aquino as mechanical design engineers, Matthew Carlisle as support engineer in our co-op program, and Douglas Bader as production engineer. To this team, we’ve added many production employees, as well.

Besides adding employees, some job roles have changed in our organization. Scott Lawson stepped into a newly created position where he could focus on implementing and administering our ERP system. Jonathan Wokatsch, previously a technical sales rep, moved up to the new position of Vice President of Manufacturing.

Production

Our production area has received a lot of changes and upgrades this year. For machinery, we’ve added a robotic welder and a laser table. We’ve brought more cutting, forming, and welding in-house, allowing us to control costs and inventory better. This also gives us additional “quick ship” capacity.

We’ve begun developing methods to evaluate every step of our manufacturing process. We’re applying lean methodology to reduce the risks of errors, improve quality, decrease assembly time, and increase safety. Once implemented, these changes will lower our manufacturing costs, helping us remain competitive.

One of our newest engineers, Alberto, has been designing an improved assembly table to fit all our conveyor series with patterns for splice plate holes. The table will allow faster changeover from one conveyor series to another and tighten the tolerances on each section we build.

 

Besides these changes to our physical products, we’ve improved how we manage manufacturing as a whole. Early in the year, we implemented Epicor, a manufacturing management software. This platform has enabled us to better manage our growing enterprise, forecast parts, track projects, price parts, and integrate critical systems. For a growing organization, this was a well-needed investment!

Engineering

While our engineers have spearheaded many of these projects, they’ve also encountered improvements in their department. Throughout 2023, they have been configuring DriveWorks. This automation program will enable us to create conveyor assemblies automatically with complete bills of materials, saving our engineers countless hours of tedious and repetitive work. The tool will also slice the time it takes us to create sales models, enabling us to serve our customers faster.

The program can already spit out block models, deluge systems, and complete conveyors. A few kinks are left in the programming, but it’s nearing completion and is already saving our engineers time.

We continue to develop our understanding of the structural properties of our equipment, especially the conveyors. We are focused on this because it directly contributes to improved safety and reduced total costs for our customers. This process has revealed that we have been overly conservative regarding explosion containment and conveyor spans. Through advanced calculations, modeling and simulations, we are now proving that we can sometimes span twice the distance between supports as we previously did. This kind of work pays big dividends to our customers because they now buy fewer supports and the related engineering and civil work associated with those supports.

Machinery

While our equipment line didn’t receive as many changes as in previous years, it wasn’t untouched. We’re continuously seeking to improve our lineup, so despite the many other changes we’ve experienced, our machines have still gotten better.

  • We redesigned our single-auger centering bin to address flow issues customers experienced occasionally with off-spec materials.
  • We designed a “SMART Mini-Bin” to provide a continuous flow from the intermittent flow out of our SMART Conveyor™.
  • We created a two-panel slide gate for our 60M SMART Conveyor™. Our engineers are working on designing such panels for all our conveyor models.
  • We’ve begun standardizing our screw bins and better defining how they should be used per the application and specifications of the materials.

2024

You’ll notice how many projects we’ve “begun” in 2023. 2024 will reveal the fruit of these labors, which is one reason we’re excited for the coming months. Besides the abovementioned projects, we plan to better understand how materials flow from and behave in our double- and triple-stack SMART Containers. We also plan on shifting to plastic injection as our method of making paddles and wear strips. Doing so will drastically reduce production costs and enable us to produce consistent bolt holes. We’ll be able to add new materials and strengthen the paddles, as well. Plus, we can stamp our logo onto all our parts, making them BE&E Official.

Most exciting, however, will be the acquisition of VibraPro, which BE&E and BID announced on Oct. 19. Adding VibraPro products to our offerings will allow us to offer waste-handling solutions we weren’t previously able to give and enable us to break into new markets. As much growth as BE&E has seen in 2023, this addition will make 2024 outshine even it.

It should be noted that even with the changes, our team has stepped up to handle the growth. Above all else, that is what has led to our success. Everyone in their departments has dealt with the development and the stresses accompanying it with flying colors. They’ve accepted new roles and expansion. They’ve taken on new responsibilities and adapted to structural changes, enabling others to take on some of their burdens. In all this, our CEO, Dane Floyd, has led us well, giving employees the freedom to do what they need to do. The result has been achievements beyond anyone’s expectations.

Well done, team!