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INDUSTRY TODAY 105
our products are ISO 11783 compatible, our spreaders work with
any tractor, regardless of manufacturer.”
Lee Kilpatrick, director of sales and marketing, adds. “We
want to be in a position as a manufacturer where we control our
technology, and not have it dictated by others. By adhering to
what in the software industry is called ‘open source’ standards,
we provide our customers with more options, which also results
in lower product costs.”
This is just one example of how advancements in technology
help farmers get the most out of every acre, every minute and
every dollar they spend. “Variable rate application technology
on both tractor pull type fertilizer spreaders and truck mount fer-
tilizer spreaders is today a widely accepted tool for the farmer,”
Hagler says. “If you need to 150 pounds per area in one loca-
tion, and 220 pounds somewhere else, it’s easy to set a consis-
tent and accurate spread pattern for one area, and then quickly
recalibrate for another. You apply exactly what you need – no
more, no less – where you need it. Coupled with GPS (global
positioning system), this ensures an even, straight-line applica-
tion of material that eliminates waste and ensures proper spread
rate that will increase yields.”
He adds that, “We’re the first spreader manufacturer in this
country to offer GPS and variable rate application on all the
product we sell.” To this end, BBI has partnered with TeeJet
Technologies, a manufacturer of agricultural controls applica-
tions, to provide the electronics that make it easy to start, to con-
trol, to map and document all spreading activities.”
BBI spreaders are sold by dealers throughout North America
and also distributes in South America; the company also does
some additional international business, most recently in Turkey
in China. It maintains a 50,000- square-foot manufacturing
facility and employs a little less than 50 people.
MODULAR MANUFACTURING
“Dating back to the 1900s, manufacturing in this country used to
follow the General Motors model,” Hagler says. “The centralized
‘we make everything here’ approach eventually gave way to the
idea of we can make commodity parts cheaper overseas so let’s
outsource as much manufacturing as we can. We’re starting to
see the problems with that tactic now. Due to the government’s
one child per family law, China’s labor force hasn’t grown suffi-
ciently. Now they’re running out of employees, which is affect-
ing their productivity. So, what we’re starting to see now is that
ship dates are slipping from four weeks to 2 ½ months. That’s
unacceptable and is an opportunity for domestic manufacturers
to gain back business they’ve lost to outsourcing.”
However, he adds, “The key for success, though, is flexibility.
What someone wants today is not necessarily what someone is
going to want tomorrow. The reason there are empty buildings
where there once a lot of once prosperous manufacturers is they
overbuilt and couldn’t make adjustments quickly enough. That’s
why BBI uses a modular manufacturing approach. Our expert-
ise is engineering innovation. We design a product that solves a
customer problem or issue. Then we get components we need
from other vendor partners, and then we assemble the product.
This eliminates issues of excessive inventory and excess capac-
ity, while we remain nimble through our partner relationships to
get exactly what we need to build a spreader solution when we
need to do it.”
Particularly during current economic conditions, customers
are particularly concerned about anything that can help them
reduce their bottom-line and improve productivity. “There was
a huge run up in farm equipment that peaked in around 2008,”
Hagler notes. “The reason for that was corn was ranging about
five to ten dollars a bushel because gas was creeping over four
dollars a gallon and ethanol was the big new idea. Everyone
was trying to ride that wave. At the same time, and for the same
reasons, poultry got caught as prices for feedstock rose. So
while our agriculture market had money to spend, poultry was
looking to cut costs wherever they could.
“Now that the price of corn has come down, the spending in
agriculture that we see today isn’t necessarily depressed, but it
is soft. Again, poultry is in a kind of reverse situation as it is
very concerned about reducing costs and increasing ROI, which
creates a perfect opportunity for our products.”
BBI is also diversifying not only to provide spreading solu-
tions to non-farming markets, but they also recently opened a
sister fabricating business of aluminum components for the
satellite industry. “It goes back to the problems companies are
having with offshore manufacturing,” Hagler explains. “We saw
a need that wasn’t being fulfilled by any other domestic manu-
facturer, we had the capabilities, and we moved to fill the gap.
So far it’s been going good. Again, it’s an example of how you
need to be flexible to be successful in today’s economy and mar-
ket conditions.”
Which isn’t to say that BBI will ever risk spreading itself too
thin. Rather, just like the products it sells, BBI is spreading itself
exactly right.
BBI • PROFILE
Pictured: With the use of GPS technology, BBI spreaders allow farmers to
greatly increase crop yields through more efficient use of available land.