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Podcast April 3, 2019

LINcast: Importance of Safety & Automation in Grain Handling

LINcast host Gabe Duverge is joined by Cheryl Lansink, Director of Sales for Comco Controls, and Randy Bowman, Senior Sales Manager for LINAK U.S. The group recorded live at GEAPS Exchange 2019, discussing the latest trends in grain handling.

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Full Transcript

Gabe Duverge:                  Hello and welcome to another episode of the LINcast. I'm your host, Gabe Duverge, and I'm recording live from GEAPS exchange 2019, in New Orleans, LA. And we're here to talk about the grain handling industry. GEAPS is a great show for the industry and I've got two guests here who are very qualified to talk about it. First from LINAK, wanted to introduce Randy Bowman. Randy is the Senior Manager of Sales for LINAK. Randy thanks for joining us.

Randy Bowman:               Morning Gabe. Good to be here.

Gabe Duverge:                  Thanks for coming. And I wanted to introduce our second guest, Cheryl Lansink. Cheryl is a Director of Sales for ComCo. Chery thanks for joining us.

Cheryl Lansink:                  Thanks for having me.

Gabe Duverge:                  So guys, I just wanted to start this out, to talk a little bit about GEAPS itself, and you know. LINAK will go to a lot of different shows. But I think GEAPS is really unique in that the organization that runs the show, that puts on the show, is very, very interested in promoting the industry. Not just for the five days that the shows going on.  So, Randy I'll start with you. I know both you guys are heavily involved in the GEAPS committee. So Randy just give us a little on your background, maybe how long you've been working in GEAPS and just a little bit about that.

Randy Bowman:               So I've been a member of GEAPS for about six years. Currently on the EPC Committee, a committee that handles the educational programing here at exchange. It's my fourth year of doing that. So that's one of the great things about GEAPS is at least the exchange itself, once a year expo with, where basically education is a big part of it. I mean we have vendors, we have folks that come in. But really it's about education to the members of GEAPS that are out there working in the industry.

Gabe Duverge:                  And Cheryl, what about you? How long have you been working with the GEAPS Committee?

Cheryl Lansink:                  I actually got my 15 year service pin yesterday.

Gabe Duverge:                  Oh, wow! Congratulations!

Cheryl Lansink:                  Thank you. So I was on the EPC for seven or eight years and then I joined the associates board. And I am just finishing up my past president term. So, as of-

Gabe Duverge:                  There ya go-

Cheryl Lansink:                  Today I am off the hook for a while. Fifteen years of heavy involvement-

Gabe Duverge:                  A weight off the shoulders-

Cheryl Lansink:                  Yeah, I like that, it's been a lot, it's been great.

Gabe Duverge:                  No, as I mentioned, it's great to have such experts, such people involved in this industry as you two. So yeah, let’s talk a little bit about the show. We're here, it is Tuesday, it's the final day of the show. So you guys have had a chance to walk around, take a look, listen; as we mentioned, some of the great education that comes along with this show. So Cheryl, what are you noticing trends wise in the grain handling industry or things that you've seen at the show specifically.

Cheryl Lansink:                  Well first of all, we're seeing the grain industry is starting to pick-up again. So that's great news.

Gabe Duverge:                  Great news.

Cheryl Lansink:                  It's been pretty quiet for a while. There's a lot of, a lot of action this year. So that's good. Things are startin' to move. We're really seeing a lot of people, fewer employees, and working towards lights out. So, they want fewer people to run their facilities and they wanna run 24/7 and yeah, the less hands on the better, so.

Cheryl Lansink:                  The technology is starting to catch-up and the sensors and all the equipment that we need, so that's the good buzz this year.

Gabe Duverge:                  I definitely have seen that. Randy what about you, would you agree?

Randy Bowman:               Yeah, I definitely second what Cheryl said, because it's, you know there's several challenges, employment being one. It's a difficult industry to hire and retain into, so automation if we look at it. Both Cheryl and ourselves for an automation perspective. It helps, you know it's also from a safety perspective, you know the industry is, it's tough, it's tough work out there. So automation kinda helps with a lot of that.

Gabe Duverge:                  Definitely makes sense, yeah.  Either of you notice a particular education panel, or a speaker, anything that kinda stuck out and offered an interesting message?

Cheryl Lansink:                  I actually didn't get a chance to attend any of the sessions. We've been so busy.

Gabe Duverge:                  It's been a busy show.

Cheryl Lansink:                  I was in meetings, and so I actually have another chance to get any of it in. But I have heard that the sessions this year are better than they've been in many, many years. Have been really, really good.

Randy Bowman:               We were really fortunate to get a lot of good speakers in. This year in particular. My sessions were based on safety. Safety culture and some other types of things, but it's an awesome place for folks in the industry to come, and just to make those connections, make some links, but then also learn quite a bit and kinda get refreshed on some stuff that maybe they don't have a chance to get focus on during the year.

Gabe Duverge:                  Absolutely. So moving on to outside, you know, outside the show. Is there anything that you guys can offer some of the listeners; things that your seeing out, experiencing out, and working on in the field that maybe you've taken from here or will use, or something you've seen that's interesting to comment on.

Randy Bowman:               I guess I can speak to that. I mean, from us, from an automation perspective. I think everybody would say, the grain industry has a little ways to go. Grain handling specifically. Some organizations, some facilities are way behind compared to other industries, you know.

Then you have some leaders that are really kind of moving the automation forward which it's a two-sided thing. The more automation comes prevalent, and more is getting installed then you have more suppliers and more companies coming into the industry. LINAK is an example right, I mean we've made actuator for 30 years, but just now receiving our certificate for the explosion protection for use of hazardous environment, so the Class II, Div I, Groups F & G.

It's just one example of where, just the growth in the industry and the focus in automation has made it more common in the industry, along with some of the other drivers I mentioned earlier. So, maybe that helps with pricing, you know maybe that helps it out. But it also, you know it's expensive to develop new products and new solutions and those type of things. So, the more that it can get used in the industry then you know, it just helps everybody out.

Cheryl Lansink:                  It's interesting to see how there's some folks around here that are coming and saying, "I don't even know where to start". And then you have the other ones that have already got automation in their facilities and they're now pushing for the metrics and the performance efficiencies. So there's such a gamut. And just in our role in the show, we're there doing controls, there's an electrical company just down the stretch. There's a general contractor, so that's like, start at that guy; talk to him, learn the basics, keep moving on to electrical and then come talk to us. Like there's the full gamut in one aisle. So it's a really great opportunity for a lot of the managers.

Randy Bowman:               One of the things too with the facilities and some of the ages of the facilities; you might have somebody like for what we would do. Say for example: opening a slide gate. You know there's facilities where that's done by hand, with a chain. So when it's 15 degrees outside they have a truck pull up and they've got a person out there opening manually. And with automations, some things that ComCo does, some things we can do, back to the automation. It's really, really, really helping and definitely growing. With some of these legacies systems, it's kind of ... think that's one of the other things too, is you get some of these facilities, they're still functioning facilities, but they're so far behind when it comes to automation. Now newer facilities obviously, are where automation is getting put into those. But there's still a large amount of older facilities with legacy systems and how do you merge those systems together from something that was installed 30 years ago, but now we're adding a few new bins. And now we want to upgrade this part of our facility to a higher level of automation controls.

Gabe Duverge:                  Absolutely. So I keep hearing automation is a theme. Would you guys say that's definitely what you're most excited for, seeing here in the next few years?

Cheryl Lansink:                  I think so, you know, and it's exciting doing the automation, because I had a manager yesterday tell me that he's still sticking boards in his gates for blending. This board is this thick so that means the gate opens 80% or it's this thick and that's 30% and he wants to get to a spot, he was looking at one of our systems where you can enter the percentages on their gates, you can blend properly. He couldn't fathom that he would actually not have to go other there physically put those boards in his certain gates and he could actually get all from a system and then, the technology changes so quickly so. The sensors and the equipment he might have used two years ago, now they're going to laser and so all that changes so quickly so that's where we're trying to keep up with it. So there's a huge education component, but it is super exciting.

Randy Bowman:               Yeah, definitely.

Gabe Duverge:                  Well, is there anything else you guys have noticed that you want to comment on before we wrap this up?

Randy Bowman:               I would say, you know just, part of it's just more and more we see a more and more openness to it. Cheryl mentioned the industry is kind of waking up again and the money is starting to flow, it's been tough couple years with commodity prices, kind of where they were and just uncertainty in the market with tariffs and other types of things, so now that things are maybe starting to settle in some, people feel comfortable in investing in their facilities, there've been some consolidation in the industry. Some of smaller or weaker companies are being bought out by some of the larger ones. And so all that just kinda, you know it's good to see how the industry starting to come back around again.

Gabe Duverge:                  Absolutely. Absolutely.

Cheryl Lansink:                  I really like the trend also towards safety. I mean, safety for the longest time was the lowest rung on the ladder and now people are really taking that seriously. And that is such a big deal. I mean, people safety, just can't even put a number on that so that has just been such a great theme here at the show. So many safety vendors and good equipment and quality prices. And then on the GEAPS side, I like how everybody comes here and competitors are talking to each other and you're feeding off each other and automation companies were talking to each other. It's just kind of really big group here and everybody is just on the GEAPS wagon about grain knowledge.

Cheryl Lansink:                  And there's committees and plug for GEAPS, the committees are always looking for people. If you're looking to get involved or meet people or learn about the grain industry, that is where you start. Get on a committee, call the GEAPS staff. I mean, there is such a great opportunity here and you're missing the boat if you're not on it.

Gabe Duverge:                  And you can also go through the chapters, it's not a once a year thing. Through the chapters, the regional chapters, sometimes they have regional shows, so it's not always a once a year come across the country, you know, I mean it might be a couple of hour drive to a chapter meeting. Where you meet folks in your own organization, folks from other organizations-

Cheryl Lansink:                  And you don't have to go to your own chapter. You can go to any chapter, so there's opportunities all the time, all year long.

Gabe Duverge:                  Absolutely. This has been a great conversation, I think that's what happens when you have such great experience and I really appreciate both of you guys joining me today.

Gabe Duverge:                  Cheryl thanks a lot.

Cheryl Lansink:                  Thank you very much.

Gabe Duverge:                  And Randy, appreciate it.

Randy Bowman:               Thank you Gabe.

Gabe Duverge:                  And I want to thank all the listeners for listening in on another episode of the LINCast. As always, if you have more questions or like to listen to any more episodes of the pod cast, you can visit us at

Gabe Duverge:                  Thank you everyone. Have a good one.

About Cheryl Lansink

Cheryl Lansink is the Director of Sales for Comco controls. Cheryl can be found in the Ida Grove, IA branch office with corporate headquarters located in Saskatoon, SK Canada.

Comco provides PLC automation systems for grain terminals, feed mills and other facilities that require process control equipment. Cheryl has been with Comco 20 years this July and started as a computer programmer moving her way into marketing, sales and in 2015 was named the Director of Sales for Comco.

Cheryl works hard to help customers learn about the benefits of automation. From the initial engineering design phase, panel building in Comco’s certified panel shop to the programming and installation, Cheryl helps the team to make sure the customers get the system that best fits their needs, budget and timeline. 

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