There's something to be said for getting your money's worth from a piece of machinery. Monette Co-op, Inc., in Monette, Ark., had done just that with a gin plant built in 1957 and renovated several times over the years.
But things had to change in 2003, when an old UD press installed in 1979 finally started to give out and the co-op learned the manufacturer wasn't making replacement parts for it.
“It extended our year considerably,” said Alvis Snider, manager of Monette Co-op. “We decided to look at purchasing a new gin. In December, we started getting quotes from gin manufacturers.”
Founded in 1948, the co-op serves northeast Arkansas and parts of southeast Missouri. It consists of a cotton gin and a grain elevator and is a distributor for chemicals, hardware and liquid and dry fertilizer. The co-op, which has about 350 members, decided that a new gin should accomplish three things, according to Snider. “My board wanted a turn-key job — design and construction of the building and equipment from the ground up.
“We wanted to gin close to 1,000 bales a day to get through faster, which would return money to our customers faster. Also, we wanted better grades — the longer cotton sits in a module, the more it degrades.”
The co-op, which returned over $1.4 million to its members in 2003, also wanted a modern, expandable gin for its customers.
The co-op accepted a bid from Cherokee Fabrication Co., Inc., with construction by Cherokee's sister company, Roy Owens Construction Co.
Roy Owens Construction Co. began in 1967 in Malden, Mo., as a general contractor specializing in cotton gin construction, seed houses and bale warehouses. The company has built over 20 cotton gins across the United States.
Roy and Paul Owens and Jerry Scarborough established Cherokee in 1994 as a sheet metal manufacturer. Today it is a major gin equipment manufacturing facility, with offices in Salem, Ala., Lubbock, Texas, and Malden, Mo.
Cherokee had not offered a complete line of gin equipment until this year, which Snider and the co-op could have viewed as a risk. But Owens and his construction company had established a good reputation with Snider and the co-op with its construction of several buildings for Monette Co-op over the years.
Groundwork for construction began in the latter part of April in a field adjacent to the old gin. There were some delays due to weather, Snider noted, “but we had a late ginning season, too. It was big project, and they worked hard at it.”
The first bale went through the new gin on Oct. 4. By Oct. 10 “we were ginning steadily,” Snider said. “We've had a few start-up problems along the way. But that's a six-day start-up period.”
The gin reached its goal of 1,000 bales per day in late November. It will average around 750 bales per day for the season, according to Snider. “Last year, we averaged 512 bales per day. We'll kick it up next year, and we'll do a lot better.”
The new gin is already paying off for the co-op “in reduction of maintenance and repair, reduction in labor and reduction in utilities,” Snider said. “Considering both shifts, we're probably working 10 fewer people.”
The old gin was a four-stand gin equipped with Lummus 158s, compared to Cherokee's four minus one configuration. In the latter configuration, the plant has three gin stands, but can add a fourth when necessary without extensive modifications.
The new facility sits in a roomy 32,400 square-foot building. Snider said, “We didn't want to crowd the gin into the building. We can bring the Bobcat in to pick up the trash and drive a pickup truck in to fill up the soda machines.”
The spacious facility will also help when expansions are made, according to Jonas Noe, with Roy Owens Construction Co. “We can bring a crane into the building to drop in the new stand.”
The new gin consists of a three and a half bed, stationary module feeder equipped with a 120-inch wide storage hopper and dust suction system, followed by split first and second stage, pre-cleaning and drying systems. Each first stage includes an incoming moisture controller, a high capacity rock trap with automatic double dump valve, a 48-inch wide tower dryer with 27-inch high shelf spacing, a 12-foot wide Cherokee Grizzly hot air cleaner, Steady Feed disperser hopper and a Cherokee Savage stick machine.
Each second stage contains a 12-foot, hot air cleaner and a matching 12-foot, gravity cleaner.
The three Cherokee 170-saw, gin stands deliver over 17 bales per hour. Each stand has a Cherokee pneumatic jet lint cleaner, followed by a Cherokee Regal lint cleaner. The latter features a rolling feed bar design.
Dust, trash and motes removed from the cotton are swept away though a partition wall into the fan room at the rear of the building. Dust and trash are then sent outside through a plenum chamber and cyclone bank to remove the solids.
Removed cotton seed is dropped into an air stream generated by a positive-displacement blower, which conveys it nearly 400 feet to the seed house located farther back on the property. The seed house has both in-floor and above-floor aeration and a capacity of 8,500 tons.
“We've been very pleased with the performance of the gin,” Snider said. “Anytime anything has gone wrong, Cherokee has gone in and made whatever design changes were necessary. They've been very professional and dedicated to taking care of us.”
The difference between a modern facility and the old gin presented some challenges to the gin crew, but they've worked their way through it, notes Snider. “The gin is run by a computer and that's new to us, and the touch screens are a little different from knobs and switches. But we're getting used to them.”