Even for a company with decades of industry experience and know-how, an unprecedented loss in demand due to a virus-related pandemic provided new challenges they couldn’t have possibly prepared for. However, for RFA Member Fluid Quip Technologies, working through the uncharted territory of COVID-19 was a chance to put their brightest minds to work and leverage the knowledge they’ve gained as a veteran company in the ethanol industry to help producers optimize the efficiency in their operations in a time of sudden scarcity. By helping plants quickly make modifications to improve efficiencies and save valuable time and money, Fluid Quip Technologies has helped their peers when they need it most, offering their expertise to others as they face the difficult possibility of having to cut production.
As countless companies across the globe turned to video conferencing, this format became a critical platform for Fluid Quip to communicate and provide support. They moved quickly, learned how to set up a webinar quite literally “overnight,” with the idea for “FQTalks.” On April 2, they launched their first episode of the webinar series, “10+ Ways to Cut Your Plant’s OPEX Costs Today,” and quickly received positive feedback from those who participated.
“When the time came that the industry was suffering severe economic distress, we knew we had to do something,” said Keith Jakel, Fluid Quip Technology Sales & Marketing Manager. “We asked ourselves, ‘What is the best thing we can offer in order to help these plants out?’ The answer was knowledge. In order to make these as helpful as possible, we’ve let the plants vote on the topic. We also wanted to make sure that the plants tuning in would receive the information they need. So, we’ve remained as technology agnostic as we can in order to give them all of their options.”
After hearing from the participants, webinar topics so far have included “Fermentation Efficiencies”, “Fermentation Optimization”, “Bridging the Gap from Fuel Grade to Industrial Grade Alcohol”, “Increase Your Oil Yield”, “Evaporator Optimization”, and “Efficiencies in Distillation and Dehydration”. Because the team at Fluid Quip has so much expertise in these areas, some of the webinar topics have had to be broken down into multiple parts, so that those using the information shared in the webinars could make adjustments in their facilities at a pace that allowed them to understand the full picture and modify productions accordingly.
While the initial webinars had 75-80 participants, the number grew quickly as more members of the industry were made aware of the free resource. In fact, a recent webinar had their highest rate of attendance yet with 228 attendees and webinar attendance averages around 150 attendees. General managers and operations staff from dozens of ethanol plants across the United States have tuned in, as well as representatives from other service providers and producers that make up the broad network of suppliers within the ethanol industry. Industry professionals from Canada, Europe, and South America have also tuned into the webinars as a tool to better understand the US ethanol industry and operations.
To top it all off– they’ve made sure that all of the webinars are recorded and housed on Fluid Quip Technology’s website for those who are unable to attend in real time so the industry can access and utilize the resources at their convenience.
“The Fluid Quip team of engineers provide great insight into problems that plants are facing during this unprecedented time in the industry. Their weekly series gives plants an opportunity to listen and gain access to their insight of activities and items that plants can use to operate the plant at levels that it may not have been designed to operate at,” said Chad Kuhlers, Chief Operations Officer of Golden Grain Energy and a frequent participant in the FQTalks. “The Fluid Quip team has given us small tips and tricks that may be used when the plant is operating at less than 50 percent of capacity. These items can be implemented with little or no capital expenditure and can help to minimize losses during this time.”
When not operating in a pandemic, Fluid Quip Technology’s expertise is part of their business model that they bring to their customers as a custom engineering services and technology provider. Their technology offerings include multiple commercialized patented technologies that enhance the corn-to-ethanol dry grind process and/or produce high-value feed and food products. Ethanol plants utilize their expertise and install these technologies to improve efficiencies, save money and resources over time, and diversify their plant’s product portfolio.
“As of right now, there is no set deadline for when we plan to stop offering these as a free service to the industry. The feedback we’ve gotten has inspired us to continue these as long as people are tuning in,” said Jakel. “Fluid Quip Technology has a deep commitment to industry and it’s contagious for those who spend time with the leadership on our team. When you break down what we do and why we’ve set up these webinars, it demonstrates our desire to make plants run better and assist them in any way we can.”
This post is part of the Renewable Fuels Association’s new #RFACommunityPartners series spotlighting individual member companies’ heroic response to the COVID-19 pandemic.