Food Sorting and Peeling Solutions
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success story sessions company, usa

Sessions Company, an Alabama based peanut sheller and processor, chose BEST Sorting as the preferred supplier for optical sorting equipment, to guarantee quality, limit losses and increase yield. They installed a HeliusTM sorter to efficiently detect and remove foreign material and aflatoxin.

Sessions Company, a family owned and operated peanut sheller and processor headquartered in Enterprise, Alabama cooperates with Alabama, Georgia, and Florida growers to produce quality shelled peanuts and peanut seed. In addition, they are producers of crude peanut oil and peanut meal. Sessions Co. Inc. was founded in 1917. Mr. H. M. Sessions was in the business of “Farm Furnishing”.

When the Boll Weevil insect devastated the cotton crop, farmers and agribusiness began looking for alternative crops. Through the combined efforts of several people, the peanut was planted in Coffee County, Alabama. In 1932, the Sessions brothers formed Sessions Company Inc. whose primary business was the manufacturing and sale of peanut butter. In 1948, Sessions Co. Inc. began the business of shelling peanuts. One cannot make peanut butter and distribute peanut seed unless the peanuts are shelled first.

“The machine simply functions, that makes our day...We have a lot of good days!”

Larry Milliner, Vice President of Operations, Sessions Company

At this time much labor was directed to “hand picking” damaged kernels out of the shelled peanuts. The use of picking tables was usually staffed with women. It is not uncommon to meet someone in Enterprise, AL. who will tell you that their grandmother hand-picked peanuts for Sessions Co. Inc.

In 1977, a new shelling plant was inaugurated. “At that point we began to use sorting technology,” Larry Milliner, Vice-Pres- ident of Operations at Sessions tells us, “We started using color sorters.” Sessions Company is committed to customer satisfac- tion. Our entire efforts in marketing, purchasing, production, and shipping are oriented to supplying our customers’ needs. The quality of our products is the most important part of our customers’ satisfaction.

The company today employs about 75 people. “We do not export a lot of our products; we mainly focus on production for companies in the United States. We are not the biggest company out there, but we hope we produce the very best product possible,” explains Mr. Milliner.

Sorting technology

In 2007 the company heard about BEST Sorting. A peanut broker that Sessions Co. spoke with on a regular basis told them there were laser sorting machines used in other plants. Sessions wanted to know more about it and through an internet search found out about a sorting company in Belgium. They had the opportunity to visit the other plants where BEST equipment was installed. Two machines were running and after a period watching the machines and the sorted products, there weren’t a whole lot of decisions to be made. Larry and his team were convinced!

They did some background checks with other companies and then finally contacted BEST and were referred to Bill Crowley, of CSI, who works together with BEST sales people in the South East of the United States. Within 3 months Sessions was ordering the machine. Crowley helped them in choosing the BEST solution. As a result, Sessions did not have to change the layout of the plant to accommodate the additional mechanical equipment.

“We decided to install a HeliusTM free fall sorter. We noticed that it is good at detecting foreign material. But because it penetrates the peanut skin a little bit, it also allows the machine to see the alfatoxin underneath, which the naked eye cannot see,” says Mr. Milliner.” Before we installed the HeliusTM we had some lots “out” on aflatoxin that year. “We brought them back in and had them checked by the HeliusTM, resulting in all of them being accepted. This means enormous savings for us, because we do not have to transport them to a blancher, so no blanching fee. Also since the loss through the HeliusTM is so much smaller, we see a good payback on our investment.”

“Our Foreign Material numbers have dropped drastically”

Larry Milliner, Vice President of Operations, Sessions Company

When the HeliusTM free fall sorter was introduced, Larry Milliner felt like it was the best equipment on the market. The company had mixed results with previous machines from other suppliers. They felt that the HeliusTM could do a lot more than color sorting. It looks for non-conformities of what it is sorting rather than just sorting the color of the material. Sometimes the size and shape of the kernel are important factors in sorting.

“We just felt like the HeliusTM would be a better fit to what we are trying to do.” And we see now that the Helius has performed very well. Two years ago we had a high alfatoxin crop and that’s when we elected to put in the Helius sorter on the “Split” line and were fortunate in making that decision. “Because the machine looks at both sides of the peanut, we were not losing any splits, says Milliner. “I believe the Detox technology is really a great technological innovation. It is for us the crucial help in getting out the aflatoxin contamination and making us do our job better.”

Investing in technology

When making an important decision to invest in sorting technology, you need to be certain of the return it will bring and to be able to convince the management of the company. “We did not have difficulties doing that, because we were confident of what the machine could do. We installed the machine in a way that we could bypass it when we would not need it. But so far, the machine has always been integrated into the process, since we depend on it in our quest for optimal quality.” explains Milliner. “If we decided to take it out, I am sure our operators would fight us to have it back in.”

Service became part of the family

Once Sessions got the Helius almost installed, tremendous credit must go to the BEST engineers. “We have a special relationship with Koen Pauwels, our regular BEST Service Engineer. He was here during the initial startup and the education that he gave all of us was simply perfect.” The machine runs 14 hours per day and often more than 5 days a week. The maintenance level is very low. “It just functions. That makes our day better. and we have a lot of good days, since we began working with BEST.” smiles Mr. Milliner.

“Luckily, we have not had serious problems, but when we need assistance in one way or another, we can always call the BEST office in Belgium or in Denver, Colorado, USA. We have faith in the technicians and they are always open to help. Also the PAX system is very useful. When we see that our machine needs some fine tuning or we experience a problem, we just call the BEST office and one of the technicians can easily log into our machine and make the necessary adaptations, to improve sorting efficiencies. We are very happy to be part of the BEST group, they are really a group of customer oriented, smart people, that not only know their job, but also have good communication skills when they interact with us.” Milliner said.

New Developments

Sessions depends on BEST for future developments. “We trust in their knowledge. We are confident that BEST is working in its headquarters on the right developments. If they tell us that they have a new laser or an upgrade, there will be no second guesses on our side. For us it is very important to continue in the way we are performing and have the good quality and high amount of products on the ‘accept’ side,” continues Milliner. “We run tests on the good products five times a day and see that the HeliusTM sorter has very few false rejects and an accurate detection of foreign material and aflatoxin. It is better than our own eyes, since it can penetrate the peanut to detect non-visible aflatoxin. For us, there is no other machine that has the same performance, especially for the detection of not only foreign material but also aflatoxin. If anyone asks, I promote the BEST HeliusTM sorter!” concludes Mr. Milliner, another very pleased peanut customer.

If you are interested in a free demonstration with your own product or if you need more information, please contact us directly.