Damascus Peanut Company, a Georgia based peanut shelling company, employs approximately 125 people, working in different shifts in a 24 hour running factory. The company mainly produces for the domestic market and does some export to Europe and Japan. The customer base is built around large customers like Kraft, Smucker’s, Mars, Hershey, Unilever, Conagra, Nestle and many more. The main objective of the company is to provide equipment for customer’s harvesting processes and be competitive in buying from local farmers. On the peanut shelling end, the company is always striving to use the best possible technological equipment, to guarantee an optimal quality for their end product, while always keeping in mind that yields are as high as possible and losses are kept to a minimum.
In their mission to be innovative, Damascus Peanut Company has always been interested in learning about new equipment that can help the company be more productive, improve end customer quality and optimize yield.
“BEST Sorting actually cold called me,” explains Bryan Willis of Damascus Peanut Company. “I picked up the phone by a fluke. We were looking into a mechanical solution for sorting at that moment, but were very happy to listen to the alternative sorting solution BEST had to offer. The machine was cheaper than changing the complete plant layout to accommodate additional mechanical equipment. So in spite of a lower overall cost, we were sceptical as we had never heard of using a laser to sort products.”
“We heard that BEST had lots going on in other crops as well, which gave us more confidence. After successful demonstrations with our peanuts on a demonstration unit BEST brought into our company, we could see what the sorter was capable of. Bill Crowley of CSI, who works together with BEST on Sales for the South-East of the US, contacted us and guided us in choosing the right equipment for our sorting challenge. We decided to install an Argus, a free fall laser sorter, that since has been upgraded to the Helius platform with all the latest technological adaptations.”
Foreign material and aflatoxin removal
Damascus Peanut Company installed their first machine in 2002. “The first year was a good one, for a couple of reasons. First of all, we lowered the amount of foreign material to our expectations. Secondly, we were noticed by competition. Our plant was known as very old and rundown within the industry. When our competition showed up, they saw all our improvements and really took notice of our expenditures. Raising our profile was a very nice intangible for us,” explains Willis.
The second year the people at Damascus were using the Argus/Helius sorter in their plant, they really hit a home run. The crop in that year appeared to be very problematic, probably the fourth worst quality crop in the industries history. “All of a sudden, our plant was making grade on aflatoxin, where others failed. We were able to remove aflatoxin that we previously could not. In fact, in the initial discussions with BEST, this was not brought up as a big problem, but that year, we could rely on the sorter being able to also sort out this additional defect,” says Willis.
During the next years BEST invested heavily in Research and Development on aflatoxin removal, to continue to be able to help Damascus Peanut Company to reach the desired quality and take out all the specific defects the company was facing. “Our investment in sorting technology has been significant, but we can certainly state that the machines have paid for themselves each and every year they have been in our plant,” mentions Willis pleased. “The last two years have been the worst back to back years in history on an aflatoxin level. Even with these amounts, we have very satisfying results with the BEST equipment. While most of our afla levels on the accept side have been ranging below the 15 ppb norm thanks to the sorter, we’ve had corresponding reject samples ranging from 15 ppb to several 1000 ppb levels. This also says a lot about the specificity of the sorter.”
The machine uses laser technology, which results in far better results in the detection of foreign material. Damascus is able to detect different types of foreign material, even items that cannot be viewed by cameras, like white rocks among white peanuts, for example. The laser technology has another big advantage when it comes to efficiency: not only does it have better detection, but also low false detection, so fewer items end in the accept and the result is a lower false reject, which means a better yield for the company.
Support and development
“BEST also does a tremendous job in support. As a matter of fact, their support might be better than their machines are, and that says a ton because the machine itself is super. They are in constant contact about how the machines are performing, sharing information on other crops and plants, making improvements, etc. They will bend over backward if there is an issue and at times probably do more than we even expect or request,” explains Willis.
“The Research and Development department are very willing to work with you on issues you encounter. They are smart people, but not just ivory tower smart. They are smart in ways that you can apply and make money within your day to day business. I know they will continue to work on technological innovations that will help our business grow even further. When BEST comes up with new technologies, they can be integrated easily into the machine. We have two different sorters, with almost ten years difference in between, but our first one we could upgrade easily with the latest technologies.”
“My relationship with BEST is important because they make me money. But they also make us think by having such a global presence. I have become friends with a couple of their employees and they are some of the most pleasant people to do business with, anywhere. I am very open for future collaborations with BEST,” concludes Willis.