Quality Management Systems for the Grain Handling Industry

Charles R. Hurburgh Jr., Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering


Farmers Cooperative Elevator Company (FC), Farnhamville, Iowa requested technical assistance from the Iowa Grain Quality Initiative (IGQI) to develop a Quality Management System (QMS) for its grain business.


Enable FC's Odebolt grain elevator to achieve American Institute of Baking (AIB) Quality Systems Evaluation (QSE) and ISO 9000 registration.


Quality Management Systems (QMS) have great potential to expand markets and improve efficiency of food production systems.  While ISO 9000 is the most clearly recognizable QMS, industry specific systems have been used as effectively as a transition and educational process in the introduction of statistically based process controls.  The largest producer owned grain handling firm in Iowa, Farmers Cooperative Elevator Company, Farnhamville, Iowa has taken the national lead in application of system based QMS for agricultural marketing. 


This effort expanded in 2004 with completion of ISO certification for one facility and the central grain merchandizing department.  I remained the technical advisor to the company as 7 more of the company's 35 grain elevators became AIB Quality Systems Evaluation certified.  The Odebolt elevator and the central grain marketing department became ISO 9000 certified on July 7, 2004, with KEMA Registrars of Netherlands as the registrar.  The ISO certification added the dimension of upper management review of performance data generated in the statistical controls.  The initial estimate of $2 profit per $1 invested in the QMS has remained, and a major study to define performance benchmarks for QMS in agriculture has begun.   The company has begun an organizational restructuring of all its operations, specifically to prepare for expanding the QMS within its grain business and to its feed and input supply businesses.  Two student interns, a graduate student and I have been major contributors to management in this process.  The company has committed to providing at least one intern opportunity annually, for ongoing development of its QMS.

Two other large cooperatives have now started the QMS process with the recognition that this has the potential to transform how agribusiness operates.  The materials, templates and statistical measures created by Iowa State are becoming recognized through the grain industry as state of the art in this area.  Traceability has emerged as a major concern in all food markets; one of the QMS statistics is an index of traceability, to measure how precisely grain from the farm can be tracked to individual food lots sold by second and third stage processors.  Relatively simple processes have sharpened traceability beyond what most industry participants thought possible.

The lessons learned are being generalized for others to use.  This is being done with draft guidelines for ISO application to the grain distribution chain, ISU leadership is drafting a general ISO agriculture standard (Ag9000) for proposal as an international work item, creation of benchmarking metrics for various agribusinesses to document efficiency gains, and site security templates for responding to bioterror and homeland security needs.

123–-- Iowa Grain Quality Initiative

Page last updated: July 9, 2006
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