Firm Expands from Fertilizer Industry to Become a Global Process Engineering and Manufacturing Leader
FEECO International, Inc.
When FEECO International, Inc. was first established in the early 1950s, the company provided products and services exclusively for the fertilizer market. Today, the company still services the fertilizer industry, but now works in nearly every market imaginable, serving companies around the world.
FEECO supplies a wide variety of solutions and services centered around thermal processing, agglomeration, material transformation and material handling. Within these categories, their offerings cover the entire spectrum of industrial processing needs, from batch and pilot testing, process and product development, and engineering, to custom equipment design and manufacturing. The company further supports clients through commissioning and installation support, operator training, and aftermarket services such as process and equipment audits and optimization, retrofits, maintenance, and spare parts. Toll manufacturing services are also available.
Of all their services, custom equipment remains the top revenue-generator for the Wisconsin-based firm, which operates a roughly 60,000-square-foot fabrication center that can handle cutting, bending, machining, welding, rolling, finishing, painting, and more. Equipment can be provided in a diverse range of sizes, from batch scale all the way to commercial units capable of processing hundreds of tons per hour. The company is perhaps most well known for their custom rotary equipment, which includes dryers, coolers, kilns, granulators, and agglomeration drums.
FEECO is the leading provider of tumble growth (non-pressure) agglomeration equipment and services. Their line of equipment in this field includes agglomeration drums, pin mixers, pug mills (paddle mixers), and disc pelletizers.
They also lead the way in bulk solids thermal processing with their rotary dryers, coolers, and rotary kilns (calciners), which are used in high-temperature applications such as calcination.
The company’s material handling line provides an excellent complement to their processing equipment, with belt conveyors, bucket elevators, steep incline conveyors, and complete handling systems, including support equipment.
All FEECO equipment is supported by extensive offerings in engineering – civil works guide drawings, process flow diagrams/mass balance, plant general arrangement drawings, P&ID development, site supervision for installation and start-up, and more.
FEECO Marketing Manager, Justin Madigan, comments on the strategic partnerships the company engages in to provide value-added solutions to customers: “We sell Rockwell Automation control systems alongside our equipment, and also have other value-added partnerships, some of which include Microtrac for particle analyzers and FINNA Group for moisture analyzers. We can test and engineer a solution for our customers that includes these add-ons and provide a very high-performance system.”
The company also utilizes their testing facility – The Innovation Center – for the process and product development behind their custom equipment and systems. Process engineers work with clients to show proof of concept, proof of process, and proof of product, as well as assisting in process and product optimization. Throughout testing, the data necessary for process and equipment scale-up is gathered and analyzed.
“We can run everything from small-batch tests on a single piece of equipment, all the way up to pilot-scale, continuous-loop testing for a full process,” says Madigan. “Various equipment configurations and process parameters can be tested for both agglomeration and thermal processing.”
Madigan views the Innovation Center as a significant differentiator between FEECO International and their competition. “Our Innovation Center is huge in standing out. I don’t know of another facility in North America that can conduct the level of process testing we do here,” he says.
Much of the company’s work centers around sustainability efforts – recovering valuable materials from wastes or process by-products, transforming process by-products into a value-added product, or just improving the efficiency of a process to make it more environmentally friendly.
“So much of what we do ties back to sustainability,” states Madigan. “We’ve helped our clients create products for better nutrient management to help mitigate runoff; we’ve recovered metals from spent batteries and e-wastes; we’ve even helped our clients create soil amendments from process by-products like synthetic gypsum. In one way or another, it always ties back to sustainability efforts. It’s something we’re very passionate about.”
FEECO has clients in the fertilizer, agriculture, mining and minerals, forestry, paper, chemical processing, and power and utilities sectors. These customers range from small start-ups and farmers to large engineering firms and Fortune 100 companies. Well-known corporations with which FEECO has worked include Nestlé, General Electric, ExxonMobil, Folgers, Duracell, and Eastman. As for key sectors served, Madigan says, “[If you consider] fertilizer a subset of chemical, I would say the two largest industries we serve would be chemical and mining and minerals.”
Some of their most utilized technologies include equipment for de-dusting coal, agglomeration drums for use in the heap leaching process, pug mills for processing copper concentrates, and rotary dryers for use at mineral processing sites.
The company is always on the lookout for new markets and is very interested in the commercial possibilities of biochar, for example. Madigan describes biochar as “a carbon-based material that has major potential in a variety of applications aimed at environmental restoration, improved soils for increased crop production, and even water treatment.”
Biochar fits with the company’s focus on environmentally-friendly solutions, which, in turn, is a reflection of customer demand and interest. “I would say many of our customers have an ecological focus. They have some kind of incentive to turn waste material into a product that can be sold and generate revenue. We have a passion for this kind of work and a lot of experience as well, so it’s a natural fit,” Madigan says.
The company also still works heavily in the fertilizer industry, particularly in creating both traditional and specialty fertilizer and soil amendment products. “Again, this goes back to sustainability,” Madigan comments. “There is a big push to reduce reliance on mined resources and fully utilize the available nutrient sources we have that are currently going to waste and causing ecological harm. Our decades of experience in producing custom fertilizers have put us on the forefront of this market. The Innovation Center, along with our unmatched expertise in fertilizer products, provides a unique R&D environment for producers to develop new products and processes to better meet the changing nutrient management needs of our growing world,” he says.
Madigan attributes the company’s decades of success to focusing on driving value for customers. “By doing so,” he continues, “we have been able to improve products, expand our offerings, and move into different industries.” The company is in the process of obtaining ISO 9001:2015 certification, the standards of which they already follow.
The company’s corporate culture also plays a big part in their success. At present, the firm has roughly one hundred employees. Recognizing the hard work and talent of each individual lets them know they are truly valued and appreciated, according to Madigan.
FEECO also participates in a broad range of projects aimed at giving back in one way or another. “We participate in a number of fundraisers throughout the year, including our annual holiday turkey donation, where we donate a turkey under the name of each employee to the local food pantry,” says Madigan.
FEECO International has come a long way from their humble beginnings in the fertilizer industry. Their comprehensive capabilities, combined with their passion for environmentally friendly solutions and an appreciation for the hard work and unique talents of their employees has certainly served them well, and will likely continue to do so for years to come.