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Handled With Care

Adding Value to Members’ Cotton

By Jayci Cave

Preserving the quality of the cotton, shipping it in a timely manner, and striving for efficiency are always a top priority for Plains Cotton Cooperative Association’s Warehouse Division. This season, it is estimated that the division will receive approximately 950,000 bales. Each bale the division receives is handled with care to ensure members get the best value for their cotton.

The Warehouse Division was established in 1963 to help add value to members’ cotton. Today, there are PCCA warehouses in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. The division’s employees at each location pay special attention during every step of the process to ensure accuracy and efficiency.

“I think we add value to our members’ cotton by keeping it in good condition and being able to ship it out timely,” says Danny Helms, Warehousing South Regional Manager. “We strive to operate as efficiently as possible in order to pay back a good dividend to our members.” PCCA’s Warehouse Division created the first online interactive scheduling tool in 2005 in response to industry requests, and it is still the best in the industry.

After cotton is ginned, the bales are sent to the warehouse. Once it arrives at the facility, each bale is put into rows in a warehouse building. For every load the warehouse receives, the weight that the gin entered on the scale ticket is checked to verify that the weights are accurate. Moisture content also is tested to make sure that it meets acceptable levels, and bale condition is observed. Once all of the cotton is placed in a row, each bale tag is scanned in order to identify the location of the individual bale. After receiving a shipping order, a list is printed out with all of the bales to be included in that order. This list shows the location of the bales, and a machine operator is sent to get the bales and relocate them to a shipping building where the truck will come to pick up the shipment. While the bales are being staged for shipping, each bale is scanned, and it will show in the warehouse program that the order is ready for pick up. Each bale is scanned again as they are loaded onto the truck to ensure that the correct bales for that order are the ones being loaded.

The Warehouse Division has a committee of nine members to assist with decision-making and serve in an advisory capacity to the PCCA Board of Directors on items such as capital expenditures and tariff changes. Currently, Larry Williams, from Central Rolling Plains Coop, is the chairman.

“The committee must make sure the division has the proper resources to receive and ship crops that vary drastically in size, safely and efficiently,” says Jay Cowart, Vice President of Warehouse Operations.

PCCA’s Warehouse Division also faces its fair share of challenges. There are daily issues of facing the unknowns such as how much cotton will be received and how fast will it need to be shipped. Helms says that on top of the normal challenges, this year a labor shortage has become a prominent issue.

“Because of the pressure from the oil business and wind energy, we have had to look to temporary employment agencies and a migrant worker program called H2A to fill the needed positions,” Helms says. “Randy Squires in Altus has worked hard to cover all the requirements for this program, and this is our first season to use H2A employees.” Cowart says they are always working hard to deliver a “grade A” quality bale in a timely fashion.

“We strive to provide excellent service to our members’ gins and merchant customers. We also relentlessly pursue efficiencies and try to provide an enjoyable and safe workplace for our employees,” Cowart says.

Both Cowart and Helms agree that the division’s hard working employees are the ones that make PCCA’s Warehouse Division stand out.

“There are a lot of very experienced and very dedicated employees who are receptive to pursuing innovative and more efficient ways of doing the job,” Cowart says.

Helms says that each employee plays a special role in helping make this operation work successfully.

“The Warehouse Division is very fortunate to have great employees, and each employee and his or her duties are just as important as the next,” Helms says. “Everyone pitches in to help when the time comes. It takes a team effort for all aspects of warehousing to go smoothly.”