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Revolutionizing Cotton Logistics

PCCA’s Innovative Rail Project Cuts Costs and Speeds Delivery from Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas

by Kaylee Hendricks

Almost all commodities share three common problems: they are in the wrong place, or the wrong time, or the wrong form. Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and New Mexico marketers have historically struggled with the problem of efficiently delivering cotton produced in rural areas to a textile mill on the other side of the world. In November 2020, PCCA began work on a high-efficiency container loading project at the warehouse facility in Altus, Oklahoma. Trains are loaded at the Altus plant and travel to the port instead of trucks transporting cotton from Altus to Alliance (Ft. Worth) then are loaded on a train for LA/Long Beach. The railroad infrastructure was created to streamline the transportation of cotton to the ports of LA Long Beach. Eliminating the Dallas stop removes more than 88,000 truck miles per train. Each train ships almost 20,000 bales.

“The train project gives cotton grown in our region a direct route to the ports on the U.S. West Coast and by extension, Asia,” said Jay Cowart, Vice President of Warehouse Operations. “This improves the efficiency of the supply chain for our grower-owners’ cotton.”

While rail transportation of cotton to ports has long been used, PCCA’s unique method of establishing a grower-owned facility at origin sets it apart. This efficiency benefits not only PCCA but also cotton growers and the broader industry by lowering transportation costs, accelerating cotton delivery to markets, and eventually increasing the value of grower-owner’s cotton. Through state-of-the-art infrastructure, meticulous inventory management, and adherence to industry standards, the Warehouse Division upholds PCCA’s commitment to delivering value-added cotton to customers worldwide. For the 2022-23 fiscal year, PCCA shipped 11 trains from the facility.

After three seasons of operation, PCCA recognized the need to enhance the efficiencies surrounding train operations. The organization and flow of containers on the yard needed to be reevaluated for performance efficiencies. PCCA believes that continuous process improvement is vital to improve operations throughout the company. Work progressed on developing a comprehensive container tracking system for PCCA rail operations. Departments at PCCA collaborated to bring the improvements to life.

“Kelly Waller, PCCA’s Warehouse Administrative Manager, and other employees involved in the train operations, were directly involved in the initial idea for the software update,” Cowart said. “We collaborated with the Information Systems department to bring that vision to fruition. This program was developed completely in house.”

This year, PCCA implemented an internal comprehensive container tracking software system for employees to efficiently keep track of containers as they move during day-to-day train operations. With new advancement comes new Standard Operating Procedures to help increase the efficiency of opportunities. The Warehouse Division also has focused on providing all warehouse employees with an all-encompassing, robust training and safety program. This only adds to the accountability of our staff and streamlines the flow of operations.

 “The vision for the new train software system was to increase accountability and streamline operational flow,” said Cowart. “Employees involved in train operations are able to track the containers in the yard for a more efficient loading and unloading process.”

PCCA’s Warehouse Division is a cornerstone in the seamless functioning of the cotton supply chain. With focus on efficient handling, storage, and distribution of cotton, the division plays a critical role in ensuring the accurate and timely movement of the commodity. By providing reliable storage solutions and facilitating effective logistics, the division contributes significantly to maintaining the integrity and value of the bales produced by our grower-owners, bolstering PCCA’s reputation as a reliable partner in the global cotton market. PCCA acknowledges the changing dynamics of the cotton supply chain and continuously seeks ways to improve.