AMI's Newsletter
December 2011

Dear ;   


Season's Greetings! I hope you are enjoying the holiday season and wish you all the best in 2012.


Our December newsletter features an article from Rick Windholz, senior engineer at AMI, discussing the impact that manufacturing engineering can have on your business.


We also have an article about the patented system that we have developed in collaboration with the Kansas Environmental Management Associates to reduce phosphorus in wastewater. 


Next month, we will have an article from Sigifredo Castro Diaz, our bioprocessing engineer, on chemical processing simulation.


Please feel free to give me a call at 800-292-4186 or e-mail if you have any questions or projects you would like to discuss. You can also connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.


AMI...Engineering Success.



Taylor Jones

Chief Engineer

Feature Article

Impact Your Business with Manufacturing Engineering


RickRick Windholz

Senior Engineer 


It just doesn't seem right...even with a struggling economy and relatively high unemployment rates, manufacturers still have trouble filling skilled worker positions. Reasons for this include:

  • Unavailability of skilled labor due to the rural location of a manufacturing facility
  • Shortage of specialized skills (e.g. machining, welding, electrical and basic math)
  • Lack of interest from young people to work in manufacturing (they perceive it as "dirty" work)
  • Ongoing retirement of baby boomers from the workforce combined with lower birthrates (the U.S. is expected to have a labor shortage of 35 million workers over the next 25 to 30 years)
  • Foreign competition driving prices down, which can discourage employers from paying higher wages to attract skilled workers

A recent article in The Fabricator magazine identified the most difficult manufacturing skills for fabricators to hire as welding, machining and CNC programming. Young people do not seem eager to enter manufacturing as a profession, even though the pay is generally better than many other jobs. Because of this, manufacturers are faced with one or more of the following choices: attract workers with higher wages (which is tough to do with today's economy,) use existing workers more efficiently, automate processes and use a less-skilled workforce.


In addition to managing the lack of skilled labor, companies are often required to "do more with less." For manufacturers, it is often difficult to come up with solutions for these challenges.


If your company is facing these problems, you should take a hard look at improving your processes. Process improvements are generally implemented to improve quality, increase productivity and decrease lead times. Implemented properly, process improvements can also use existing workers more efficiently and reduce the amount of skilled labor needed.


Why should you pay attention to process improvements?

  • You can increase customer satisfaction with improved quality, shorter lead times and lower costs
  • Your competition is performing continuous process improvements
  • Process improvements can reduce hidden costs or intangibles

The bottom will make more money if you improve your manufacturing and business processes.


When thinking of process improvements, you should not just think about how long a product takes to process on individual machines or workstations. You need to look at how the product flows from the raw material stage into a finished product. This involves processes in both the shop and office. Key ingredients of process improvements include the following elements:


Quality management:

  • Supplier quality
  • Internal quality program (ISO 9000 or other)
  • 5-S (sort, straighten, shine, standardize, sustain)
  • Waste reduction
  • Poka-yoke
  • Statistical process control (SPC)
  • Prevention versus detection (process control)

 Production and inventory management:

  • Reduction of work-in-process (WIP)
  • Visual pull signals
  • Kanbans

 Organizational buy-in:

  • Effective leadership
  • Team building
  • Lean training
  • Continuous improvement culture
  • Safety focus
  • Kaizen events

 Lean manufacturing techniques:

  • Line balancing
  • Work cells
  • Preventive maintenance
  • Standard work
  • Facility layout
  • Setup reduction (SMED techniques)
  • Pull systems
  • One-piece flow
  • Takt times
  • Value stream mapping

All these tools are interrelated and can be used for process improvements. For example, strong company leadership and team building are required for proper implementation of lean manufacturing.


To get started, just choose the tools that make the most sense for your business. Improving your processes is a never-ending effort - you can always make something better!


Manufacturing resources to keep in mind:

AMI Logo

Patented System Reduces Phosphorus

in Wastewater

Phred System


The bioprocessing team at AMI has been issued a patent for a system that removes phosphorus from wastewater and addresses environmental regulations.


Excess phosphate from both animal and human wastewater is an important environmental problem. It can pollute water resources and cause algae blooms, a problem that was present in many Kansas lakes and reservoirs this summer.


The phosphorus reduction system, called Phred for short, is an easy-to-use fully automated system that removes up to 60 percent of phosphorus in wastewater from cattle feedlots.


"In essence, the system changes the chemistry of wastewater from the feedlot. It runs the water through the reactor and the phosphorus is retained in pellet form. A chemical reaction occurs, so the water comes out with lower phosphate levels," said Sigifredo Castro Diaz, bioprocessing engineer at AMI who helped create the patented system.


"Through this system, we can recycle the excess phosphate, while before it could be wasted and end up feeding algae water in lakes," Diaz said.


The project started as a partnership with Kansas Environmental Management Associates, or KEMA. The AMI team created a pilot system in the laboratory then used a scale version on the university's lagoon or the feeding operation pond. Finally, the team developed a large-scale system to use at Supreme Cattle Feeders near Liberal, Kan.


The final patented system works by removing phosphorus from lagoons and trapping it in pellet form, making it easier to distribute and package. 


"Without the system, if farmers reuse the wastewater and there is too much phosphorus in it, they can face fines by the EPA," Diaz said. "But during a drought, it is not helpful to have all this water that they cannot use because of the phosphorus content. So with this phosphorus reduction system, farmers can remove the phosphorus and safely use the water."


As a result, the system helps farmers cut costs while following Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Farmers can purchase the system with support from the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, a federal program that provides assistance to farmers. While competitive systems exist, they are often more expensive, less efficient and less applicable to agricultural wastewater. 


"The development of the Phred system provides livestock farms and others with a valuable tool to protect our nation's lakes, streams and estuaries, and KEMA is proud to be the driving force behind its development," said Kylo Heller, director of development for KEMA.


Currently, the AMI team is improving the efficiency of the bioprocessing system and is looking at ways to decrease phosphorus in cattle feed. Doing so will prevent excess phosphorus from entering the ecosystem.


While the Phred system is optimally designed for wastewater from cattle feedlots, Diaz has been leading efforts to apply the same method at dairy and hog farms. The wastewater from these farms is different because it often comes from indoor barns that produce more phosphate-concentrated wastewater. The team proved that the same system can work with both types of farms and are now working to fine-tune it.


Other partners on the project include: KansasBio, Kansas Livestock Association, DT Search and Designs LLC, KLA Environmental Services Inc., Kansas Bioscience Authority, Kansas Corn Commission, Missouri Life Science Research Board, National Resources Conservation Service with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Kansas Conservation Commission, Kansas Water Office and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.


Quick Links
Contact Us


510 McCall Road

Manhattan, KS  66502




Kansas State University

EDA University Center

KDOC Center of Excellence

GLWN Center  


Like us on Facebook    Follow us on Twitter   View our profile on LinkedIn