Ridley Block Operations opens R&D lab
WORTHINGTON -- Ridley Block Operations (RBO) of Worthington recently completed another expansion and refinement of its production operations by opening a Technology Center that includes a research and development laboratory and a pilot plant facility.
The newest addition, which opened last winter, is the latest in a long line of constant upgrades and growth for RBO.
"The plant was built in 1983 and since then it has been an almost non-stop expansion," said Paul Standafer, Worthington plant manager. "We have done six physical expansions over the years, as well as internal changes to increase productivity.
RBO manufactures several kinds of concentrated nutritional supplements for livestock of all kinds.
"We have been very successful at what we do -- our original business plan was to produce 10,000 tons a year, and in the first year we produced 8,300 tons," Standafer said. "We started off with one production line, added a second line within months, and then more and more every year. Now, we produce around 50,000 tons a year.
"Originally, Worthington was manufacturing low-moisture blocks, which are made by dehydrating peat molasses or cane molasses," Ridley Block Director of Research and Nutrition Dan Dhuyvetter explained. "Since then, Ridley has acquired businesses that employ different block forms, such as pressed blocks (hydraulic pressure used to form rectangular blocks), composite blocks and compressed blocks."
Activities at the technology center, said Dhuyvetter, have been going on the past few years, but it wasn't until last winter that the research program was finalized and a pilot plant constructed at RBO. The laboratory and pilot plant allow RBO to further fine-tune its product and production process.
"When we evaluate different ingredients and test our own products, we start on a small scale in the lab, using under a pound of the product," Dhuyvetter said. "The pilot plant allows us to use a production process similar to what we use in the actual plant, and in doing this, we can see how certain ingredients will react or if they will cause issues."
The pilot plant, explained Dhuyvetter, is much like the middleman in a trade.
"It is an intermediate step between full-scale production and lab research," he said. "It has taken longer to complete because we need to incorporate our methods in heating, mixing and blending."
Since its founding, Ridley Inc. has become a key player in the production of livestock nutritional supplements.
"Ridley is a main market leader in the business. We have eight plants across the country that make a wide range of products," Dhuyvetter said.
Why was the Worthington plant chosen out of eight plants for the expansion?
"Worthington is close to our corporate headquarters in Mankato, and from a logistic standpoint, that works well," Dhuyvetter said. "Also, Worthington manufactures a wide variety of our block products, which is another reason."
Most of all, Ridley and Dhuyvetter want the company and the Worthington plant to stay where they are now -- on top.