Ed de Souza graduated with a degree in Agribusiness at Fort Hays University in Kansas, USA in 1995. He also obtained a master’s degree in Business Administration, with a focus on business management at Fundação Getúlio Vargas.
Mr de Souza was hired by Wenger Manufacturing Inc in late 1995. Working at Wenger for the past 24 years, he has developed an extensive know-how in food extrusion processing. He has worked in food extrusion research at the Wenger Technical Centre in Sabetha, Kansas, and has knowledge also as a field service technician working with equipment start-ups, process troubleshooting and providing lectures and training.
How did you come to be involved in this industry?
After graduating with a degree in Agribusiness at Fort Hays University in Kansas, USA, I was interviewing with two multinationals in the commodities business, paperwork related to work visas halted these processes. By chance, I went to visit Sabetha, Kansas, the headquarters for Wenger Manufacturing, Inc., with a college friend, before I returned to Brazil, my home country. At a local high school football game, I met with the service manager for South America and the rest is history. I landed in this business by chance and I believe it was meant to be, as I fell in love with extrusion processing right away.
What has been your proudest achievement, whilst working at Wenger? Has the company expanded greatly since you have been part of the team?
In 2000, my US work visa expired, and I had to make the decision to move to a different country. Brazil was, at the time, a great market and at full expansion for pet food and aquatic feeds. Our customers needed local support and parts, so I was proud to help starting Wenger conduct business in Brazil.
Firstly, our Brazilian office served as a service office and soon after we moved in manufacturing parts and then equipment, before evolving into a full blown modern manufacturing plant in 2013. It is an honour being a founder of Wenger within Brazil and representing Wenger Manufacturing, Inc. I consider this to be a great achievement in my career and, yes, the company has expanded greatly since I have been part of this proud team at this honourable company and I have so much to be thankful for.
What are the biggest challenges for your industry, and how do Wenger combat and resolve these issues?
The extrusion industry faces challenges that are often overlooked. Most extruded aquafeed manufacturers focus too much on cost accounting, and there is a fine life between being cost effective and losing throughput and product quality. If these areas were focused on, as they are key for product improvement and financial gain, then manufacturers could process better products in larger quantities, using a lot less resources:
Raw Materials: Investing a small percentage in formulation cost to provide extrusion friendly ingredients, such as better starch sources and functional proteins, can possibly double the throughput of an extrusion line, using essentially the same fixed assets and fixed cost.
Hardware: Reduced capital investment for inferior standard and or inappropriately engineered and configured grinding, extrusion and drying equipment can result in a continued higher processing cost and lower throughput for the life of the equipment, resulting in higher use of resources due to inefficiency. The lack of proper asset maintenance, which is preventive as opposed to corrective, is a major road block for efficiency and output quality on an extrusion line. Proper preventive maintenance is the very essence of asset preservation: it prolongs the life of productive equipment at a minimum cost, as well as preserving the output quality and ensures reliability.
Asset maintenance, especially with extrusion cooking equipment, should not be considered as a lump sum that needs to be reduced in the budget of next year, rather it needs to be viewed as crucial key performance indicator and analysed as cost-per-tonne. In most cases, a planned preventive maintenance programme will represent less than two percent of the total production cost but, if neglected, it can result in throughput loss, product quality decline and loss of clientele.
The third topic that serves as a challenge for the industry is control of the processing system. When the two prior points are well managed, process personnel need to be able to precisely control the process for ensuring high quality output on an extrusion line. Processing software has the ability to offer user friendly process tools that ensures a smoother extrusion process and the highest quality product, as well as the ability to provide data for managers to assess and carry out corrective decisions.
Wenger has developed and continues to improve its processing equipment, namely extruders and dryers, to provide a user friendly and durable state-of-the-art solution, and modern processing tools overcome ingredient variations and other potential hurdles. Through years of know-how and process engineering, Wenger offers a comprehensive and precise process control automation by our one and only Automated Process Control system (APM™). Wenger values what is best for our clients.
You recently took part in the Aqua Feed Extrusion Conference and gave a great presentation concerning operational excellence leadership. How do Wenger incorporate these leadership techniques to ensure your company remain at the peak of the processing industry?
Wenger focus on providing all-inclusive process support, in addition to advanced extrusion equipment and modern processing control tools. One of our most appraised support systems, Wenger Care, improves our customer’s operations, generating more quality products with the least resources spent.
What do you see as a possible challenge that the industry may face over the next five years, and how will your company play a part in prevention or solving it?
The Covid-19 pandemic presents interesting opportunities. I believe we will see an increased consumption of cultivated fish, due to its minimised impact on the environment and increased number of people adopting pets, as well as extruded plant protein derivatives as an alternative nutrition for humans. We are ready with superior technology for the three area we specialise in: State-of-the-art and advanced extrusion equipment for pet food, aquatic feeds and human food.
Has Covid-19 affected business in any way for Wenger? How has the company overcome these challenges?
We have seen challenges, primarily brought about through the limitations on travelling, but, on other hand, we have developed new and improved tools for remote access for client interaction, equipment commissioning and client support.
What makes your company stand out from its competitors? Do you have any projects or plans that we should look out for over the coming year from you and your company?
What we focus on is the customers’ best interests. Our vision is simply to be the best partner our clients can attain. This vision represents our commitment to state-of-the-art and advanced extrusion solutions and innovative processes utilised via expert support. We are also very focussed on research and development. We are, just now, renovating and substantially improving our 55-year old extrusion research centre in Sabetha, Kansas, refining it in terms of both size and technology, making sure our customer stands out from the competition, right from day one and use just the minimum of the earth´s resources.