Producing grain dryers and grain cleaners with a global reach
Quebec based company, The LMM group (Law-Marot-Milpro) can trace its origins to 1913, when Quebec native Ovide Broillard funded a business called "The Self-Acting Pump Company."
The business expanded until in 1920, the "Machinerie Omega" society was formed and by 1950 the company focused its efforts on equipment primarily designed for feed mills. In 1992, the LMM Group resulted from a merger between the Canadian subsidiary of the French group "Agro-Alliance" and the Quebec-based "Machinerie Omega".
A merger of minds
The commercial products of Agro-Alliance were destined for the grain sector, whereas the expertise of "Machinerie Omega" was primarily devoted to grain mills and animal feed mills. At the recent GEAPS show in Denver, Colorado, USA, we sat down with company president Yves Labelle to discuss the company"s origins, areas of expertise, and international reach.
"LMM is actually two companies in one," Mr Labelle explained, "The French company holds shares in the Canadian company, which is one of the reasons why I am also the president of the French company."
The company"s Canadian offices are located in Hyacinthe, Quebec. LMM sell primarily grain driers and cleaners, which it manufactures in its large, state of the art factory facility, also located in Hyacinthe.
What sets LMM Grain Driers apart from the rest?
Certainly, there is no shortage of drier manufacturers serving the grain industry, but LMM driers boast some unique features that make them stand out. After a few moments studying the huge LAW drier on display at GEAPS, one of the first major differences became obvious. One side of the drier was covered with a flurry of coloured arrows, which illustrated the whirling, circuitous route that the air takes through the drier.
Recycling air results in energy ROI (Return on Investment)
"The air flow in our grain drier is very different from other brands," President Labelle said. "Our drier has up to 62 percent air recovery, with less air escaping from the machine and more air recovered."
He went on to explain how the high level of recovered heated air reaps many benefits. The first is in energy efficiency—recovering heated air dramatically boosts the efficiency of the drier while reducing the amount of fuel required to heat the air.
"We can predict very precisely the amount of energy required to evaporate one kg of water." Labelle said. "Because we"re able to predict that we can accurately forecast operating costs. This number is especially important to a customer looking to recoup their investment."
The amount of water dried depends upon the grain and the country. "For example, Labelle said, "If you take the United Kingdom, you may have barley that comes in at 28 percent moisture. You have to bring that number down to 14 percent before you can safely store the barley. That means 14 percent of the incoming weight of grain has to be removed in the form of steam/water vapour. As another example, in Northern France they grow corn that is often harvested at 35 percent moisture content and they must bring it down to 14 percent."
Better grain brings higher prices
"But fuel saving is just one aspect," Labelle went on to say. "Grain quality is another. If your grain is superior, you will get a better price for it. Recycling air is gentler on the grain. The design of our LAW driers is specifically tailored to remove moisture without affecting the quality of the grain. The recirculated air design promotes even drying, because as the grain travels through the grain column, the falling grain resettles in a different position with every minute, so it"s mixing as it"s drying. The grain is never exposed for more than a minute to very high heat. However, with the design of some driers, kernels can lie exposed to very high heat for long periods," he continued.
Labelle explained that careful drying is equally important in terms of conversion: if the starch content of grain is not degraded by the drying process, then the conversion is better when the grain is fed to livestock. "However," Labelle added, "that is often not true when using older technology equipment where the drying is often too aggressive."
He then offered another example. "Let"s say that you"re a farmer in Scotland. Your barley is wet when you harvest it and you want to dry it. But you don"t want to dry it in a way that will kill the germination potential of your kernels, so you mustn"t over dry it."
Greater energy efficiency and reduced emissions
The LAW drier design saves energy by preventing excessive air loss and recirculating heated air, which directly reduces the amount of fuel.
"The filtering system is very important in reducing dust emissions," Labelle claimed. "Our machine meets all EPA requirement so it"s used by very large processors often located near large towns. They need better performing equipment with a high capacity and low emissions. So they choose LAW driers for greater energy efficiency and lower environmental impact.
Lower maintenance costs and greater reliability with remote diagnosis/servicing
Labelle explained that LAW driers are robust, and use heavy-duty construction that requires low maintenance, a feature, which is especially important for processors who operate year-round. The construction uses mostly galvanised steel, but some components are made out of stainless steel—especially in the upper portions of the drier where humidity is higher. Inside the drier the grain is continuously gravity fed and unloaded at the bottom.
Customers buy from us because of the sophistication of the equipment," Labelle said.
"Everything is controlled by a PLC so we can remotely service the equipment over the Internet using a modem. The way the machines are programmed they can self-diagnose. If you have a failure of any kind, they will stop the equipment and then report which component is responsible for the failure. We"ve also got a mapping of the drier so the engineer can diagnose what part is faulty. The PLC is programmed so many processes are automated. Particularly in Western countries, finding employees that will spend their entire working lives in a grain terminal or feed mill is becoming a thing of the past, so owners are looking more and more at automated systems."
Scalable and infinitely expandable
The LAW driers feature a modular design. They can be built in the factory or assembled in-situ. "There"s almost no limitation on through-put," Labelle said, "because it"s modular so we can stack more modules height-wise or width-wise. In this way we can almost achieve any capacity. Obviously, our systems are aimed more at commercial, industrial-sized applications, rather than for small farms."
Cleaning up in grain town
LMM also distributes Marat grain cleaners produced by the French side of the business. As with LAW driers, the MARAT grain cleaners offer a unique design with many advantages. "Typically, grain cleaners work by shaking the grain," Labelle explained. "This means that they create so much vibration that the mill building they are installed in must be especially reinforced to withstand the vibrations."
He went on, "By contrast, the Marat grain cleaner employs a rotary drum system that is vibration free. This means there is no need to specially reinforce the building it is installed in. The drum system also means maintenance is low, which the customers like. It is very versatile. It can scalp, and it can precisely size and grade the kernels. Plus it"s gentle for the grain and the building it"s installed in."
The LMM Group has a worldwide network of agents and dealers which enable the company to serve the main grain-growing regions of the globe and nearly 30 percent of its business is aimed at exports. Thanks to the French side of the business combined with the Quebec, Canada, manufacturing base, LMM is well established in both the North American and European markets.
"If the two companies were one," Labelle explained, "40 percent of our combined business would derive from North America. We"re already active in the former French colonies of Africa."
He added, "And we're looking at South America. Moreover, thanks to its unique Canada/France split, LMM is able to offer a unique PSP: "People buy from us because of the quality and workmanship, of our equipment."
"Plus, European-designed equipment made in North America is very popular," he summarised.