Cotton gin operations are typically a semi-automatic operation, where cotton is transported from one machine process to the next, separating the cotton lint from the cotton seeds.

This was the basis for the original cotton gin created by Eli Whitney (anyone who grew up listening to Schoolhouse Rock remembers Eli Whitney from the Mother Necessity song) — it separated the lint from the seeds, which saved a lot of tedious hand work.

Essentially, a cotton gin is a process that still uses the same concepts Eli Whitney developed in the 1800s, but it's obviously now more powerful and can handle larger amounts in a shorter time. The seed cotton is picked in the field in the form of modules. Those modules are loaded into the gin where they're broken up to get the seed cotton flowing. The manager of the gin then monitors such things as moisture and product flow through the sub-processes. The seeds are separated from the lint and the lint cotton gets pressed and consolidated into bales.

Gins usually run 24/7 during the harvesting season, so they can't afford any downtime, even a few minutes here and there. So you'll often hear the phrase, "keep the stands in."

Cotton-Gin.pngA gin stand is the last piece of machinery to receive seed cotton before it heads into the pressing operation to make the cotton bales. It removes the lint from the seed with a series of saws. Then the lint goes one way, the seeds go another, and the trash goes a third.

It's maybe the most important part of the gin, so, keeping the stands in – a continuous flow into the stands - is one of the biggest industry headaches.

One reason is because the gin owners are paying labor costs, even during the machine's downtime. If a stand is clogged up and the gin isn't running, it doesn't matter if it's 2 or 3 hours, or even longer, the workers are still getting paid. And that payroll doesn't stop until the last bale has been ginned. So if the stands aren't in, the money is flowing out.

Cotton Gins are a Series of Sub-Processes

In a cotton gin, each sub process equipment comes from its manufacturer with basic controls. The gin operator monitors each sub-process and makes adjustments with the objective being to produce a targeted number of bales-per-hour of high-quality cotton.

This is where Kelley Electric comes in.

Kelley offers an integrated process control system called GinManager™, which uses sensors and monitors points in the gin to control the sub-processes all the way through pressing of the bales. This ensures the stands stay full instead of getting bogged down, or left empty as it waits for a slowdown to clear itself.

Each gin is different and each requires different control parameters in order to achieve maximum efficiency. GinManager™ is customized for every gin. But this is more than just an off-the-shelf process control system. When Kelley Electric installs a GinManager™ project, they check out the operation, and ask a lot of questions: How do you run your gin? What are the key points to control? They look for process bottlenecks and areas that slow down or break down, so they can find ways to improve the flow of material and reduce manual tweaking of the controls, programming the specific requirements into the gin's own GinManager™ system.

There is some core automation programming applicable for all gins, but to fine tune and tweak it for specific conditions is something no one else in the industry does. Kelley is the first, and they've got a new process that is changing how cotton ginning is done.

What Has Kelley Been Doing in the Cotton Gin Industry?

Until recently, everything they've been doing was retrofitting older gins and some that are not so old, modernizing their old methods with updated integrated control systems.

GinManager-(8).jpgFor the most part, everything they've done has been a retrofit. But recently, they were asked to install GinManagerTM in a brand new cotton gin being built in Alabama.

"We had started talking to these guys two years ago," said Ron Hickerson, President and COO of Kelley Electric. "The ownership had spent time over the last two years traveling and talking to our customers. And he told all his manufacturers that he only wanted their equipment, not their controls. He wanted GinManagerTM to control his gin."

Kelley is also getting more deeply involved in the ginning process with new acquisitions and capabilities. In August 2016, they purchased a moisture-sensing technology so they could better manage the moisture control systems — dryers and burners — and integrate that into the GinManager™ system.

"There are other process improvement items we are developing to help make gins more efficient, and several gins are already champing at the bit to wait for us to prove out," said Ron.

Their customers are seeing a lot of improvements in their efforts too. Ron said they had asked one customer who had been running GinManagerTM for two years about their assessment of the top two benefits of the system.

"The guy said, 'those stands stay in,'" said Ron. "Then he said, 'Now nearly everyone who works here can run this gin. Before, it was just me and one other guy.'"

As the cotton ginning expertise and experienced talent is fading away, that's becoming a bigger advantage for people to let Kelley provide this integrated process control system while the talent is still there.

If you would like to learn more about GinManagerTM and how Kelley Electric can help improve your cotton ginning process, please visit the Kelley Electric website or contact us at (573) 888-5395. or (800) 325-8497.
Posted: 5/16/2018 1:00:00 PM by Townsend Corporation

Fire ants. Even the name sounds scary. That's because they've got some of the worst attacks in the ant world, both stinging and biting their victims. And tree trimming and vegetation management professionals are likely to encounter fire ants, so it's helpful to know how to identify them and avoid them.

Texas-Fire-Ant-Nest.jpgFire ants can be found throughout Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Basically, if you're in the southern United States, you're in fire ant territory.

The easiest way to spot fire ant activity is the fire ant mounds. They can be up to 18 inches tall and 30 inches wide, they lack any kind of center entrance hole in the center, and the dirt is often fluffy. Instead, the ants access the colony from ground level entrances up to three feet away from the mound — right about where you're standing to get a better look at it.

If you spot a fire ant mound in an area where you're going to spend a lot of time, flag the mound and let your other crew members know about it. If you find fire ants on you, brush them off. Don't slap at them. If you have several ants on you, quickly move several feet away from where you were standing, brush them off, and remove clothing if necessary.

Fire-ant-and-parasitic-Phorid-fly.pngFire ants are also reddish in color but have a brown or black abdomen. They also have a stinger on the abdomen. Fire ants will both bite and sting their victims. They'll clamp on with their jaws so they can sting repeatedly. (Unlike a bee, an ant can sting multiple times.)

A fire ant sting is usually not dangerous; the sting will often form a pustule that will hurt and itch like mad for a few days. You can relieve some of the pain by applying an ice pack, taking an antihistamine, and using a hydrocortisone cream or other anti-itch cream. However, some people can have a severe allergic reaction, get hives, abdominal cramping, trouble breathing, and swelling of the throat. If you have an Epi-Pen, use it, then call 911. See a doctor even if the Epi-Pen works.

If you want to learn more about fire ants, Texas A&M University has very thorough information for you to read. Or check out's article on Identifying Fire Ants.

Photo credit: Fire ant mound. Robert H. Nunnally, Jr. (Gurdonark) Flickr. Creative Commons attribution license)Fire ant and phorid flySanford Porter (via, Public Domain attribution license).
Posted: 5/9/2018 1:00:00 PM by Townsend Corporation

May in the Midwest means severe weather and tornadoes. Since we work outside during this time of year, we have to be especially aware of what’s happening weather-wise, since tornadoes can appear suddenly if the conditions are right.

Tornadoes are deadly not only because they can lift and drop you hundreds of feet, they can knock over houses and uproot trees, as well as hurl debris like missiles. Broken glass, lawn furniture, and tree trimming equipment can all be deadly if they’re caught in a tornado. So it’s important to not just keep your equipment safe, but to put yourself in a safe place as well.

Here are the things you need to do before, during, and after a tornado, straight line winds, or other severe weather.


  1. Photo of a tornado taken in central Oklahoma. Photo by Daphne Zaras, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio during any storm to stay informed about watches and warnings.
  2. Know your community’s warning systems. Different communities have different warning systems, such as sirens, and the one you’re working may be different from where you live. Most warnings are tested at noon on Fridays, so pay particular attention and remember that sound.
  3. Pick a safe room in your home where people and pets can gather during a tornado. This should be a basement or cellar, or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows. Make sure your family knows and even practices what to do during tornado watches and warnings.
  4. Stow all tools and secure all equipment when directed by your foreman or supervisor. Make sure everything is packed away so nothing is left loose or unsecured.
  5. Watch for tornado danger signs, including dark, often greenish clouds; a wall cloud (isolated lowering of the thunderstorm); a cloud of debris; a roaring noise, like a train; and a funnel cloud appearing and trying to form.


  1. If you do not have a safe room in your house, or live in a mobile home, go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately.
  2. If you’re out on a job site, immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seatbelt, and drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
  3. Heed any tornado warnings on your local newscast or NOAA radio. Do not wait until you see a tornado. By then it’s too late.
If flying debris occurs while you’re driving, pull over and park, and then do one of the following as a last resort:
  • Stay in the car with the seat belt on, and lower your head below the windows. Cover your head with your hands or a blanket or jacket.
  • If you can get lower than the level of the roadway, such as in a ditch, leave the vehicle and lie down. Cover your head with your hands, blanket, or jacket.


  1. If you’re away from home, return only when authorities say it’s safe to do so.
  2. Check for downed power lines and broken gas lines in the area.
  3. Stay out of damaged buildings. They could collapse.
  4. If you’re in your home checking for damage, use only battery-powered flashlights, not candles, in case of gas leaks.
  5. Check to see if anyone is injured. If you’re trained in first aid, provide it until first responders arrive.
  6. Use your phone only for emergencies. Tying up cell towers with non-emergency calls makes it harder for people to make emergency calls.
As the weather gets warmer this spring, we’re in for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, so it’s always a good idea to be prepared. Check the weather each day before you start work so you can have an idea of what to expect. And always remember to practice safety first when dealing with any kind of inclement weather.

Photo credit: Daphne Zaras (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)  
Posted: 4/11/2018 1:00:00 PM by Townsend Corporation

If you ever wondered what Bugs Bunny's Tasmanian Devil would look like as a piece of forestry equipment, we found out. It's the Kershaw Klearway 500 brush cutter.

This is a big industrial clear cutter and stump grinder with giant tractor tires, so it can handle almost any terrain. Imagine a shark's mouth placed on a 108" wide rotary cylinder and spinning on the front of a tractor, cutting down and grinding up small trees, leaving a mulch trail in its wake.

Rows and rows of metal teeth make short work of all vegetation in its path, making it ideal for clearing out entire right-of-ways or even forests. It can handle trees up to 20 feet high and several inches thick.

They can cut down large trees by grinding away at the trunk several feet off the ground, and then pushing it over, before using the grinding wheel to buzz the remaining stump down to ground level. Then, the Klearway grinder cylinder can grind up the tree, virtually disintegrating it, leaving an 8 foot wide mulch path as the only evidence that the tree ever existed.

There's a YouTube video of the Kershaw Klearway that will, frankly, haunt my sleep for weeks.

The Kershaw line of equipment is now owned by Progress Rail, which is part of the Caterpillar family, but there are other manufacturers of similar equipment, like Geo-Boy.

Townsend Tree Service has 10 of these clear cutting mowers around our various service areas. Equipment manager, Jason Swoveland, keeps the company’s fleet of specialty vehicles moving around to wherever our customers need them, in close coordination with our field managers.

Just know that wherever a right-of-way needs to be cut, paths need to be cleared, and unwanted saplings need to be cleared quickly and efficiently, the Kershaw Klearway can make short work of anything in its path.
Posted: 3/28/2018 1:00:00 PM by Townsend Corporation

We had a chance to catch up with our equipment manager, Jason Swoveland, who oversees our entire fleet of vehicles, including bucket trucks, trailers, and equipment trucks, and ask him about some of the equipment that helps Townsend Tree Service provide tree trimming and vegetation management to its customers.

"What's the coolest piece of equipment we've got," we asked.

"We've got some neat stuff," Jason said, like a kid with all the cool toys at Christmas. "I really like our backyard buckets." He went on to describe how the backyard buckets operate.

A typical remote backyard bucket can raise up to 58 feet high, and can squeeze into a 36 inch gate, the typical size of most backyard gates. This lets a tree trimming crew get into backyards and some easements it would otherwise be difficult to access.

Townsend-Backyard-Bucket.png"You couldn't get a regular bucket truck in there without tearing a fence down and then rebuilding it, so the remote backyard bucket is our best choice."

But best of all, the backyard bucket is remote controlled. One operator is riding inside the bucket, while the other is standing in the yard, operating the bucket like a remote control car, driving it around and raising the remote bucket. The person in the bucket can sometimes drive themselves and control the bucket themselves, but it's safer if we have an operator on the ground doing the operations. And since we practice <strong>#SafetyFirst</strong>, that's how we prefer to do it.

Additionally, the backyard buckets let us take more care in our work so the home owners are pleased with the results.

"We like to use the backyard buckets when we want to hand cut branches, rather than buzz cutting them. Hand cutting always looks nicer than using the remote for buzz cutting," said Jason. "We do that because it makes the customers happy. If we have to go fast through a right-of-way out in the woods, no one really worries about what the trees look like, so we use the buzz cutter. But home owners care about their trees, so we prefer the backyard buckets and hand cutting in those cases."

Jason said that Townsend's backyard remote trimmers are usually made by Jaraff, while our backyard bucket lifts are made by Altec, Terex, and Versalift. We use a variety of manufacturers' equipment, and Jason is there to help ensure we're using the right equipment for the right customers in the right place.
Posted: 3/21/2018 1:00:00 PM by Townsend Corporation