Seed World

Research & Development: A Critical Component

CenterFlow and Extndr fit customer needs

By Jason Gearhart, Business Unit Leader-Seed, Buckhorn Inc, A Myers Industry Company

Business terms like research and development or customer-driven innovation often get tossed around so liberally that they can easily lose their impact. But while the words might be all too commonplace, the concepts they represent are critical to today’s ever-changing business climate.

At Buckhorn, we strive to build richer relationships with our customers. It’s not just about making the sale; it’s about finding a gap and working together to fill it. It’s something we call customer intimacy. 

We’ve learned that every customer has areas where things are not working quite as well as they could.  These ‘pain points’ create opportunities for improvement and increased customer satisfaction when we work with our customer to resolve them. 

Before developing our CenterFlow rigid seed container in the 1990s, FIBCs (bulk bags) were the primary mid-sized package format used for agricultural seed. But they weren’t ideal. Users had to reach underneath the 2,000-pound bags to empty the contents and they didn’t stack well. Safety was a real concern. We worked with a leading seed producer to address these concerns and resolve some of these pain points, resulting in the current CenterFlow solution. 

The result of the collaborative process improved safety when it comes to seed moving and storage and created several added benefits. The CenterFlow today plays a big part in sustainability, with millions of units now in a closed-loop recycling system. The boxes stack safely, so warehouse space can be maximized throughout the Supply Chain.  Additionally, the units have proven themselves extremely effective when it comes to pest protection versus standard bags.  All of these present value opportunities for our customers that resulted from that collaborative effort.

In recent years the industry has continued to change.  CenterFlow boxes historically held 50 units of Seed.  However, with advancements in genetics, seed size increased, reducing the effective capacity to 40 – 45 units per container.  Buckhorn engaged growers, retailers and producers to fully understand and collect feedback about the use of CenterFlow products and challenges with modern seed sizes. The ability to achieve up to 50 units and assure unit consistency to the marketplace, regardless of Seed size, were important factors, all the way through to the farmer (user) level.  

We realized it wasn’t practical to develop a completely new design. Since the market has been formed around the unique footprint of the current CenterFlow, we didn’t want to create a solution that wasn’t compatible with that  large established base.  As a result, we landed on an extension ring concept that can be easily added or removed and is compatible with the millions of boxes that we’ve shipped over the years. Hence, the Extndr was born. 

Buckhorn launched the Extndr February 2020. Our goal was to provide customers with a solution to get up to 50 units in one box, even with larger seed.  As with the original CenterFlow product, this innovation brings extra benefits.  With the Extndr, users not only enjoy a 17% increase in capacity per Box, but also added vertical storage and more efficient use of return logistics (utilizes more space on the truck).  Additionally, Buckhorn now offers four different sizes of CenterFlow containers through this product extension.  Combined, CenterFlow provides endless adaptability to customers throughout our Supply Chain. 

Buckhorn’s customers continue to be our focus and we continue to listen to how we can help them with our products.