July 02, 2017

Interview: Paul Phillips, President of Maxi-Lift, Inc

Paul Phillips graduated from West Texas A&M in 1992 with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing. This was to be the start of a very successful and very full career within the agricultural industry.

Paul received his MBA in 1995 from The University of Texas before attending several postgraduate courses including one in marketing at The Harvard Business School.

He is currently the President of Maxi-Lift, Inc., a worldwide manufacturer of plastic elevator buckets. He is also the Vice President of Marketing for Southwest Agri-Plastics, a sister company that manufacturer plastic products for the cattle, swine, chicken and egg industries.

Mr Phillips previously served as the Chairman on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the AFIA (American Feed Industry Association), he has served as a Representative of the AFIA to the International Feed Industry Federation in conjunction with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN, and has served as the past Chairperson for the Equipment Manufacturers Committee of AFIA.

He chaired the Exhibitor Advisory Committee for the joint meeting with AFIA, the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, and the North American Meat Institute and was selected as the Member of the Year for AFIA in 2011.

Finally, Paul also holds several patents for new products used in the agricultural, industrial, and horticultural industries.

How did you come to be working in the elevator bucket building business?
I had several different options including working as the third generation in our family business. My grandfather was an entrepreneur and had started three different businesses.  My dad continued in his footsteps. I decided to work on a farm during my high school and college days and enjoyed the agriculture community. While Maxi-Lift is primarily a manufacturer of plastics products, it is intricately involved in the agriculture sector and it seemed to fit me better.

Has living in one of the best grain - wheat and maize - areas in the world provided innovation opportunities for your business?
Being in the heart of the the agricultural world and working with other extremely knowledgeable people in the agriculture industry, it is common to find innovative ways to improve the production and processing equipment to help our customer move more product, faster, and more efficiently.
Everyone is pushing to move more tonnes or bushels to achieve their necessary targets for shipments on rail or for export. With several of our new products, we are able to greatly increase the capacity of the plants, allowing them to turn corn, soybeans, and wheat faster.

How important is good handling and storage in terms of millers achieving maximum yields of product from grains?
Good storage and handling is critical to the success of the final product. Any type of damage to the corn or wheat will have a big impact on the value of the crop, in addition to the yield and nutrients found in them.
For example, we continue analysing the amount of damaged and broken grain from moving corn, soybeans, and wheat through bucket elevators. We want to preserve the entire kernel as it flows through the process without damaging it.

Is grain-handling technology universally understood?
I believe the more developed countries around the world have the newer technology that allows them to produce higher quality, more efficient, longer lasting systems. They tend to be more engineering focused and proactively help resolve many of the issues of grain handling and storage equipment. They use the latest software programs to not only design the equipment, but also to improve the flow of the material through the bucket elevators, conveyors, and spouts.
I also believe that other countries are starting to play catchup with the more developed countries. They are investing in their people, building better systems, and trying to improve their equipment so that it can meet the higher, tougher demands of customers.

What were your biggest achievements as Chairman of AFIA?
The American Feed Industry Association is the leading feed organisation in the USA.  Its members produce over 75 percent of all the commerical feed. AFIA is unique in that they bring all areas of the feed industry under one roof. This integration brings a strong diversity to the group, while also allowing each member to understand the industry more completely. Working side-by-side with each other on committees and the Board, this group helps resolve the important issues of the feed industry from every aspect. 
I have been involved with AFIA for over 15 years, working with the Equipment Manufacturers Committee the longest, and later with the Board of Directors and the Executive Board.
In 2015, I was nominated to be chair-elect, and this past year I served as the Chairman, it was a great honor to serve the feed industry in this role. We accomplished a lot over the past year.
I just finished my term in May, and will be working as the Chairman of the IFEEDER Foundation this next year to help support feed research and education for our membership as well as for the agricultural community.

Where do you see the grain handling industry in 20 years time?
The grain handling industry is growing in a few different directions.
First, the world will have to continue to produce more grain, feed, and flour to feed the booming population around the world. This means that we will have to find ways to not only grow more on less land, but also be able to move it more efficiently around the world.
Second, the lesser-developed countries need help from the other nations to learn better techniques for growing, storing, processing, and utilising these grains. We have to clearly understand our duty and obligation to find ways to help those who are less fortunate build their own food resources so that they can grow and thrive to support their own people and economy.
Over the coming years, it will be vital for us to find ways to help them sustain their own food systems which includes grain, feed, and flour.

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