Lone Star Enterprises
Founded in 1995 by Rodney Hoff and Brenda Bakken, Lone Star Enterprises is a leading manufacturer of roller mills, serving customers in the feed industry from its headquarters in Lennox, South Dakota.
Specializing in single, double, triple, quad and portable roller mills and roller-grinder mills, Lone Star is a one-stop shop for all of a customer’s roller needs, from new products to parts, accessories and service. Manufactured with the highest quality solid cast-iron rolls and a rigid, internally braced frame, Lone Star’s durable products can stand up to the rigors of the milling process and deliver results — from a course crack or crimp to the finest micron — with accurate precision.
Lone Star serves clients throughout the Midwest and internationally, shipping products to Canada, Mexico and the Middle East and drawing customers from a range of related sectors. “We’ll do anything from a small commodity shed unit or to fill wagons for a small cow-calf or feedlot operation to a large commercial feed mill that needs full automation, from the simplest PTO unit to the biggest elaborate unit for beef stockyards,” says Brenda Bakken, co-owner of Lone Star.
The company’s full lineup of roller-grinder mills and cracker/ crimpers can grind grains to a producer’s exact specifications, allowing feed mills to do the same amount of work as a more traditional hammer mill at a fraction of the cost and a much lower deviation of the finished product.
“Roller mills use 25 to 50 percent of the horsepower to do the same amount of tonnage versus traditional hammer mills,” Bakken says.
Lone Star got its start back in the early ‘90s when electrical technician Rodney Hoff teamed up with one of Bakken’s cousins who had been servicing and refurbishing roller mills. The two set out on their own, servicing electric motors, generators and roller mills as a subcontractor before Rod and Brenda incorporated as Lone Star in 1995.
“We learned the industry as it grew from the old-time roller mills to the new roller-grinders of today,” says Bakken. “We’ve evolved with the industry and basically went from processing cracked corn and rolled oats to grinding feed for the livestock industry to increase feed efficiency.”
By further processing grain, clients could increase the efficiency of each animal, making the new generation of roller-grinder mills an indispensable feature on the farm. Lone Star has set itself apart as a leader in automation, producing roller mill systems that don’t require a customer’s undivided attention. “We will set up custom automated systems no matter what size the operation is. We will design a packaged motor control and automation system based off the customer’s needs, while accommodating future growth,” Bakken says.
Lone Star’s roller mills and grinders are built with a customer’s unique specifications and future serviceability in mind. Each unit includes an adjustable takeup system on the moveable rolls, as well as a mechanism to adjust the roll parallel to the stationary roll both vertically and horizontally. Allowing users to adjust for wear as the system ages, this unique feature allows the customer to save on replacing parts. The unit’s shaft collars and related parts are manufactured using a CNC method that ensures a more precise wear surface and also improves roll control that helps to minimize uneven roll wear, increasing the overall grind quality, capacity, and life span of the rollers.
“Our goal for many years has been to build a grinder that is tough, rugged, easy to service, easy to understand and operate,” says Bakken. The company does have a service team to do its own installations or work with local contractors on each project and offers an extensive warranty on all of its products that includes labor and mileage, should the Lone Star team have to hit the road to fix a unit.
All of Lone Star’s roller mills are built with centrifugal-spun casting and chill-hardened technique from Spain. Solid white cast rollers can be continually re-sharpened or switched out for new rollers or exchanged in Lone Star's exchange program. The roller mills are also easy to service, with all necessary grease lines easily accessible on the exterior of unit. Lone Star also produces a line of trailer-mounted portable rollers that can be easily moved from site to site.
In addition to its own line of roller mills and roller-grinders, Lone Star produces remanufactured mills, tearing down an old machine and rebuilding it to the company’s own exacting standards. The company can upgrade a unit’s bearing bars and holders, bearings, belt guards and install additional motors, breathing new life into an older piece of equipment and passing on the savings to the client.
“I think this type of customized work is more satisfying,” says Bakken. “Part of it is the satisfaction of being able to help customers with unique situations or who need to upgrade what they currently have.”
Lone Star has been able to increase the efficiency of its roller mills by partnering with Automated Power Solutions. “They came to us with a problem and we essentially fixed it and we worked directly with Lonestar to come up with a custom standard automation solution for their different sizes and types of mills then started expanding on that,” says Brent Taggart, co-owner of Automated Power Solutions. “At the end of the venture, we completed a control panel that will do everything they wanted it to do. Through close collaboration, we made motors run more efficiently, minimized input electricity costs and maximized the output capability and consistency of their roller mills.”
The Larchwood, Iowa-based universal motor control and automation company benefits from its relationship with Lone Star thanks to the company’s extensive network of clients. “We can use the automation platform set up for the roller mills and expand it to control the handling equipment in that facility,” says Taggart. APS continues to design and build control systems for grain handling and processing facilities throughout the Midwest.
To some extent, Lone Star has become a victim of its own success. “Our biggest problem is producing enough units when needed,” says Bakken. “Every year we build more of them, so the demand is certainly there.”
Lone Star has also had trouble attracting qualified workers. The manufacturing process requires extensive training and it can be a long process between the time someone walks in the door looking for employment and when they’re ready to actually start getting down to business at the quality of work required by Lone Star. “Training is important. We bring in people with the aptitude and work ethic and then we will train them,” Bakken says.
“It takes about three months for an employee to wrap their head around the how and what of the roller mills and accessories and a year before they know all the ins and outs and Lone Star's standards; this isn’t a car or something that you see every day and the physics are different. It’s a fluid industry, so you have to keep changing with it,” she adds.
Lone Star is looking to new products and innovations to help the company continue its growth trajectory well into the future. The next generation of leadership is already making a name for itself at Lone Star, with Bakken’s son Tommy Lee Bakken heading up the current push to expand into screeners and shakers, allowing grain to be further cleaned before hitting the mill. “We are making strides in that area, but there is a lot of competition out there,” Bakken says. Tommy Lee has also been tapped to oversee Lone Star’s new manufacturing plant, which improves the company’s efficiency and ability to closely monitor quality.
A strong succession plan, industry expertise and a reliable name in the local market will see Lone Star Enterprises remain a leading competitor in roller-grinder manufacturing and service.