I am writing this after coming back from the Southwestern Ginners’ School at the USDA Cotton Gin Lab in Lubbock, Texas. By the time you read this, it will be time for the Western Ginners’ School on May 8-10 at the USDA Cotton Gin Lab in Las Cruces, N.M. If you have missed these first two gin schools, there is still a chance to attend the Gin School at Stoneville, Miss., on June 12-14.
I have been attending and teaching at these schools for more than 25 years now, and I am always made aware every year of how much I still have to learn about this industry and how interesting, innovative and challenging it is. The Gin School classroom Levels 1, 2 and 3 can take students new to the ginning industry with little or no knowledge of the operation and maintenance of a cotton gin and progressively instruct them over a three-year period.
Combining the book learning with on-the-job training over the years enables students to pass a qualifying exam to become a Certified Ginner. Once you are a Certified Ginner, then there are annual continuing education classes (usually the biggest class enrollment) that will help to keep you up with the latest industry developments and trends. Also, it is not only those new to the cotton ginning industry who benefit from the instruction available in these three levels and CE but the “old hands” who have worked in the industry and have never been to the gin schools. They can expect to pick up a great deal of benefit in the classroom as well.
To get back to my point about cotton industry innovation, we have all become accustomed to each cotton bale being evaluated and its fiber quality electronically recorded by the instruments in the HVI system, and then those measurements being almost instantaneously available over the Internet. We don’t think anything of it that the “cotton classer” no longer manually makes the quality evaluations but basically watches over some electro-mechanical gizmos that make unbiased fiber quality evaluations.
I recently learned at the Lubbock Gin School that for a few hundred dollars some gins are using imaging analysis software to recognize the faces of all their employees and are completely doing away with cumbersome manual time cards as well as greatly improving the accuracy and decreasing the cost of employee time keeping. I also learned about the newest automated bale strapping and bagging systems that basically do away with the full-time press crew except for the person taking the HVI bale sample, and it may not be long before even the HVI bale sampling is automated.
Another gin topic that was discussed at the Lubbock School that is currently changing, due to harvesting technology changes, is how do cotton gins efficiently handle the seed-cotton modules being produced by the new spindle pickers with their on-board moduling systems? Also, particularly for the round modules, what ways are available to load them onto the module feeder? How do you maintain gin throughput capacity? What are their problems with plastic contamination? And what do you do with the module
wrapping once removed?
Besides these new ginning topics discussed, real value is given in the standard topics like hydraulics, pneumatics, safety, electrical etc. Each of the three training levels is divided up into eight bite-size topics that cover all aspects of gin plant operation and maintenance. Nearly all of the information and technology represented by these eight topics undergo some significant improvement or change from one ginning season to the next. It wasn’t that long ago when push buttons were all we used for electrical controls in cotton gins, but now touch screen controls are common. What’s next? The book learning provided at the annual gin schools is a very good way of keeping up with these kinds of changes. I know I continue to learn a lot every year.
– Ed Hughs is Director of the Southwest Ginning Research Laboratory in Mesilla Park, N.M. Contact him at (575) 526-6381 or firstname.lastname@example.org.