Gentle Blending Breeds Accuracy

At Cotton Incorporated, the Quality Research Department tests over 40,000 samples of cotton a year. A majority of these samples are breeder samples, which are potential varieties of cotton for the future. Researchers use the Advanced Fiber Information System (AFIS) to test this experimental cotton and learn about properties beyond high volume instrument (HVI®) data. Variable results within samples have prompted Cotton Incorporated to fund a research project by the Fiber & Biopolymer Research Institute (FBRI) at Texas Tech University.

The Supple needles blender modified for gentle blending

The research team at Texas Tech found that variability in breeder samples was much higher than with commercial bales. Unlike commercial bales, samples could not go through industrial ginning processes because the cotton would lose its properties and could be damaged. Most alternatives to industrial ginning yielded poor mixing, substantial trash content and high entanglement. The samples were a recipe for broken fibers and distorted results. AFIS was intended for card sliver, not raw cotton. Researchers have only a limited amount of experimental cotton with which they can work, so breakage and damage to fibers only exacerbates the problem.

Thanks to the FBRI, entanglement and broken fibers will no longer be an issue. Behind the FBRI's research is an unlikely hero: a machine that has played spectator and dust collector for years as technology has advanced. Researchers tested three different blending protocols before concluding that an old supple needles blender is the most effective. While the other blenders cleaned and blended breeder samples, the old supple needles blender also refrained from damaging the fibers.

Researchers made several modifications to the original supple needles blender. To optimize its abilities, they changed the distance between feeding rolls, added a speed adjuster and gave it the ability to blend different types of fibers. Each feature can be easily adjusted, making it a versatile and gentle blending system that can adapt to a sample's needs. After finding the ideal setting, Dr. Eric Hequet, associate director of the FBRI, said, "It removes most of the fiber entanglement without breaking fibers and without creating neps." However, he said the blender cleans the samples, which improves fiber quality readings.

Nevertheless, the FBRI's innovations have decreased the variability of breeder samples. This means AFIS test results are more reliable because the data is more representative of the actual fiber. The gentle blending system will also speed up AFIS testing. With more reliable results, fewer repetitions are required, which leads to greater efficiency.

Texas Tech sent two of the modified supple needles blenders to Cotton Incorporated. Cotton Incorporated is in the process of evaluating them for potential use in the testing of breeder samples.

Making Weigh-ins Automatic

Using a Motorola® scanner and MILLNet™ software, Central Textile's Dai Chung plant benefits from automatic weigh-ins

Cotton can be received at the warehouse by truck weight or by weighing each bale separately. Some mills have no alternative to manually weighing each bale. When receiving cotton in the warehouse, weigh-ins are often frustrating and confusing. Cotton Incorporated understands the struggles during weigh-ins and has created a scales option that makes single-bale weigh-ins automatic.

What was once done manually can now be managed by a Motorola® MC9090 or MC3190 scanner and MILLNet software. With the scanner, the user can scan the bale's original bale tag or one printed by MILLNet software. Once the bale is placed on the scale, the user can press a button on the handheld scanner to manually request the weight from the scale. The bale weight is then automatically recorded on the handheld scanner with the bale number.

In MILLNet software, making reports and merging data with EDI and HVI® data is easy. The bale number and weight of each bale processed can be printed or exported to Microsoft® Excel®. The user can also merge the weights into shipment or approval lots by bale number if data has been previously imported through an EDI document or the Import/Export program. The new scales option cuts labor, saves time, and limits mistakes, making the weights received for each lot as accurate as the scale.

The scale option is available now, and EFS® System Customer Service will install it on-site. The scale option does require a scanner with Bluetooth® technology and a scale that has an RS232 output. The Motorola® MC9090 or MC3190 scanner with Windows® Mobile 6.0 software is recommended. The EFS team will make an on-site evaluation to make sure a mill's scale interface box and interface options are compatible. To add the scale option to your warehouse, please contact an EFS System Customer Service representative by E-mail or by phone at 919-678-2508 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday.

Update on the Go

Cotton Incorporated is constantly working to improve the best cotton management software on the market. Since the release of MILLNet™ software, the newest and most efficient tool for cotton resource management, the Engineered Fiber Selection® (EFS®) System team has released four updates enhancing the product. However, the acquisition of those updates was cumbersome. They were either sent out on CDs or updated through arranged individual sessions between users and EFS System Customer Service representatives.

Coming Soon:

MILLNet 4.6 Software

Per User Security Logon: Set security settings by assigning policies by group or user.

More than A-Z: Use any two-letter combination for groups.

Category: Accept or reject by gin code within a category, accept classing offices within a category and incorporate the crop year into category definitions.

Deletion: Delete shipments or approvals from the main screen.

Now users can install updates quicker and easier with MILLNet Update Installer. Software is kept current by manually updating through this tool on the MILLNet Utilities menu allowing users to save time. Users can check for new updates periodically to make sure they have the most up-to-date software available. By eliminating individual sessions, updates will be more reliable and stable.

Improving Support

The new MILLNet Update Installer also provides version control. The Update Installer helps keep track of which version of MILLNet software the user owns. By tracking a user's version number, the EFS System team can give better support by simplifying troubleshooting. Not only will users install the newest version of MILLNet software, but they will gain the best support.

How do you get it?

It is possible to have MILLNet software installed and not have the Update Installer. The Update Installer was an update to MILLNet software version 4.5. To acquire the MILLNet Update Installer, contact an EFS System Customer Service representative by E-mail or by phone at 919-678-2508 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday. Updates will be done either on-site or from Cotton Incorporated's Cary headquarters using remote connectivity. The MILLNet Update Installer only works with a valid Internet connection.

Shape Your Software

Cotton Incorporated invites merchants and co-ops to explore their business needs with Cotton Expedite™ software. This Cotton Management System™ (CMS™) software program grants users the power to mold their cotton management. This enterprise-scale application is designed modularly so merchants and co-ops can pick and choose which features of cotton management they need. Therefore, a merchant looking for that missing piece is given the option to acquire the one feature needed to be more efficient and profitable, or merchants can license the entire system.

The features and benefits available from Cotton Expedite software are focused on cotton management and logistics. By managing cotton contracts, receiving, logistics, and inventory, Cotton Expedite software helps users improve cotton flow and profitability.

Inventory management is enhanced by the ability to make laydown mixes for mill clients. Also, laydown mixes can be selected from multiple warehouses.

The program also streamlines logistics operations. Cotton Expedite software offers dynamic reporting and electronic documentation assisting users in more efficient production of shipping instructions, shipping orders, booking reports and lot management reports. Cotton Expedite software gives users a better level of organization and more flexibility to common logistics tasks

In addition to CMS software giving users the option to shape their business with the tools it needs to succeed, it ensures compatibility. Cotton Incorporated will be there to assist with integrating Cotton Expedite software into the user's current system. Please contact Susan Foote, Associate Director of Cotton Management Software Services, by E-mail if you are interested in learning more about Cotton Expedite software.

The The EFS® System Customer Service team announced via letter in July that it will no longer offer technical support for the MILLNet™ (DOS) software effective July 30, 2010.

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