RURAL TAYLOR — When he first began working for Southwest Grain several years ago, Kent Candrian said there were days when he would walk about a mile or more at work — all of it in a 20-square-foot area.
Manning toggles and switches on a large wall switchboard, Candrian would make sure grain hauled to the Boyle Terminal between Gladstone and Taylor made it to the proper bins.
These days, Candrian still does that job. Instead, he sits in front of a bank of computer screens and does the majority of his work with the click of a mouse.
“I do everything in one spot,” said Candrian, a longtime driveway attendant for the CHS Inc. elevator. “Basically, it eliminates walking.”
Like many elevators, Southwest Grain has converted to automated systems that speed up its daily unloading of farmers’ trucks, its own loading of rail cars and also makes the lives of its employees easier.
“In the last four or five years, technology has advanced to the point where it just makes more sense because of the volume we do anymore,” Southwest Grain General Manager Delane Thom said. “It gets rid of some employee fatigue. It makes their job much easier and you can manage the whole system from one spot.”
In a windowless room inside of a non-descript steel building at Dakota Prairie Refining’s sprawling facility west of Dickinson, there are six people whose job is to make certain America’s first greenfield refinery built since 1976 turns Bakken crude oil into diesel fuel.
“It’s a chem nerd’s dream,” laboratory technician and chemist Nicole Haller said of the lab where she works on the 375-acre refinery site.
The small lab crew — led by supervisor Holly Dalen of Dickinson — has some of the most important jobs at the refinery, which is in the final stages of testing before ramping up operations.
They already spend each day testing crude oil, diesel fuel and its sulphur levels, as well as other products to be produced by the refinery. They also run constant tests on city wastewater to be used in the refining process.
The lab crew act as the refinery’s gatekeepers. If a product goes in or comes out of the refinery, the lab has its eyes and instruments on it.
MOTT — Mott sits on the outer edge of western North Dakota’s Oil Patch. Still, the small town of about 800 people has found ways to contribute to the bustling energy industry.
The company making perhaps the biggest impact is Roadmaster, a subsidiary of K&K Construction in West Fargo.
Though its name can be deceiving — a remnant of about a decade ago when its primary task was fabricating and welding metals for asphalt paving equipment — Roadmaster is contracted to fabricate and weld structural steel used on electrical substations that end up being used on oil rigs and at major substations throughout the country. Along with that, the shop also makes cattle creep feeders.
“A lot of this goes nationwide,” manager Corey Johnson said. “It’s a big process.”