Meet the Plant Manager: Cultivating Synergy and Overseeing Safety

Cargill Reserve Plant Manager leads his team to record-high safety success and doesn’t hesitate to support his staff in the field.

Cargill Reserve Plant Manager Jeremy Seyfert loves wheat. He grew up in a small farming community in North Central Kansas where he would help his friend’s family harvest 150,000 bushels of wheat every summer. Even now, after 18 years with Cargill and eight moves around the U.S., he ritually returns to Kansas every summer to help harvest. When he needs time away from exporting grain, he harvests it.

Loving grain is necessary when you manage Cargill Reserve which oversees the exporting of grain onto two ocean going vessels a day each distributing roughly 60,000 metric tons of food product all around the world. Seyfert manages 120 workers on three rotating shifts unloading grain from barges and rail cars and onto ships to feed the world. The business is risky, which is why Seyfert starts every morning with a safety briefing.

The vessels are loaded with about 5,000 metric tons per hour. If the vessel is loaded unevenly, it could list (tilt) or even capsize, and on top of that, if too much grain is loaded into the vessel it could cause the ship to sit too low in the water causing damage to riverbeds and potentially the ship itself. The process of loading the ship is tedious and focusing on doing the job right in close proximity to so many people handling heavy machinery is an accident waiting to happen. That’s why safety is paramount to Seyfert’s work philosophy.
“I’m very proud of the results we’ve had around safety,” Seyfert said. “It is our number one driver and we’re right at approaching 125 days without any incidents. I can’t do it alone, it takes the whole team to make safety the focus — to make sure we’re doing the job right every time.”

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It’s work ethics like these that have pushed Seyfert up the Cargill ladder. After graduating from Kansas State University, Seyfert joined the Cargill team as a production supervisor in Virginia. This move would spark a chain of events that would take him to Florida, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, and Kansas, meeting his wife, Elizabeth, along the way and having two children, Reiley and Gage, in two different states before finally landing here in Louisiana, where he’s been plant manager for four years and said he doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon.

“We don’t have Mardi Gras parades in Kansas,” Seyfert said. He and his family love the culture here: the parades, the community engagement, the food. “When we moved down here the Cargill team and the whole community was so friendly in helping us acclimate. It’s been great here. My family loves it. I love it. It’s always busy, like a constant wheat harvest.” Remember, Seyfert loves wheat.

Throughout the years with Cargill, Seyfert has learned by example the ways in which he likes to lead his team — with open doors. “Cargill has 150,000 employees, but I never once felt like just a number. People know you by name and are always openly communicating. Once I became a plant manager, I made sure that I led my team with the same openness that I received from the very beginning. The majority of the day I’m out in the facility working with the team, actively on site instead of behind a desk.”

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As much as Seyfert enjoys leading, it’s being with his team at Cargill Reserve that makes his job the gratifying experience that it is.

“The team drives the plant,” said Seyfert. “I thoroughly enjoy seeing the team develop and coaching them along the way. Watching them grow into their roles and move on to bigger and better roles within the company gives me the most satisfaction in the job. It’s by far the best part of the job to see the whole team succeed. They’re the ones that drive this location to be a top performer.”

-Kevin O’Sullivan

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