Charlie Mossman, 61, a shift lead, keeps the daytime oat milling operation running fluidly at Quaker Oats Company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Q. What is your role at Quaker Oats?
A: I supervise the milling operation on the first shift and make sure every process runs efficiently. One involves cleaning the raw oats, fresh from harvesting, and removing sticks or other debris. Another removes the hull, or outer covering, from the edible groat. Still other processes are drying and grading. I’ve been here 30 years, five of those as shift lead. Before this position I was a miller, and I still jump in if we need to work overtime to meet our production goals.
What’s involved in ensuring the operation runs smoothly?
I spend about 10 percent of my time in the control room, monitoring the instruments and seeing that the actual weight of the load being processed matches the figures on a computer screen. We call the board on which we track our yields our “run right” board because if the numbers match, everything’s running smoothly. I also go over work orders from the previous shift and walk around to check the scales and make sure the oat flows aren’t plugged up. Every hour our three shifts mill, or clean and separate, roughly 66 acres of oats, which is about 49 football fields.
What might surprise people about your job?
Our older mill has 14 floors. To travel between them, I step onto a small wooden platform attached to a vertical conveyor belt, grab the hand grip and ride the belt. If it breaks down, I have to walk up and down the steps. You find out how fit you are; I feel it in my legs those days.
What’s a constant in your job?
I’m always a little anxious when we’re implementing a new process. As an example, five years ago we started installing optical sorting technology. I lost sleep because I wanted everything to go well.
What’s a memorable moment from your career?
In 2013 my boss nominated me for a Chairman’s Circle of Champions award and I was one of the winners. The company sent my wife and me to New York for a week. I’m a Midwest farm boy. I’ve been to Chicago, but New York was something else. I was a little surprised I won; I’m just a regular guy doing my job.