The word "technology" brings to mind images of computers and electronics.
But for Allan M. Lipman Jr., technology is something sweeter.Lipman, chief executive officer of Ogden-based Amalgamated Sugar Co., said he has watched the use of high-tech tools contribute to the company's century of success.
The judges of the 1998 Utah Best Practices Award program saw the same thing, honoring Amalgamated in the category of "unleashing the power of technology."
The award program, developed by financial, audit and advisory services firm Arthur Andersen, recognizes companies that excel in different business areas. The 1998 winners shared some of their secrets during a Sept. 11 symposium with about 200 area business owners and managers.
Amalgamated was born in 1897, Lipman said, and is now the second largest sugar beet processor in the United States, producing 1.8 billion pounds of sugar per year. It operates four large factories and has turned a profit in each of the last 65 years, a record in its industry.
Lipman said technology has played a major role in Amal-ga-mated's sustained profitability.
On the agricultural side, he said, Amalgamated developed the Ag Stats system in 1990 to track the purchase of 6 million tons of beets and the agronomic practices of 1,130 growers.
Lipman said the system lets Amalgamated staff members take laptop computers when they visit growers and review tonnage, yield per acre, sugar content and beet quality for the most recent five years.
Amalgamated also developed the Satin System in 1993 to assist in its marketing and sales.
With the program, all of the company's sales information is integrated. Lipman said that cuts errors, because the information is handled once instead of 12 times, which was the standard for the old system. And the change has reduced the average time required to cycle an order from eight hours to one hour.
Lipman said Amalgamated also started working on solving its year 2000 computer problems way back in 1996, and all of the company's mission-critical components are now Y2K compliant.
"Next time you run into (Y2K compliance advocate) Sen. (Bob) Bennett, you can tell him he doesn't have to worry about a little company up north," Lipman said.
But perhaps the biggest innovation has been Amalgamated's simulated moving bed technology.
Lipman said producers always try to get more sugar out of every beet. But they traditionally lose a significant chunk of sugar to by-products like molasses.
The computer-controlled simulated moving bed process operates pollution-free and lets Amalgamated draw more sugar out of molasses, increasing the company's sugar production by 12 percent.
That is significant, Lipman said, because molasses sells for $75 per ton and sugar sells for $550 per ton.
"Amalgamated's extraction is 9 percent above the industry average, and each 1 percent equates to millions of dollars for a company of Amalgamated's size," he said.
Lipman said use of the new technology also allows Amalgamated to operate year-round, instead of on a traditional seasonal basis.
And he said the company's own researchers and employees came up with the simulated moving bed technology.
"Most of your really great ideas come from inside," Lipman said.