Capstone Students Help Company Improve Trailer Production

A Red Oak maker of disinfecting chemicals and equipment for swine and poultry producers expects to see more than $1 million in new sales over the next two years after Iowa State University engineering students helped the company begin to take more control over its manufacturing. 

Craig Steen, president of JBI Distributors, said Iowa State students from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering combined to help him explore the possibility of manufacturing foaming poultry trailers in Red Oak. 

The trailers, which include tanks for disinfecting poultry buildings and equipment, currently are produced by a supplier. But Steen last year asked Iowa State students to redesign the trailers to make them easier for JBI to manufacture. That project, which was stalled initially by COVID-19, now will finish this fall. In the interim, a separate group of students produced a layout of what an efficient, new JBI production facility should look like. 

“We had two capstone projects back to back, and that’s going to allow us to accomplish two parts of what we need to do to bring this business in-house,” Steen said.  

Every Iowa State engineering student must complete a capstone project before graduation as a way to prove their ability to put knowledge to work solving a problem. Companies can use student engineers to solve problems or research potential new projects, while getting to know students that they might later decide to hire. 

Steen praised the program as a good way for small companies to get outside viewpoints at a manageable cost. “I think I’m probably going to continue using them as often as I can,” he said of the students. 

For more information, contact Chris Hill at or 515-313-8251.