5 fabulous Plants!

5 fabulous Plants! – five model dairy manufacturing plants

A pause in consolidation gives companies the ability to update and expand the best of acquired assets



* When Land O’Lakes bought Elm Grove Dairy, it also got an old Gold Bond Plant in Richland Center, Wis. LOL gutted it, creating a modern ESL cultured and fluid plant-which caught the eye of new parent Dean Foods Co.

* Glanbia Foods’ Gooding, Idaho, cheese plant just completed its third expansion (just as the company took on its third name). This jewel in the crown of Ireland’s Glanbia Plc now makes more cheese than the entire Republic of Ireland.

* Dannon’s West Jordan, Utah, yogurt plant is not only efficient, it’s flexible. In its 2 1/2-year history, it has switched from cup yogurts to bottled water to drinkable yogurt.

* Wells’ Dairy, LeMars, Iowa, already had the world’s largest freestanding ice cream facility at its South plant. Expansion was under way in 1999 when a fire knocked the plant out of commission. Ten weeks later, the operation came back not only rebuilt but enlarged.

* Santee Dairies in 1998 christened one of the country’s most automated milk plants, a $100 million operation in City of Industry, Calif.

Some of these plants weren’t necessarily built for peak performance. They achieved it the old-fashioned way, earning it through new bricks and mortar attached to old, through automation and new equipment brought in whenever capital spending budgets allowed.

While these stories highlight the physical buildings, none of these manufacturing marvels would have output any product without the dedicated engineering teams that put them together. Our hats are off to them!

DEAN FOODS/LAND O’LAKES, Richland Center, Wisconsin

From Relic to ESL Showcase

While technically a renovation, Dean Foods’ plant in Richland Center, Wis. is, for all practical purposes, a new facility. Long before Dean purchased the Land O’Lakes Fluid Div. in July, LOL bought Elm Grove Dairy, which itself had moved into an old Gold Bond plant and completely renovated and expanded the facility. The plant is now one of the most modern dairy facilities in the country.

With startup last year, the 95,000-sq-ft plant was to be both Land O’Lakes’ dedicated facility to produce extended shelf life fluid products and a key cultured products plant, and these are still the products run there. It has a plastic bottle line, two gabletop lines and six cultured product lines. All equipment was purchased and installed before the Dean acquisition.

The plastic bottle line is the sole production facility for Land O’Lakes’ Grip’n Go bottles. Running 12-oz and quart bottles, the line features the only Stork ESL filler currently installed in a dairy plant in North America.

The gabletop equipment runs a full line of fluid products including all fat levels of milk and cream as well as flavored milk, organic milk and soymilk. One of the gabletop lines is dedicated to half-gallons, while the other runs quarts and smaller sizes. Both fillers include fitment applicators.

The plant produces nonfat, light and organic yogurt packaged in 6- and 8-oz cups; nonfat, light, fullfat and organic sour cream packaged in 8-, 16-, 24- and 32-oz containers as well as 3-lb, 5-lb and bulk packs; and 8 oz dips.

Richland Center receives milk from local producers, which is cold-separated, and the skim milk and cream are stored separately. Cultured and fluid products have separate milk processing operations and each combines milk and cream to yield milk of the desired fat content for the products it is running. Milk for cultured products is then HTST-pasteurized in a plate heat exchanger rated at 22,000 lb per hour. Milk for fluid products is processed in a VTIS steam injection system rated at 45,000 lb per hour.

The plant is equipped with a state-of-the-art PLC-based process control system, which incorporates operator interface terminals at strategic points throughout the plant, starting with milk receiving and continuing through batching processing and packaging. The system contains recipes for batching and processing that can be recalled by a touch.

Richland Center ships directly to customers, most of them in the Midwest, but selected products are distributed nationally.

Jack Mans, Plant Operations Editor


Location: Richland Center, Wis.

Products: ESL fluid milk in gabletop cartons and plastic bottles; cultured products

Size: 95,000 sq ft

Employees: 225

Details: $24 million was spent to renovate and expand an old plant into a modern ESL and cultured products facility.

GLANBIA FOODS, Gooding, Idaho

More Cheese than Ireland

Which is more remarkable: that Idaho is home to one of the world’s largest cheese plants, or that an Irish company owns it?

Glanbia Foods Inc., headquartered in Twin Falls, Idaho, in June dedicated a $38 million, 85,000-sq-ft addition to its nearby Gooding cheese plant. Now at 170,000 sq ft and 223 employees, the Gooding plant is one of the world’s largest, with an annual capacity of 180 million lbs of American barrel cheese plus more than 88 million lbs of specialized dairy ingredients.

Cheese output from this single plant is more than the entire hard cheese production in the Republic of Ireland, company officials claim.

Built in 1972 as a meat packing operation, the Gooding plant was acquired by Ward’s Cheese in 1989. It wasn’t converted to a cheese factory until 1991, when Ireland’s Avonmore Ltd. acquired Ward’s. At its conversion, the plant had an annual capacity of 70 million lbs. This most recent ribbon-cutting is the plant’s third expansion, and includes a milk calcium plant to produce Xtra Cal, a premium form of calcium for fortification that competes with non-milk derived forms.

The Gooding plant now processes 4.6 million lbs of milk a day. It has 11 cheese vats, three stirred-curd machines and 10 barrel towers; totally automated barrel handling, weighing, palletizing and shrink-wrapping; four cheese coolers for storage; and processes raw equivalent whey of 6.5 million lbs per day.

Back in Kilkenny, Ireland, parent Glanbia Plc beams. “Glanbia’s development is being focused on the international cheese and nutrition sectors, and our USA business is an important platform for future growth,” John Duggan outgoing Glanbia Plc chairman, said at the dedication. “Today, Glanbia ranks among the world’s leading cheese companies with particular strengths in ingredient cheese in the USA and EU. We have achieved important scale of operations in Idaho, a strong technical base and good customer relationship. The USA business is also the main driver of our nutrition strategy, where the market for nutritional products is robust.”

Glanbia Foods, the U.S. subsidiary, has total sales of about $400 million. It operates two other plants-in Twin Falls and Richfield, Idaho-and has an ingredients business in Monroe, Wis. Glanbia Foods is now America’s second largest exporter of lactose to Japan, and is No. 2 in the world in the production of advanced technology whey proteins for the growing sports and medical nutrition sectors.

“A consolidating customer base is a common feature of the food industry globally, and our ongoing goal is to be strategically relevant to our key customers,” says Dave Thomas, pres. of Glanbia Foods. “This is being achieved through high levels of customer responsiveness, meeting specific product requirements and market competitiveness. Innovations in nutrition products have also strengthened our ingredients operation. We see continued growth opportunities in both parts of our business.”

Dave Fusaro, Chief Editor


Location: Gooding, Idaho

Products: Barrel American cheese

Size: 170,000 sq ft

Production: 180 million lbs per year

Employees: 223

Details: One of the world’s largest cheese plants.

DANNON CO., West Jordan, Utah

Flexibility Times Three

When Dannon Co.’s gleaming new 150,000-sq.-ft. plant at West Jordan, Utah, reaches design capacity of more than 100,000 gallons per day, that won’t be the limit. Designed with expansion in mind, “the plant can unfold” in any direction on its 30-acre site, observes Rene-Charles Coumes, V.p. Of manufacturing.

The plant already has unfolded and reinvented itself thrice, having started life in December 1997 to make spoonable yogurt. As that market stalled but demand picked up for bottled water, West Jordan shifted production in November 1998 to Dannon Natural Spring Water, the other product in which French parent Group Danone is a market leader.

Then the yogurt market resurged, and the plant returned to its original product. At the end of last year, along came a new product, Danimals drinkable yogurt for children. What other plant was flexible enough to handle its production until it proved out?

This June 1, the plant was operating ’round-the-clock on three shifts totaling 70 people (plus a sales and administrative staff of about 20) with plans to add up to 30 more by year-end. Plant cost to date is about $35 million as equipment installation continues. The spacious plant is designed to accommodate six filling lines and-as noted earlier–can easily expand further. Coumes envisions annual yogurt production at West Jordan reaching 150 to 200 million lbs. within two years. The water line will soon be relocated to the California plant as West Jordan shifts entirely to yogurt production.

Dannon consolidated U.S. yogurt production during the late 1980s from five plants to two, located in Ohio and Texas. These plants were well-situated to cover markets in the South and East, which accounted for 75% of Dannon’s sales, but the company thus needed a third yogurt plant to cover Western markets.

After exploring several prospective locations in Arizona and Utah, Dannon selected the West Jordan site because of its proximity to milk supplies in northern Utah and southern Idaho; the historically strong work ethic of people in the Salt Lake Valley; interstate highway access to California; available utilities; and good educational resources, including Brigham Young University and Utah State. The city assisted with a redevelopment grant.

Dannon’s West Jordan project was executed on a fast-track construction-management basis. Packaging lines and material-handling systems were engineered by Dannon engineers.

Several weeks of technical training combined on-site vendor training in equipment such as mixproof valves, separators and human-machine interface (HMI) with courses conducted by Dannon corporate trainers in quality assurance, job safety, social skills and team organization. Self-directed work teams are the ideal and are developing.

“This is one of the most automated dairy plants we’ve been associated with,” said Forrest McNabb, v.p. at Big-D Construction Corp., Salt Lake City, which handled construction management. “Everything in the plant has high-end finishes and they insisted on lots of natural light throughout.”

According to John Miller, pres. of Seiberling Associates, which handled process engineering, Dannon’s West Jordan facility is the first U.S. dairy plant to extensively incorporate mix-proof valves, eliminating nearly all manual swing connections in product and CIP (clean-in-place) piping systems. “There are no manual swing connections from receiving to the fillers,” he points out, making West Jordan “the most automated dairy plant in the area.”

Charles E. Morris Senior Editor,

Food Engineering

(The Dannon plant was named Plant of the Year in the June issue of Food Engineering, a sister publication to Dairy Foods.)


Location: West Jordan, Utah

Products: Yogurt, drinkable yogurt, water

Size: 150,000 sq ft

Capacity: 150 million lbs per year

Employees: 90

WELLS’ DAIRY, LeMars, iowa-South Plant

Details: Since start-up in December 1997, the plant has been reconfigured three times.

Never Stops Growing

With more than 500,000 sq ft of production space and 29 packaging lines, Wells’ Dairy’s South Plant in LeMars, Iowa, is the world’s largest freestanding ice cream/frozen novelties plant. Built in 1992, the plant never stops growing.

The latest addition was under way in early 1999 even before a fire shuttered the plant for two months. Ultimately, not only were damaged areas of the plant repaired, but the plant added 150,000 sq ft of space and eight new production lines. Three of these lines run packaged ice cream and five run novelties. The plant now has eight packaged ice cream lines and 21 novelty lines.

The addition, which nearly doubled the plant’s capacity, also included batching and mix processing equipment, a four-effect evaporator, additional employee facilities and a second refrigeration room. This last item became particularly significant in March 1999 when fire damaged the engineering room that ran refrigeration. “We ran more piping into the new refrigeration room and had the plant back in operation within 10 weeks,” says Doug Wells, senior V.P. of manufacturing.

The plant addition follows the same straight-through design philosophy as the original plant. Raw materials are warehoused in a separate building west of the plant. Ingredients and milk are received and stored at the west end of the plant and shipping and distribution are located at the east end.

Two other major projects completed within the last few years take advantage of the tremendous volume of product run at the plant. Wells’ built its own dry sugar receiving and liquefaction facility complete with a rail siding as well as truck unloading and loading to support all four processing plants. It also installed a nonfat dry milk liquefaction and reconstitution system that allows the company to receive NFDM in 3,200-lb containers by rail car. It then reconstitutes the powder with either milk or water depending on which is less expensive, based on Federal Milk Marketing Order formula pricing.

In 1996, the company built a 90-ft high, 10-level automated warehouse with 10,300 pallet spaces. The 100-ft wide by 355-ft long warehouse is served by four unmanned double-shuttle cranes that load/unload two pallets simultaneously in either direction. During the busy summer season, the warehouse handles more than 140 semi-loads of product per day.

Wells’ serves all 48 continental states as well as 15 countries. It has the capability to load ocean-going containers on rail cars, so it can service foreign ports from its central location.

Jack Mans, Plant Operations Editor


Location; LeMars, Iowa

Products: Ice cream, novelties, frozen yogurts

Size: 500,000 sq ft

Employees: 800

Details: Already the world’s largest ice cream plant, it was expanded in 1999.

SANTEE DAIRY, City of Industry, California

A $100 Million Milk Plant

Santee Dairy was a fixture in downtown Los Angeles for 80 years, but continuing sales growth and no room for expansion finally dictated in 1996 that the company build a new facility. It selected City of Industry, Calif., as the location, and in 1998 opened one of the largest, most sophisticated fluid plants in the industry at a cost of $100 million.

The 250,000-sq-ft plant processes 1.7 million lbs of milk per day into a full line of fluid products including flavored milks, eggnog, buttermilk, juices and organic products.

The plant has two 12,000 gal-per-hour HTST systems with in-line standardization and mix-proof valving throughout. It also has two dedicated 4,000-gal-per-hour systems: a plate type for byproducts and a tubular type for juices. Ten clean-in-place systems are dedicated to clean specific areas.

Products are filled on 10 packaging lines with a combined capacity of 34,000 gal per hour. These include plastic gallons and fractional sizes; gabletop half-gallons, quarts and pints; and three- and six-gal bag-inbox. Products are packed in plastic dairy cases as well as in corrugated cases, and each packaging line has dedicated case packing and stacking equipment that can handle one or both of these types of cases.

Cases are transported to an automated warehouse equipped with an automated storage and retrieval system, which incorporates two rider-less cranes that can handle both pallet-less stacks of plastic cases and pallets of corrugated cases. Pallets of product are delivered to the warehouse directly while full stacks of plastic cases are accumulated in groups of eight stacks creating unit loads for the AS/RS system.

For order picking, the unique rack design allows a unit load of eight stacks or full pallets to be stored, retrieved and brought to the picking stations, that utilize a computerized pick-to-light system, where they are selected by workers.

The plant operation is totally automated from milk receiving through the warehouse. Business transactions can be tracked from incoming orders to customer billing without paper. Each packaging line is controlled from a single PLC that is linked by data highway to the AS/RS system in a paperless data transfer, providing full tracking of package type, case count and stack count for inventory control.

Jack Mans, Plant Operations Editor


Location: City of Industry, Calif.

Products: Fluid milk and juices in gabletop cartons, plastic bottles and bag-in-box

Size: 250,000 sq ft

Cost: $100 million

Production: 34,000 gal capacity of fluid milk per hour

Employees: 228

Details: Built at a cost of $100 million, this perhaps the country’s largest and most sophisticated fluid plant.

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