Hunt-Wesson – pudding facility in Waterloo, IA

Hunt-Wesson – pudding facility in Waterloo, IA – Brief Article

New $54 million pudding plant incorporates state-of-the-art aseptic processing and packaging

Hunt-Wesson’s shelf-stable Snack Pack Puddings have been a marketing success for more than 35 years. When demand exceeded capacity at two existing plants, the company initiated a fast-track project for a greenfield production facility in Waterloo, Iowa.

From the start of site preparation in May 1997 to start of commercial production in August 1998, the plant was completed in an incredible 15 months. It is designed to be easily expanded. The plant operates 24 hours per day. Four production teams each work three 12-hour shifts per week scheduled three days on/three days off.

Pudding is blended in batch tanks mounted on load cells. Batching and blending operations are controlled from the adjacent batch lab/control room via personal computers.

Puddings are sterilized and cooled in a 20-gal-per-minute tubular aseptic processing system, which has 14 pre-tested, pre-assembled skids.The system incorporates corrugated double-tube and triple-tube heat exchangers, which create product turbulence to boost thermal efficiency, and dramatically reduce maintenance costs compared to scraped-surface heat exchangers. The reduced mechanical shear also reduces starch costs. Further savings are achieved through 50 to 60% heat regeneration.

The system heats puddings to 285 [degrees] F, holds the product at that temperature for the time needed to achieve sterility, then cools the product to 90 [degrees] F. Sterile puddings are held in 3,000-gal surge tanks.

The process control system networks PLCs and software via Ethernet LAN into a SCADA system that integrates with vendor moderns for troubleshooting and technical supports. It also generates real-time and historical data and reports and integrates with a wide-area network for e-mail and corporate communications. PLCs govern area operations and are accessed by PCs in lab/control centers and by operator panels on the plant floor for monitoring and controlling the process.

Puddings are filled into 3.5-oz plastic cups on a 12-lane horizontal form/fill/seal machine running 1,200 containers per minute in 48-cup increments. The machine steam-sterilizes cup material and lidstock and maintains an aseptic fill-zone environment with sterile-air over-pressure.

Secondary packaging can be accomplished on either of two lines. If a machine goes down, product is diverted to its twin.

Cups are packed in vertical four-packs (two over two) that are then loaded into corrugated cases. Pallets of product are shrinkwrapped and stored in a 103,000-sq-ft warehouse to await shipment.

Operators double as maintenance technicians responsible for line equipment in their assigned areas.

(With help from Food Engineering, our sister magazine)

Plant Facts

Location: Waterloo, Iowa

Plant size: 216,000 sq ft

Startup Date: August 1998

Cost: $54 million

Products: Aseptic puddings

Production: 9 million cases per year

Employees: 79

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