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The Price Was Right

Food Manufacturing 's inaugural Smart Sourcing Award winners showcase overwhelming returns on their equipment investments.

Regardless of their background or area of expertise, every Food Manufacturing reader struggles with how to stretch limited purchasing budgets in keeping their operations moving as efficiently and profitably as possible. Food Manufacturing’s Smart Sourcing Award looks to showcase those processors who have excelled in their purchasing endeavors and realized significant gains as a result.

After analyzing the abundance of entries, our panel selected the following as being the most impressive in demonstrating how their purchasing investments have led to energy savings and reduced operational costs, while also enhancing production capabilities, which, after all, is why companies buy new equipment in the first place.

Examples of such smart sourcing include:

  • A new heating system that reduced maintenance costs and cut energy expenses at a beef processing facility.
  • A more efficient liquid and solids handling system that helped a leading cheese processor reduce waste and improve quality.
  • A snack food processor that enhanced its distribution center to ensure a safer working environment that also lowered heating and cooling costs.
  • Cold storage equipment that not only enhanced worker safety but also cut maintenance and energy costs.
  • Engineering services that improved production efficiencies, energy management and waste reduction.

Creekstone Farms: Hot Commodity

Location: Arkansas City, KS
Purchase: Direct Steam Injection System from Hydro-Thermal Corp.
Impact: $12,000 annual savings in maintenance/part replacement; Significantly reduced electricity consumption.

Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, LLC is one of a few branded programs certified by the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service. The 700 employees at the 350,000-square-foot facility supply grocers and high-end restaurants with top quality Black Angus Beef products. According to Creekstone’s Marketing Director, Jim Rogers, “We are the highest graded USDA inspected facility in the country, averaging 85 percent choice and higher grade. The facility is one of the newest beef processing facilities in the country and everything we do is focused on quality, not quantity. We process Black Angus exclusively.”

In addition to quality, the company also stresses a focus on humane animal treatment and support of local farms, although the company does operate internationally. At Creekstone Farms, all the beef comes from animals born and bred in the U.S. The company feels that in addition to supporting local farms, this measure also ensures that the most rigid food safety standards are being met.

Another element that Creekstone feels is validation of its focus on quality is the way in which its animals are treated. While proper care and feeding is not only the right thing to do, the fact that these measures translate to better tasting beef is not overlooked. The company also operates its own processing facility to help control every aspect of production and ensure quality standards are maintained.

So in addition to quality products, the company also began focusing more on quality operations. More specifically, Creekstone wanted to reduce natural gas and water usage during sanitation procedures. This led to working with Hydro-Thermal.

Their Direct Steam Injection system heats water to precisely 165 degrees Fahrenheit, with no variation, assuring Creekstone that it will not have to shut down production to wait for water temperature to come up to the set-point. As a result, major energy savings have been realized.

According to Hydro-Thermal, Creekstone Farms is saving about 700 mBTU/day in energy consumption used to heat the water. Additionally, the direct steam injection system only requires maintenance once annually, and has just three moving parts. This translates to an estimated $12,000 annual savings in parts that were needed to maintain the old system. Seven electrical motors required by the old system that consumed significant levels of electricity have also been eliminated.

Process conditions for the system entail:

  • A variable flow rate of 100—600 GPM.
  • Input temperature range of 50—70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • An outlet temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Steam pressure of 120 PSIG at the heater.
  • Two 4” EZ Heaters mounted on a plug and plumb skidded system.

Overall, Creekstone Farms has benefited from:

  • Reduced energy costs by being able to heat water to exact temperatures.
  • Heating water on-demand assures always having enough hot water, avoiding any down-time.
  • Energy savings means fewer costs and lower carbon emissions.
  • Less scheduled maintenance also aids in preventing downtime.

OSI Industries: Ensuring Cooler Runnings

Location: West Chicago, IL
Purchase: $94,500 in Jamison HCR Horizontal Air Doors
Impact: Annual energy savings of $36,000.

OSI Industries processes raw beef and pork in both ground and patty form at their 65,000-square-foot facility in West Chicago, IL. Its 173 employees send over 165 million pounds of product to food service and other commercial customers each year, making their ability to properly store and efficiently deliver such a product key to the success of their operation.

Additionally, as Operations Manager Larry Glaser explains, “OSI Industries is committed to responsibly managing our business with the social, economic and environmental frameworks in which we operate, while continually exploring ways to improve our sustainability impact. The HCR doors are a good example of sustainable solutions that also provide cost and employee safety benefits.”

So with a combined focus of safety and operational efficiency in mind, OSI invested over $94,000 on HCR Horizontal Air Doors by Jamison on a flow through storage freezer, with one on each end of the room.

The doors have mitigated 95 percent of the warm air and moisture that was normally infiltrating the freezer during periods when the previous door was open. Implementing these doors has translated to energy savings of $36,000 each year.

Additionally, although economic figures have not yet been refined to provide specific savings, Glaser states that:

  • The costs associated with maintenance of hard doors has been eliminated.
  • Labor to clear the evaporator, walls and ceiling of ice is no longer an issue.
  • Safety is enhanced by eliminating ice on the floor near the doors, as well as the strip curtains opening the view into the freezer.
  • All of these elements attributed to higher costs through increased labor and inefficient operations. Glaser says that since the West Chicago facility's overly positive experience with HCR Doors, the company has installed several more at other locations, and plans on expanding the program into 2011.

John B. Sanfilippo & Son: DC Investments Yield more than Peanuts

Location: Elgin, IL
Purchase: 76 dock positions with vertical levelers, vehicle restraints, dock seals and master control panels.
Impact: Safer distribution operation that has significantly reduced maintenance, heating and cooling costs.

In 2007 John B. Sanfilippo & Son opened a state-of-the-art facility for the production and distribution of their numerous peanut and tree nut products. Encompassed within the facility’s over one million square feet is the company’s corporate headquarters, advanced automation equipment driving roasting and processing lines, high-speed can, jar, bag and flexible packaging cells, as well as a fully equipped research and development lab.

The company also offers hot panning capabilities for coatings such as butter, toffee and glazes, with cold panning for chocolate and yogurt coatings. Enrobing capabilities allow for products such as double-dipped peanuts, pretzels and brittle to be produced.

All of these investments are aimed at ensuring the highest possible quality and flavor for the company's Fisher Nut, Sunshine Country and Flavor Tree® brands. As the parent company of Fisher, this facility also produces mixed nut selections, as well as the Fisher Fusions, Snack Naturals, Culinary Touch and Salad Topping lines. The later two were among the 20 new products recently unveiled by the company.

So while many of these internal investments would have met the criteria for any purchasing or investment award, instead attention is being given to an extensive investment in dock equipment from 4Front that, as the nomination form suggests, “protects product and budget from excess maintenance and energy costs.”

This reference pertains to 76 dock positions that each feature Serco vertical levelers, Serco Safety-Loc SLP vehicle restraints, Serco dock seals and Serco master control panels that each offer their own piece of the return on investment pie:

  • The vertical levelers enhance safety as forklifts access truck trailers, protect dock doors from forklift damage and are powered by a more efficient hydraulic system that protects the dock area from energy loss.
  • Truck restraints help improve safety as well, but also keep the trailer tight against the dock wall to prevent heat or cool air from escaping. Less downtime to deal with snow or debris removal is also realized.
  • The seals not only prevent energy loss but also keep water from entering the dock area, ensuring greater worker safety.
  • Master control panels help to prevent disruptions by coordinating the operation of all dock equipment — including the dock door. So the door cannot be opened unless the truck trailer is engaged by the restraint, and the truck can't leave until the door is closed. Again, this helps  prevent the loss of energy and maintenance is decreased as dock equipment is less likely to be damaged.

Klondike Cheese: Going with the Flow, but in Better Control

Location: Monroe, WI
Investment: Semi-Bulk’s Vacucam® liquid processing system.
Impact: Improved quality controls and production flexibility, as well as more efficient energy consumption and reduced waste.

While many elements of food processing continue to change and evolve, usually for the better, Klondike Cheese in Monroe, Wis. has been able to keep a successful blend of old-world craftsmanship infused with advanced processing technology.

The company’s story begins in 1925 when Earnest and Marie Buholzer settled in Wisconsin after arriving from Switzerland. Earnest began making Swiss cheese for the Farmers Cooperative. A few generations later the Buholzers formed a family corporation and became the Klondike Cheese Factory in 1972.

The three brothers of the third generation — Ron, Dave and Steve Buholzer — have all achieved Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker status by successfully completing the advanced training program administered by the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research. The program is the only one of its kind in the United States and helps reinforce the efforts Klondike puts forth to ensure the highest quality product possible.

As the company’s website states, “While we're proud of our history, we know our reputation depends on the quality cheese we produce today.” So when the time came to upgrade its Feta processing and packing operation, the company new it needed to make a sound investment. Klondike markets about 80 percent of its Feta for food service but also sells it at retail using the Odyssey® Feta Cheese brand name.

The company needed to be able to disperse milk solids into fluid milk at high rates, and in a state that would be immediately ready for cheese production. The investment in Semi-Bulk System’s Vacucam® has been the answer. Not only does the system allow Klondike to process in the quantities necessary to meet customer demand, but it’s more energy efficient and requires less maintenance attention than its predecessor.

According to their Smart Sourcing nomination form, the system has been running continuously since installation without any operational issues, reducing downtime, making more efficient use of production ingredients and helping ensure the level of quality that Klondike and its customers expect.

Great Lakes Cheese: High-Tech Production Ensures Quality

Location: Adams, NY
Investment: Infrastructure Engineering
Impact: Increased production efficiencies, less energy use and improved waste reduction processes throughout the facility, as well as a better overall environmental footprint.

Embedded in the fabric of its seven production facilities is Great Lakes Cheese's commitment to investing in the best equipment. It’s a vital component of the company's approach as it strives to be a single source supplier for retail and food service customers across the country, providing what it feels is the best natural and processed bulk, shredded and sliced cheeses.

With roots that go back to 1958, the company was started by Hans Epprecht, a Swiss immigrant. He opened a small business that delivered bulk cheeses to neighborhood stores in Cleveland. Before long, retailers began asking for pre-cut cheeses wrapped in smaller sizes, as well as more cheese varieties to better satisfy their customers — the Great Lakes Cheese tradition was born. According to the company’s website, Great Lakes has since grown by acquisition, plant expansions and investment in the best technologies for production and distribution.

Borrowing another quote from the company's site, “Through the traditions of a family-owned business with a long-term focus on growth and stability, our mission is to be a leading manufacturer and supplier of consistently high quality cheese products. We will achieve this through our commitment to outstanding customer service, innovation, dedicated employees and business partnerships.” Much of that innovation can be seen in the state-of-the-art production facilities that have implemented more efficient capital equipment and greener factory infrastructure. These measures not only allow Great Lakes to operate more efficiently, but more profitably in keeping its facilities at financially viable levels crucial to the communities these plants call home.

This is especially evident in the newest facility located north of Syracuse near the eastern shore of Lake Ontario — where the company’s award-winning, naturally aged New York cheddars are produced. In conjunction with Excel Engineering, Great Lakes Cheese has taken great strides to implement the latest in customized information technology management tools as it continues with its traditions of investing in the best processing technologies without sacrificing quality.