Ultra High Quality
by James Dudlicek
Purity and safety are hallmarks of Hood's Oneida, N.Y.,
UHT milk processing plant
HP Hood describes itself as being two companies in one
— a popular regional brand with deep historical ties in New England,
and a national player that brings innovative products to consumers across
the country under various names through licensing agreements.
Similarly, the company's ultra-high-temperature
(UHT) processing facility in Oneida, N.Y., is two plants in one. The
"front plant" produces milk in half-gallon containers, while
the "back plant" runs quarts, pints, half pints and
single-serve creamers, explains Jack Morgan, operations manager and
production coordinator for the Oneida plant.
But regardless of which part of this
200,000-square-foot facility employees happen to be working in, the firm
commitment to quality and safety remains the same. In fact, the Oneida
plant won Hood's 2003 President's Safety Award for UHT and
And safety has become more important, not only because
of the new bioterrorism regulations in place this year, but because of the
increasingly rapid pace at which the Oneida plant has been operating. That
pace is necessary to meet the unplanned demand for Hood's new
low-carbohydrate dairy beverage, Carb Countdown™. Oneida manufactures
this Atkins-endorsed product, along with various sizes of gable-top cartons
filled with Hood's flagship brand of milk and cream, single-serve
creamers for foodservice, and milk and soymilk co-packed for other brands.
A Million Pounds a Day
Tanker trucks weigh in before entering the
plant's single two-truck bay. Arriving here daily are 35 to 50 trucks
of milk, plus three to five truckloads of cream. Most of the milk processed
here comes from farms within a 50-mile radius, while cream is received from
all over the country, says Morgan. Organic milk comes in from Ohio,
Pennsylvania, Vermont and occasionally Idaho, he says.
In all, the Oneida plant receives
1 million pounds
of milk every day, seven days a week, along with sweeteners and other
ingredients used to make the various lines.
Before offloading, samples are taken from all loads of
milk and cream for a standard battery of tests including antibiotics,
somatic cell count, temperature, color and aroma, explains Morgan. All
arriving milk is transferred into four silos; three that hold 50,000
gallons and one that holds 25,000 gallons.
"We're moving a million pounds through the
plant per day, every day," says Morgan. "It's processed
within 24 hours."
The milk moves on for processing, first separation and
then UHT pasteurization. The plant's two VTIS units handle 3,000 and
5,000 gallons per hour, along with a separator that has a capacity of
100,000 pounds per hour. Milk is treated at 280 degrees for two seconds. A
lactose conversion tank is employed for the production of Lactaid-brand
A computer directs the flow of raw product; a monitor
displays a schematic of the plant showing the route raw milk takes on its
way to becoming one of the many lines manufactured here. All told, the
plant processes 14,500 gallons per hour and averages 185,000 gallons per
day, says Morgan.
How does the process for making Carb Countdown differ
from the method of processing regular milk? According to Mike Suever, vice
president of milk procurement and processing, Hood uses proprietary
processing and ingredient technologies to reduce carbohydrates, then adds
Splenda® brand sucralose.
The Oneida plant fills about 700,000 units a day of various
All the containers filled at Oneida are gable-top
paperboard cartons, many with screw caps for greater ease in pouring and
recloseability. No plastic bottles are filled here; in fact, Suever says
there's been a recent upswing in consumer demand for paper cartons,
despite the company's expectation of a greater shift toward plastic.
"In the last 12 months, we've actually
seen paper take off again," says Suever. He says new innovations in
packaging and filling equipment are the reason, along with the fact that
paperboard packaging offers a "billboard" effect for
advertising and graphics. Plus, he says there's no cost-effective
half-gallon UHT filler available for plastic containers.
This plant fills all sizes of containers from half
gallon on down with milk, various cream products and Hood's premium
milk line sold in New England, including a vanilla and two chocolate
varieties. Oneida also packages Lactaid in half pints for nursing homes and
schools, as well as single-serve creamers for foodservice, under the Hood
brand and private labels for restaurants. The plant's three creamer
filling machines each put out 2,000 creamers every minute, yielding a
creamer output of 16 million creamers per week, says Morgan.
The plant — built in the early 1960s to make
powder and butter, and since converted to all UHT processing — runs
on a six-day-a-week schedule, or seven days as needed. Its 190 employees
work on three shifts around the clock.
Keeping Track Of It All
Cartons of product are packed into cardboard boxes for
shipping. Bar codes are applied to every box to track them for recall
purposes, says Morgan. Scanning the bar code on a case of product can
instantly reveal the variety, manufacturing date, expiration date and other
details of the contents.
"We use bar codes to track our products all the way through
to our customers," says Morgan.
Plant manager Jim Sylvester adds, "It accounts for everything,
even the raw ingredients, all the way through."
Product is sent to eight palletizers; bar codes are scanned
to tell the computer what's on every pallet in the cold-storage warehouse. The
plant's two coolers, kept at a constant temperature of 35 to 40 degrees F, has
a total capacity of 8,500 pallets.
Manned cranes, linked to the computer, scan pallet
tags to find out where to put palletized product within the
first-in/first-out organization system that's eight racks high with
some 6,000 spaces, says Morgan. Five cranes service eight lanes; a guide
wire embedded in the concrete floor helps to steer the vehicles.
Morgan explains that when cranes bring pallets in, if
one in the same aisle needs to go out, the computer will alert the crane
operator to take it. This way, the system is never running empty, he says.
Some products are stored in the main cooler, while
others are routed to the truck bay for shipping. Arriving and departing
from nine bays, 40 to 60 trucks are shipped out per day, taking finished
products to grocery distributors and warehouses.
Cottage cheese and some other products come from
Hood's cultured plant in nearby Vernon, N.Y., for shipment through
Oneida's warehouse. There's also some movement of product made
at the company's Winchester, Va., plant (see sidebar) through Oneida,
says Morgan, who also oversees production planning of the gable-top lines
at Winchester. "We also distribute a lot of what's made in
Oneida through Winchester," he says.
Staying Up to Date
With the addition of new product lines, and the effort
to get them to a hungry marketplace as quickly as possible, comes new
technology of various sorts — from processing to packaging.
"There's a lot of computer technology
involved with running soy milk to keep it separate from dairy, to keep the
product safe," says Morgan.
One line is an allergen to the other, notes Sylvester.
"We're set up so our computers know when we've cleaned
one line before it lets us run the other," he explains.
New additions include innovative fitments like screw
caps for gable-top cartons and the equipment to apply the caps on
containers ranging in size from pints to half gallons.
"We continue to lengthen the pull dates.
We're running products anywhere from 60 days to 90 days right
now," says Morgan. "Part of the reason is carton manufacturers
are coming out with higher-tech gable-top cartons and barrier boards. They
hold up for a longer length of time in the dairy case; they used to start
bulging after 30 or 40 days. They don't do that anymore. We ship a
lot of product across the country, and the older cartons couldn't
handle that. They'd get saturated and break down."
Future plans are centered around increasing capacity
to make more new products like Carb Countdown. "We're going to
put in a new batch system this year," says Sylvester. "Our new
system will be the next generation."
Morgan adds, "We're adding batching
capacity so we can make more products like Carb Countdown, and additional
As for Carb Countdown's success, he says,
"We didn't plan for it and right now we can't make enough
of it." Sylvester concurs: "We thought Lactaid was a very
fast-growing market. It's nowhere near what this has been, but of
course, that's off a zero base."
The high demand presents its own challenges to the
people who have to make the product — make it well and get it to
consumers in a timely fashion without cutting corners.
"The problem we had was integrating it into our
weekly routine and still keeping the plant efficient," says Morgan.
"We had some batching challenges. We had some ingredient-buying
challenges. Some of the ingredients that we purchased were not acceptable
in all of our products. The dry ingredients and some of the liquid
ingredients that go into the UF (ultrafiltered) skim are still a challenge,
because product sales of Carb Countdown are still growing.
"It came out at the beginning of the eggnog
season last year, which was the worst possible time for the plant's
scheduling program. We put all our plants on seven-day-a-week schedules
because we were already at capacity with other products. We are planning to
add capacity and utilize co-packing arrangements to allow us to revert to a
more normal schedule. The forecasts were going up faster than we could get
cartons made. The challenge for a plant is integrating different types of
products into weekly routines so you're keeping your allergens
separate. That's the biggest challenge we're seeing
To ensure that Oneida is putting out product with the
same high quality that Hood is famous for, the plant is under the watch of
a three-pronged auditing program. There are corporate audits, in-house
audits and outside audits by at least two independent auditing firms.
"We're auditing our quality and good
manufacturing practices on a weekly basis — weekly, monthly,
yearly," says Morgan. The outside audits are performed every six
The plant also uses a supplier certification program. "Just
about everything we buy comes through a corporate contract that has to pass
a corporate review before we can bring it in here," says Morgan. "We inspect
all our materials as they arrive."
And, as mentioned already, safety is always a top
priority. "We have a safety coordinator — that's his only
job," says Morgan. "We have safety teams, and we have safety
incentive plans for all employees."
Furthermore, says Sylvester, a new self-examination
program has employees reviewing each other to heighten awareness of plant
safety. "We self-audit ourselves in-plant, employee to
employee," he says. "It kind of sounds like it would be a
negative, but it's really a positive."
There are also numerous training programs, including
lockout/tagout, hazmat and ammonia training. The corporate safety director
provides training programs to each plant, doing much of the training
himself," says Sylvester. "Our employees know that even when we
have new hires, the first thing we tell them is we're serious about
safety," he says.
Morgan notes the plant posted zero accidents in January, "which
means everyone in the plant gets a cash bonus."
In addition to a HACCP plan for food safety, the
company has launched a new food security steering committee at the
corporate level (see sidebar). Plant-level committees report to the
corporate panel in Chelsea, Mass.
According to Lynne Bohan, director of public relations
and government affairs, the new committee is a direct tie-in to the new
federal bioterrorism regulations. "There are certain policies and
procedures that are being evaluated," says Bohan.
In fact, for the past several years, the company has
beefed up its training of plant employees on safety procedures, right down
to the guidelines for incoming truckloads of milk. "We have a
truck-seal program that we adhere to strictly," says Morgan.
"We receive no trucks that are not sealed tightly, especially
Sylvester adds: "The seal might be on there, but
if it's not on there properly, that's not good
Hood relies on a topnotch work force to ensure the quality and
safety of its products, and it has not been disappointed.
"Much of Oneida's success is due to the people," says Morgan.
"The people go the extra mile, working six days a week, seven days a week; they're
very experienced. 'People make the difference' is what it says in front of the
building in big white letters. It's true."
Latest improvements at its Virginia plant make Hood
an even stronger UHT player.
The commitment of Chelsea, Mass.-based HP Hood to
innovation in ultra-high-temperature
processing is growing this year
with the third significant expansion of its UHT milk plant in Winchester,
"We will take its capacity up to 100 million
gallons annually — all ultra-high-temperature products," Hood
chairman John Kaneb says of the plant that opened in 2000. "We will
be installing a fourth plastic filler in the second half of this year. It
is an extremely sophisticated, very high-speed piece of equipment which
will have both UHT and
The $42.8 million project will increase the
plant's capacity for existing products and enable the production of
new technologically advanced products. The expansion is expected to create
65 new jobs in a variety of skilled labor positions.
Hood's Winchester plant manufactures
extended-shelf-life beverages for Hood's own brand as well as
national brand partners. Among the products made at the plant are Lactaid® lactose-free milk,
Nesquik® and Carnation Coffee-Mate®.
Virginia Gov. Mark Warner approved a $500,000
performance-based grant for the project from the Virginia Investment
Partnership (VIP) program, which offers financial assistance to Virginia
companies proposing significant expansion projects. The Virginia Economic
Development Partnership, Frederick County and the Winchester-Frederick
County Economic Development Commission assisted with the project.
Additionally, the Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide
work force training services.
"HP Hood is a valuable part of Virginia's
food-processing industry, which employs more than 37,000 workers across the
commonwealth," says Warner.
Kaneb expressed his thanks to the governor and the
various state and local agencies that assisted with the project.
"This investment will allow us to expand our production and packaging
capabilities and enable us to meet the needs of our customers," he
Hood implements a new program to protect its tradition of quality.
hp hood food security mission statement
HP Hood Inc. is committed to food security and the well-being
of its customers, consumers, employees and the communities in which it
Hood strives to ensure proper food security measures and
will acomplish this objective by:
nAppointing a dedicated team to address food security
initiatives at all Hood processing, storage and distribution facilities.
nDeveloping and implementing policies, guidelines and
procedures at all locations to ensure proper security measures are in
Conducting training and evaluations of established programs
on a regular basis.
nWorking closely with
state, federal and local agencies on such initiatives to remain current on
the latest event/news and required
HP Hood has long maintained a reputation for quality
and manufacturing excellence. To protect and further this reputation, the
company implemented a new food security program.
This program is aimed at ensuring compliance with
national bioterrorism regulations and industry recommendations. The program
will be managed by Hood treasurer and director of finance Theresa Bresten,
who also acts as the company's chief food security officer.
Responding to world events following September 11,
2001, Congress adopted the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism
Preparedness Act of 2002. This regulation directly impacts dairy processors
and other food manufacturers by establishing regulatory requirements
enforced by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA and U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) have intensified their work to ensure the
safety of the country's food supply. Guidelines have been issued to
all food processors, and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA)
has issued specific guidance for the dairy industry.
Key industry customers are looking for compliance with
specific security standards. Committed to achieving this goal, Hood
chairman John Kaneb has endorsed a mission statement for the program.
Hood's Food Security Steering Team is in the
process of creating procedures and policies to better define security
management responsibilities, improve plant security, enhance employee
safety and better ensure product integrity at all manufacturing, storage
and distribution locations.
A key component of the plan is establishing a Food
Security Committee at each plant to implement the program, tailoring it for
the special needs of each production location.
Communication and employee education are key to
success. "Employees are our first line of defense against potential
security breaches," says Bresten. "It is important for every
employee to understand the need for security and how it affects daily
responsibilities. We can spend money on security infrastructure, but
without employee cooperation, we cannot make those systems work to prevent
and detect security breaches."
Bresten has traveled to each of Hood's plants to
outline the new program to plant managers and develop a communication plan
and training program for all employees.
If the safety history of Hood employees is any
indication of a conscientious work force, implementing the new program
should not be a difficult task.
In 2001, Hood established its President's Safety
Awards as part of a company-wide initiative to recognize the best safety
record for three company business units. Awards for the best safety record
in a calendar year are given to fluid milk and ice cream plants, UHT and
cultured plants, and distribution/logistics facilities.
Award criteria focus primarily on the OSHA recordable
incident rate, measured using a simplified safety "score
Winning locations receive a flag to commemorate their
achievement. A safety celebration event is held at winning locations, with
employees receiving T-shirts to commemorate their accomplishments.
The UHT plant in Oneida, N.Y., won in its category for
2003. Other winners for this past year are Hood's fluid milk plant in
Portland, Maine, and its Vermont logistics facility.
"I am particularly impressed with the fact that,
over the last two years, nearly every location in Hood has won a
best-in-class award via our won President's Safety Award, or a
significant improvement award from the National Safety Council," says
Bruce Bacon, vice president of human resources. "It's clear
that our employees are very serious about achieving excellent safety
performance, which to me is a sign of a superior work force."
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