Food Tech helps major cheese producer boost plant throughput.
Renowned cheese manufacturer Cabot Creamery needed to boost plant throughput at its Vermont manufacturing facilities. Teamed with Massachusetts-based E/A/CM firm Food Tech Structures, Cabot completed a five-year growth logistics study, culminating in a multi-faceted construction and renovation program that began in 2003 and was completed in 2005. The work included three major projects, each at one point running simultaneously with the others.
The result? Cabot was able to double its annual volume of cut and packaged cheddar and specialty cheeses.
“This was a choice to invest further in our local Vermont community in a way that increases the likelihood of jobs growth, increases our operating efficiency and increases the potential return to our cooperative’s farm-family owners,” says Jim Pratt, senior vice president of operations for Cabot.
Cabot chose Food Tech’s design and construction team because of relevant prior projects, experienced staff and a focus on solving operations problems efficiently. Working closely with Cabot staff, Food Tech developed a strategy that would enable Cabot to maintain operations throughout the multiple construction phases.
Initially, Cabot undertook the logistics study to expand its Cabot, Vt., cut-and-wrap warehouse to alleviate congestion, increase operational efficiency and provide for continued growth. Planning was critical since the cut-and-wrap site limited the extent to which the warehouse could be expanded, and could therefore potentially represent the last expansion the site could support.
Food Tech determined any additions would result in displacement of employee parking, require lengthy winter construction and involve significant construction expense. So, it was decided that relocating the selection and distribution function to a leased warehouse in Montpelier was the best option. This would allow expansion of the cut–and-wrap lines and other improvements to the warehouse within the existing building.
The 63,000-square-foot cold-storage distribution warehouse in Montpelier is a single-location hub from which all Cabot-labeled products are consolidated, stored, selected and distributed.
In addition to five-high pushback racks and case flow racks, the facility’s pallet slots are bar coded and numbered for inventory tracking and order selection. Also, the warehouse was designed and constructed to comply with the state of Vermont’s demanding energy efficiency guidelines, which are some of the stiffest in the nation.
Concurrently, Cabot’s hometown production facility was renovated to include the addition of a USDA-approved cottage cheese production room. The clean room space features a pioneering enclosed vat design, which allows for manufacturing in a controlled environment. By completely containing the cottage cheese, the process is unaffected by factors such as room temperature and humidity, allowing for a consistent product temperature and texture. The result is even higher-quality cottage cheese for both the retail and foodservice markets.
This addition was built into a steeply sloping hillside between the plant, an employee access drive and the main access road to the cut-and-wrap warehouse, which could not be shut down during construction. The construction involved building over the existing cheddar production room and working around a busy production schedule.
Meanwhile, Food Tech was designing and constructing major renovations at the cut-and-wrap warehouse. Renovations included relocating existing cooler storage to the recently completed Montpelier warehouse, plus tripling cut-and-wrap operations.
The expected increase in cut-and-wrap volume required a building reconfiguration to accommodate the increased number and length of packaging lines, employee support facilities and the increased height of packaging machinery. Food Tech was able to design the expansion within the existing building footprint.
“Our farmers provide us the highest quality milk that is available,” Pratt says. “Food Tech has helped us upgrade our plant operations to ensure that this great milk can more efficiently become award-winning Cabot dairy products.”